DeMarcus Cousins of the Kings increased the degree of difficulty in his latest walk on the wild side, this time going for the double of being suspended and fined for separate incidents in the same game, a feat accomplished Tuesday against the Rockets at Sleep Train Arena.
The league announced Thursday that Cousins, long considered a cheap-shot artist by opponents, will not play Friday against the Lakers at Staples Center as the penalty for punching Houston’s Patrick Beverley in the stomach in the first quarter of what became a 129-103 Rockets victory. The NBA also docked Cousins $20,000 for “verbally abusing” officials and “failing to leave the court in a timely manner” when he was ejected in the third quarter with two technicals.
The absence will be felt in Sacramento and observed in Los Angeles, but also noted in Phoenix and Durham, N.C., as a reminder that this matters more than to Cousins and his 2013-14 finish.
This matters to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo in Arizona and to coach Mike Kryzyewski at Duke, it matters to the formation of the Team USA roster heading toward an important summer, and therefore it should matter to Cousins. That exhibition play, in fact, should matter a lot to Cousins, probably more than to any other player.
Cousins turned off USAB officials a couple summers ago, then won them back over enough to be among the 28 players in the initial pool of candidates for the roster at the FIBA Basketball World Cup beginning in August in Spain. He wasn’t going to win any citizenship awards, but Cousins carried himself better, enough that his attitude seemed to be improving. With no doubts about his ability to succeed on offense in the international game – he can pass and shoot with range – the encouraging signs in his personality were enough to be on the list released in January.
Now he has been suspended for punching a player for the second time in as many seasons, following the one-game hit in December 2012 for striking O.J. Mayo of the Mavericks in the groin. And that is on top of Cousins leading the league in technicals in 2013-14 and, thanks to Tuesday’s ejection, being one T away from an automatic one-game suspension, with the possibility of more to follow.
This won’t get Cousins removed from the mailing list for invitations for the Team USA camp in Las Vegas after the summer league schedule, but it’s an obvious setback at the very wrong time. If he could have gone from putting up All-Star numbers this season to a positive review from the most impartial judges possible, Chairman C and Coach K, Cousins would have positioned himself as a legitimate dependable star. That could have happened even if he didn’t make the World Cup roster while handling himself well because Team USA preferred, say, the defense of Dwight Howard, Andre Drummond or Tyson Chandler since there would be no doubt about the offense heading to Spain.
That 28-player pool is just a working list, after all. Players can still be added for the Vegas sessions, though all the primary names are already included. Players can still be removed.