To say DeMarcus Cousins has had a checkered past would be an understatement. Cousins has always been an immensely talented player and his combination of size and skill are a rare commodity in today’s NBA. No one doubts Cousins skills and his game commands the respect of his opponents — Josh Smith told me two years ago that Cousins was the toughest big man to defend in the NBA. Unfortunately for Cousins, he’s known more for his outbursts and behavioral issues than his incredible on court production.
Cousins history of disciplinary issues is well known. He’s been suspended on numerous occasions, ranging from accumulating too many technicals in a season to conduct detrimental to the team to chasing down and confronting Sean Elliot after a game to punching Patrick Beverley — which to be fair is something most every player in the league has wanted to do.
After the Beverley incident, it appeared that Cousins might have started to turn the corner with regards to his behavior. Since then, he’s said the right things, made the right PR appearances, and has by all accounts been working hard this summer. However, some are not as easily swayed by six months of good behavior, and it appears as though Jerry Colangelo and Coach Kryzewski are among those that still doubt that Cousins has truly matured.
2 things from Team USA: post practice games between Durant/Harden/George are epic; Mason Plumlee likely to make team over DeMarcus Cousins
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 31, 2014
Should Cousins miss out on making the USA Basketball roster for the upcoming FIBA World Cup it would seem — fair or not — to be an indictment of his character, not his on court production. Colangelo has not exactly been Cousins’ biggest fan, saying during the preparations for the 2012 Olympics that Cousins “has some growing up to do.” Colangelo has praised Boogie this week during USA training camp, but to think that he doesn’t still have concerns that the old DeMarcus might show up would be naive. Boogie also won’t be favored by Coach Krzyzewski over a former Duke Blue Devil in Mason Plumlee, a player K will trust to not cause any distractions.
Many will point to Cousins not fitting the “international style” necessary for the FIBA tournament. There are certainly reasons why Cousins might not be the perfect fit for the international game, and this would be a fair point to make if it were coming down to he or Anthony Davis for a final spot, just not Plumlee.
Plumlee is an exceptional athlete, but what he provides on the court is not even close to on par with Cousins. Plumlee is not a floor spacer at the five . He shot 31.6% on 57 shots beyond three feet of the rim last year and 0-for-8 outside 10 feet and 40.4% of his field goal attempts were dunks, so there’s not an argument to be made about Cousins clogging up the paint compared to Plumlee. Aside from helping at the rim, Plumlee is a sub-par defender, and he does not rebound at nearly the same rate as Cousins.
What this decision comes down to for Colangelo and Krzyzewski is whether they think Cousins can handle himself being one of the last options on offense. Will he be too frustrated with a small role and have a blow up or will he be happy to just be there and be a part of the team? That’s the unknown. There’s no concern about that being the case with Plumlee. They are trying to decide whether Cousins’ on court contributions are worth the risk, and unfortunately for Cousins his past is going to be part of that deciding factor.
The Kings were willing to look beyond that last year when they gave him a max extension. They put their full faith in a 23 year old with immense talent to continue maturing while being a dominant big man. The Kings have time to commit to his growth and will tolerate a few slip ups along the way. Team USA won’t.
If DeMarcus Cousins is left off of the Team USA roster it won’t be for basketball reasons or what he might do on the court, but because they’re afraid of what Boogie might do off of it.