It has long been the book on DeMarcus Cousins — you can get under his skin, cause him to lose focus and rather than being a dominant force he becomes a detriment to his team.
Exactly how it went down Tuesday night is up to interpretation but one basic fact is not — new coach Mike Malone benched Cousins the final six minutes of the Kings home loss to the Hawks.
After the game Cousins talked about a fourth-quarter play where he set a screen for Isaiah Thomas and Hawks rookie Dennis Schroeder tried to fight through it and in doing so his left hand clearly catches cousins in the “groin.” If you need more detail follow this link to an Instagram replay of the incident. Here is what Cousins said afterward, via Cowbell Kingdom (hat tip to The Point Forward at SI).
“I took a cheap shot to my lower area,” Cousins told reporters from his locker after the game. “They (the refs) just blew it off. I guess because it was me. But as soon as something happens on the other end, because it’s me, they run to the camera.”
Not much later Cousins was getting back on defense and running up court with Al Horford, and Cousins just shoved him. Horford should get a flopping warning for how he sold the call (the refs ruled a flagrant then reduced it to a regular foul upon review).
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Not much later, Cousins was on the bench. Cousins was having a bad game before that and the Hawks front line of Horford and Paul Millsap owned the Kings, putting up 52 points and 21 boards.
For Cousins, it all comes back to staying in control of his emotions. This is not a new discussion. He has admitted he struggles to let things go — he has a legitimate beef with the Schroeder hit but he can’t let it bleed over into the rest of the night, the rest of his game.
The new Kings ownership believes in Cousins — they have invested $80 million in him with a max extension of his rookie deal. But that contract is a two-way deal; they are betting on Cousins to grow and mature into an elite player you can anchor a team around. A leader. It’s time to start down that path for Cousins, this is just more of the same.