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How DeMarcus Cousins Can Take Final Step to Becoming Elite NBA Big Man

SACRAMENTO, CA - DECEMBER 26:  DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings celebrates after making a basket against the Los Angeles Lakers at Power Balance Pavilion on December 26, 2011 in Sacramento, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Jon WilsonContributor IIISeptember 25, 2012

Sacramento Kings' center DeMarcus Cousins is well on his way to being one of the best big men in the NBA, but, in the coming season, he'll still have to prove to many that his attitude can work in his favor instead of holding him back. 

Look, the young man was a risky draft pick in 2010. He had the skillset to be a talented NBA big man, but had the personality red flags of a Latrell Sprewell, and questions loomed about his commitment to conditioning.   

Athletically, the 6'11" University of Kentucky star could have been the top draft pick. Instead, four teams passed on him before the star-deprived Kings finally took a chance on him with the fifth pick. 

By all accounts, he's worked out better than anyone could have expected. In his first season, he averaged 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game and saw those numbers improve to 18.1 and 11 last season. 

He's become a top-five rebounder and one of the top scoring post players in just two seasons, but he's also had several run-ins that validated some of those attitude concerns. 

In Feb. 2011, ESPN's J.A. Adande reported that Cousins and former teammate Donte Greene got into an altercation in the locker room because Cousins was upset that Greene didn't pass him the ball.

In Jan., at the beginning of the lockout-shortened season, former coach Paul Westphal was fired from the Kings after releasing a non-owner-approved statement in which he criticized Cousins' commitment to the team and excused Cousins from playing against New Orleans, reported Fox Sports via the Associated Press

In June, Chairman of USA Basketball Jerry Colangelo even said Cousins was "immature" at the start of Olympic basketball training this past summer, when Cousins was playing with the Select Team, as noted by USA Today. Cousins didn't make the final Olympic roster, even though the team was lacking in big men.   

And on the court, Cousins led the league in personal fouls and flagrant fouls, and was second in technical fouls last season. In the season before that—his rookie year—Cousins led the league in personal fouls and ejections, and was fifth in technicals. 

Fast forward to the present and it seems as if Cousins has ironed out some of those kinks. 

His relationship with the coach who took over for Westphal, Keith Smart, seems to be the polar opposite of what it was with Westphal. Smart even allowed Cousins to wear his jacket after Cousins fouled out in a 119-110 win over the Memphis Grizzlies last season. 

Not long after calling Cousins "immature," Colangelo backpedaled a bit on his statement and offered a little more clarity on the situation, the Sacramento Bee reported

Cousins also seems to have a renewed focus to becoming an elite big man, as he was one of 10 Kings players who voluntarily worked out and scrimmaged each other in Sacramento this offseason. Cousins also worked out with Keith Smart in preparation for his Olympic bid. 

Cousins has all the talent in the world and, going into his third season, the only thing holding him back from reaching his potential is himself. 

He's been putting in the work. He wants to win. But beyond ability, he has to have a breakthrough season in the attitude and emotional department to truly reach his potential. 

He's had a rough start to his career, but Cousins seems as if he might be on the right track. 

He needs to channel his attitude and emotions into a will to win and bite his lip when things don't go his way. He also needs to cut back on the amount of fouls he commits. 

If he can make those personality improvements this season, there's no reason that the 22-year-old star of the Kings couldn't make the All-Star game and finally earn the label of elite. 

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