Once you get labeled as a head case, it's very hard to shake the label.
When DeMarcus Cousins made the leap to the NBA out of Kentucky, there were plenty of conversations about him being a bad apple and it impacted his draft stock. He ended up falling to No. 5 overall in the 2010 class when he was arguably the most talent member of it outside of fellow Wildcat John Wall.
Sadly, it didn't take Cousins long to cause problems at the pro level, and he had blowups on more than one occasion, causing problems in the Sacramento locker room during his rookie season.
No matter how talented you are, if you're a cancer behind the scenes, teams will eventually give up on your talent. It is a fine line that Cousins walks at this very moment, despite his latest comments after the Kings declared he demanded a trade.
"I want to address my missing the New Orleans game Sunday," Cousins said. "I have not demanded or requested a trade. I don't agree with the actions taken but will give my sincere effort to put it behind me and compete the best I can for my team."
Kings coach Paul Westphal released a statement before Sacramento hosted the Hornets on Sunday, criticizing Cousins' commitment to the franchise and excusing him from the team's game. He also confirmed that Cousins asked for a trade. The Kings had been expecting big things from Cousins this season.
No matter what Cousins says from this point on, the message is clear—Cousins is a persona non grata in Sacramento.
We are talking about a player that would fetch a hefty sum on the open trade market, but as the Kings placed him on the block, they subsequently buried his value by trashing him on the way out. Either Sacramento is the worst run franchise in the league, or a lot of bridges have been burned behind the scenes.
I would be more than willing to bet on the latter.
We've seen plenty of players come through this league that have found themselves essentially blackballed or on the verge of it. Just ask Allen Iverson, who eventually caused so many problems in Detroit and Memphis that he ended up playing meaningless games in Turkey as he played cards and drank what was left of his career away.
Cousins needs to straighten up and become a voice of leadership in Sacramento, and sadly, there isn't a real veteran presence in that Kings locker room to take him under their wing and mold him into a model pro.
This is a young team, and clearly Cousins has gone unchecked for so long that it has gotten to the point where Sacramento is willing to sell extremely low on the talented youngster.
Do you think it would have gotten to this point in Boston? What about in San Antonio? There is no chance. The Kings have lost total control of this situation, and it's on Cousins to save his career before it's too late.
He can issue all of the statements he wants, but the truth of the matter is that actions will always speak louder than words. It is time for Cousins to grow up, become a leader, and help put the Kings on his back, leading them into a new era.
If he continues his destructive behavior and walks around with a petulant attitude, he'll find himself out of the league, despite his prodigal talents.
Now is the time for change, something that has been long overdue.