We’re making this way more complicated than it needs to be.
Honestly. This is not advanced calculus. This is not chemical engineering. This is not the eternal debate of the soul. And yet we find ourselves in a position where DeMarcus Cousins is entering Thursday’s draft as one of the single most divisive figures in the NBA, and he hasn’t even been arrested, nor has he played a single minute. We have invented this cacophony against him, based off of what, him shouting frustration on the floor? Being willing to play dirty? Disrespecting his college coach, who, though I love the man, tends to be a player advocate and not a hardass? This is what we’re calling problematic?
I’ll feel silly if Cousins winds up like so many other players with “character issues.” But then, you know what? You can’t tell. You can’t.
You know why?
In Vegas for Summer League in 2008, Matt Watson and I took a trip to the Cheesecake Factory inside the Shops at Ceasar’s Palace in Vegas. It was a fun little jaunt to see whether or not we’d run into anyone, and yielded little result. But the Sheed story stuck with me. There was an element that was left out.Â The bartender told me that Sheed would bring his kids in and they would run around while he ate. Just another dad, taking his kids out. This jives with the rumors that Sheed wanted out of the 2008 All-Star Game because his wife had booked a trip for the family and he didn’t want to catch hell. I can understand that. The point is not whether or not these stories are true. It’s that it would make sense if they were. Sheed gives that vibe. You know what vibe he also gives?
A dude that has to be removed from the officials’ locker room after the Finals because he wanted to chat with the referees. The guy that racks up technicals like they’re power pellets and he’s Pacman. The loose cannon.
There’s depth that we miss with television. Celebrity doesn’t allow you to have any context, any texture, any rhythm to your personality. Don’t get me wrong. When I’m jamming out a 350 word post on ProBasketballTalk.com, I use phrases like “the dynamic point guard” or “the troubled small forward” as much as anyone. You’re basically trying to point out why you are or are not giving someone the benefit of the doubt, based on their past behavior. But Cousins is facing not just qualms about his behavior but his ability to produce on the court. Questions of his athleticism. As if Derrick Favors ability to jump really high even though he’s about as natural with a basketball as a flamingo is with a tricycle is somehow a superior factor. Look, I love the athletic guys. The Patron Saints of Paroxysm are all hyper athletic forwards. But Cousins’ is athletic. You know how he’s athletic? He’s strong as a freaking bull. That’s how he’s athletic. That weird, natural scoring ability that guys have? He’s got it. He doesn’t quit or get lost on defense. And when he’s going off or stomping and snorting like said bull? He’s at least engaged in the game. That’s what you want. You don’t worry about a guy who’s too emotional during a game, you worry about the ones who look bored, despondent, lost.
Cousins is the biggest bully I’ve seen in college basketball in a long time. He quite literally manhandles guys to the basket, then powers it in. He’s confident in his dribble, in his post moves, in his positioning. He understand where the floor is. I know that sound idiotic. Bear with me. You know how many rookies don’t have a sense of the floor dimensions, try and go baseline and wind up on the other side of the line? Many. And it floors me. But Cousins knows where he’s at and is able to finish. None of this “I’m long and athletic! As long as I get it up there, it should be fine!” business. You know what the results in? Those “five tapbacks that don’t fall and a defensive rebound” plays. The ones that make you lose your brain as a fan.
Cousins is not perfect. He’s not a shining example of maturity and poise. But he’s a beast of a forward, able to run, navigate the lane, and when he adds the man-bulk, is going to be like a Brahma spitting bullets.
This isn’t this complicated. Take the best basketball player. Take DeMarcus Cousins.