Shaq on DeMarcus Cousins’ technicals: “That’s called passion”

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DeMarcus Cousins plays physical and he plays hard. That’s going to earn him some technicals.

The problem is when Cousins thinks the calls against him are unfair (and that happens a lot) he can’t just let it go. Either he keeps going harder and retaliates against a player or he chirps at the official (if not outright gets in their face). His reputation means he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt often, but he brings that on himself. Last season all that earned him a league-leading 16 technicals, a suspension for having more than 15, and $70,000 in fines.

Kings minority owner Shaquille O’Neal stuck up for Cousins and used another word for what is going on — passion. He likes the Cousins mean streak. That’s what he told Dime Magazine in a Q&A at Rucker Park in New York.

“I tell him, ‘be yourself and dominate.’ First of all, if you don’t put numbers up, nobody’s going to look at you. Now that people are looking at you, you have to make them respect you. Sometimes when you do crazy stuff, nobody’s going to like it. But you can’t tame that passion. I want my big man to be mean. I don’t want my big man smiling all the time, so I don’t mind. All the greatest players were angry, and they talked all the time. Charles Barkley, myself, so many others. But we also put up numbers, we were positive and did the right things in the community.

“Cousins will get technicals, he’s going to argue with the referees. That’s called passion and you never want to take a guy’s passion away. And not every guy has passion. I know, because I can give you five big guys right now who don’t have passion. I won’t tell you, but you know who they are.”

Playing a little bit angry is certainly okay, that passion just can’t overwhelm you rational judgement.

Cousins has said it before, when he feels wronged he just cannot let it go. He has to be heard, he has to react. That’s the part that he’s got to overcome (and he has improved on). It’s not how he plays the game, it’s the reaction when things don’t go his way. He doesn’t need to be Zen about it, even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wasn’t, but you have to take that frustration and channel it back into the game.

Cousins talent is unquestioned — it’s likely to earn him a spot on Team USA this summer. But if he’s going to start leading the Kings up the ladder in the West (along with Rudy Gay) they need him on the court. Not back in the locker room, or playing carefully as to avoid another technical.