SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The immature rookie inched closer to behaving his way to the minors, the foundation of the future disclosed he is now aching emotionally as well as physically and that his All-Star plans have been adjusted accordingly, and stories popped from two very credible reporters that Geoff Petrie is close to being fired as head of basketball operations in a move the Kings would regret for years. Oh, and coach Paul Westphal is also close to being shown the door, but we’ll stick to what isn’t obvious.
The possibility is increasing that the Kings will have serious conversations about sending DeMarcus Cousins, the No. 5 pick in June and projected future starting center, to the NBA Development League. Kicking him out of practice hasn’t changed his sloppy focus, fining him hasn’t improved his attitude and, most recently, pulling him from the opening lineup Thursday against the Bucks for giving a choke sign to the Warriors two nights earlier hasn’t nudged him in the right direction. So, some quality time with the Reno Bighorns becomes a growing thought.
“If that’s what they feel is best, then I can’t do anything about it,” Cousins said. “But I don’t believe that’s happening.”
It may not be happening on Christmas Eve. But let’s just say the Kings definitely know a very public demotion is an option.
Cousins’ rookie season has been a series of failed attempts at getting the potential-filled big man to carry himself as a professional, or at least get to where his attitude is not overshadowing his considerable skill level. Even with the latest discipline still active, the benching against the Bucks, Cousins had another very public moment Thursday by walking past Westphal as the coach tried to give him a five coming to the bench. A minor moment almost with almost any other player at any other time, it was an obvious statement from Cousins.
Westphal was clearly unhappy with the snubbing. Cousins’ explanation later was that “He’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated. Emotions are just running wild. That’s how it is. It’s a tough time right now. Everybody’s frustrated.”
Everybody being an accurate assessment. By the end of the night, his agent, John Greig, issued a statement to Sam Amick of AOL FanHouse:
“I find it a curious decision to bench a productive young player for something that had nothing to do with the game’s outcome [against the Warriors]. I’m sure we all can agree that there are many areas of the Kings that need greater professionalism and improvement right now. I told DeMarcus to take it as an honor that such a significant amount of criticism is focused on his mistakes. Great players live with greater expectations.”
More than anything, Cousins needs to get away from controversy and self-inflicted distractions. This is a time for everyone around him to be dedicated to Cousins improving, not launching bottle rockets into Kings HQ, the coaching office and the locker room with “there are many areas of the Kings that need greater professionalism and improvement right now.” Agents back their guys, sometimes just for show, but time and place. Time and place. Cousins isn’t popular and this won’t play well.
Yes, it has been such a tough, tough road for Cousins, because “Great players live with greater expectations.” NBA teams placed such an unreachable standard in wanting him to play with sustained focus in the one season at Kentucky (which he didn’t), wanting him to show at the pre-draft camp in decent shape (which he didn’t) and wanting him to avoid three known disciplines before his rookie season was 30 games old. Which he didn’t.
Cousins’ best hope for the moment is that other issues will shift attention away from his development. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com and Amick both reported that Petrie’s job is in jeopardy, as well as Westphal’s, and that the Maloof family is considering hiring longtime WNBA coach/executive John Whisenant either as coach or for the front office. That would be the John Whisenant of zero NBA experience.
Co-owner Joe Maloof flatly denied Petrie was at risk, telling FanHouse that, “No, that’s not true. I don’t know where that’s coming from. We’re fine. We’re fine. We have a gameplan. Our future looks bright. We have young talent, (salary) cap space going into next year. (We have) cap space to make moves. We’ll stick together. We’re not going to go there. Not at all. Not true.” But for two well respected reporters, working for different outlets and from different cities, to have similar information at close to the same time is quite the coincidence.
In other news, Tyreke Evans said he will decline a spot in the Rookie-Sophomore game at All-Star weekend, if he is picked, passing up a chance to play in the event for the second season in a row in a continued attempt to nurse his troublesome left foot through a difficult season.
“I’m going to take All-Star weekend off and just try to rest it up,” he told NBA.com after missing 11 of 13 shots and totaling more turnovers (four) than assists (three) in a loss to the Bucks at Arco Arena, the latest blight for Evans and the 5-22 Kings. “I’ll talk to the doctors and see what I can do while I’ve got that time off.”
While the game is a ceremonial exhibition, and not even the same as skipping the All-Star game itself, deciding nearly two months into the future that he will sit out the showcase is a statement of ongoing concerns about plantar fasciitis in the foot. He said there are no current plans to rest during the regular season, after previously saying it would become a consideration if the pain continues, but Evans disclosed Thursday he is now burdened by a family matter. He did not disclose the personal issue.