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10 Biggest Headcases in the NBA

Roy BurtonContributor ISeptember 28, 2012

10 Biggest Headcases in the NBA

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    The overwhelming majority of NBA teams are willing to put up with a difficult player on their roster...provided that he's extremely talented on the basketball court.

    Included in that "difficult" designation are those players who often exhibit diva-like tendencies and/or those who don't fully embrace the philosophy of team basketball. And then there are the "headcases": the unique group of individuals whose attitude and approach to the game holds them back from reaching their full potential.

    For these players, their maturity—or, specifically, the lack of it—often overshadows their accomplishments on the court. And if any of them ever learn how to harness their emotions in the correct way, they could completely alter the entire narrative of their careers.

10) Reggie Evans, Brooklyn Nets

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    Reggie Evans is a tough, gritty, hard-nosed player that every coach would love to have on the team. He will also look to gain a competitive advantage by any means necessary; Just ask Chris Kaman.

    And even though the 6'8" power forward can be a little...unorthodox at times, it's easy to deal with Evans' unconventional approach to the game. He rebounds the ball at a phenomenal rate (for his career, Evans averages 12.8 rebounds per 36 minutes), and few work harder on the defensive end than the former Iowa star.

    Evans can be a problem at times, but for teams who look to him for a much-needed dose of toughness, he's a good problem to have.

9) Kendrick Perkins, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    It's hard to mention the name Kendrick Perkins without using the phrase "technical fouls." Despite his normally stoic demeanor, the Oklahoma City center has drawn at least nine techs per season in each of the last five years. 

    When his game is on, he's a very effective defender who knows how to hold his ground in the paint. Once Perkins gets frustrated, however, he'll often get a bit too physical against opposing bigs. Referees have whistled him for dozens of illegal screens over the years, and Perkins voices his displeasure with virtually every call.

    To Perkins' credit, he isn't afraid to mix it up with anyone in the league at a moment's notice.

8) Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Now that Dwight Howard is no longer in an Orlando Magic uniform, it's only fair to assume that he'll tone down his act a bit this season. 

    What does that mean, exactly? Ideally, no more "barbecue or mildew" references, no more on-again, off-again trade requests, and most importantly, no more uncomfortable press conferences with his head coach.

    He'll still more than likely be a hothead out on the court, however: Howard led the league in technical fouls in two of the past three seasons.

    Or maybe not: The 6'11" center appears to be happy in Los Angeles, although we'll have to wait until next July to see if he wants to make it his long-term base of operations.

    Howard may only be 26 years old, but after eight seasons in the NBA, the fact that he spent a great deal of the past 12 months behaving like a petulant teenager is totally inexcusable.

7) Michael Beasley, Phoenix Suns

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    After four seasons in the league, Michael Beasley still has many unsure what to make of him. The 6'9" tweener has a world of ability, yet is now on his third team in five years.

    Beasley's off-court issues are the main reason why his brief NBA career has been somewhat nomadic to this point. The 23-year-old forward has had multiple issues with marijuana during his career, and even checked into a Houston rehab facility in the summer of 2009.

    Fans of the game—and Phoenix Suns fans in particular—can only hope that Beasley gets his head straight before he burns all of his bridges in the league. He's far too skilled of a player to allow his talent to go to waste.

6) Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins has a long-standing reputation for being a bit overbearing at times, so it will be fascinating to watch the dynamic between him and Andrew Bynum this year.

    One ill-advised three-point attempt from Bynum last season showed the world that the seven-foot center will pretty much do as he pleases, regardless of time or place. And a few months before that came his ridiculous forearm shiver on then-Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea.

    Bynum's maturity may be the only thing holding him back from becoming the best center in the game. If the Sixers create an environment where he'll feel comfortable as the No. 1 option, there's no telling how dominant Bynum could ultimately be.

5) Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks

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    For a single season—2009-10—Josh Smith actually toned down his "you only live once" approach on the offensive end of the court. He stopped taking ill-advised three-pointers (he attempted only seven for the entire year), and wound up shooting a career-best 50.5 percent from the field.

    The tenets of "good shot selection" apparently don't sit well with Smith, who has reverted to his old habit of letting it fly quite a bit more than he should. If his discipline ever caught up with his superhero-like athletic ability, Smith would be a mainstay on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.

    Instead, he's little more than an uber-athletic dunker/shot-blocker whose reckless tendencies will make it extraordinarily difficult for Atlanta to ever make noise in the playoffs.

4) J.R. Smith, New York Knicks

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    J.R. Smith isn't the world's most accurate shooter, but his ability to create instant offense for a team makes him a valuable commodity.

    J.R. Smith also isn't the world's most politically correct Twitter user. Not only has he used the #nosandusky hashtag on several occasions, the NBA fined the Knicks' shooting guard $25,000 for posting an inappropriate picture last season.

    However, his exploits on the computer pale in comparison to his time over in China last season. While under contract with Chinese club Zhejiang Chouzhou, Smith allegedly skipped numerous practices to go shopping in Beijing.

    Playing in New York might be exactly what the doctor ordered for Smith, however. Now that he stars an hour away from his hometown of Freehold, N.J., the 27-year-old Smith may be less inclined to act out going forward.

3) Metta World Peace, Los Angeles Lakers

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    After changing his name from Ron Artest, most thought that Metta World Peace would tone his act down quite a bit. But late last season, World Peace hit Oklahoma City guard James Harden with a vicious elbow, and it appeared as though the old Artest was back in town for a brief stint.

    Ever since the infamous "Malice at the Palace," the 32-year-old forward has been highlighted—often unfairly—as the example of everything that's wrong with the NBA. World Peace is almost sort of a "Headcase Emeritus" at this point in his career even though he's been relatively tame recently.

    What makes World Peace so special is that his teammates, coaches and opponents have no idea what he's going to do at any given moment. In 2010, his randomness in the NBA Finals clinched the title for the Lakers. Last season, that same uncertainty resulted in World Peace drawing a seven-game suspension for the Harden blow.

    Of course, the ultimate irony is that someone who is bound to snap at any given moment willingly decided to change his name to World Peace in the first place.

2) JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets

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    Deadspin has coined a meme in honor of JaVale McGee ("That's So JaVale"): a rare distinction for a player who has only been in the NBA for four years and isn't yet a superstar.

    Then again, McGee is a rare breed of player. While there is a plethora of YouTube clips focusing on the Nuggets' center and his unique brand of basketball, the most notable video in the bunch is the one in which he runs back down the court to play defense while his team still has the ball.

    The team that cracks the code on the 24-year-old star is in line to win the talent lottery: JaVale McGee mixed with a cup of focus plus a pound of effort could be one of the best centers in the league. But until someone finds the proverbial Rosetta stone, McGee will be chalked up as little more than a headcase.

1) DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

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    Virtually every discussion of DeMarcus Cousins comes with a caveat. The Sacramento Kings' center could be an All-NBA talent if he improves his attitude and matures over the next few years.

    USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said as much during the pre-Olympic training camp this past July, and with good reason. In just two seasons, Cousins has drawn 26 technical fouls, and has committed a league-high 589 personal fouls over the same period.

    Cousins' transgressions don't involve just opponents, however. He had a public falling out with former Kings' coach Paul Westphal which resulted in the 6'11" big man being temporarily dismissed by the team.

    And less than a year earlier, Cousins was suspended for getting into a fight with teammate Donte Greene on the team plane following a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

    Even with his mercurial attitude, Cousins is arguably a top-five NBA center at only 22 years old. He has plenty of time to define his legacy, but with so much negativity in Cousins' recent past, it will take some time for him to completely erase his reputation as a headcase.

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