We've learned two unavoidable facts about DeMarcus Cousins in the three seasons that he's played for the Sacramento Kings: He's an extremely talented player, and he's a very immature individual. Those two things aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, the Kings are finding an ever-evolving way to balance the two.
For the Kings, doing such is a necessity. Cousins is an asset, and he's playing on a team that's short on many of those. Whether it's an argument with an official that draws a technical foul or a postgame altercation with a broadcaster that leads to a suspension, Sacramento needs to find a way to keep playing the balancing act between itself and Cousins.
Along those lines, here are five reasons why the Kings must endure DeMarcus Cousins' immaturity.
As every year passes, and DeMarcus Cousins fails to mature, this excuse becomes less and less valid. For now, the fact remains that Cousins is still only 22 years old, which means he's still young enough for the light bulb to come on.
Personally, I know I've changed since I was 22 years old. I tend to make more calculated decisions, and my outlook on life has changed. Hopefully some similar changes are in store for Cousins, specifically the ones involving "calculated decisions."
To Cousins' credit, he's not getting in trouble with the law or away from basketball. All of his issues have been either on the court, in the locker room or at the practice facility. That seems to signal immaturity more than a character flaw, at this point.
The question is, at what point do those two reverse? At what point do we determine it's just a character flaw that he'll always have? We haven't got there yet, but he also hasn't given us any encouraging signs that he's starting to get it.
For now, the Kings just have to remain patient. He's still young. Besides, he's immensely talented, which leads me to the next point...
As annoying as it is to have DeMarcus repeatedly falling into the same pitfalls, we can't ignore his talent. Sports are the ultimate meritocracy. The only things that matter are winning and the bottom line (although both tend to correlate pretty closely).
We're currently seeing that in San Francisco, where the 49ers are benching quarterback Alex Smith—despite the good will and wins he's piled up the last two seasons—so they can go with second-year pro Colin Kaepernick because the organization feels he gives it the best chance to win. That's the nature of the beast—talent talks.
As long as Cousins' outbursts are limited to basketball-related activities and don't devolve into breaking the law, he'll keep getting chances to perform in the NBA. There aren't many players with the youth, size and skill set that Cousins possesses. Because of that, he'll keep getting opportunities until his baggage outweighs his talent—and we're a long way off from that time.
With that being the case, the Kings might as well utilize Cousins while they still have him. His talent and production are undeniable, and last I checked, Sacramento isn't exactly brimming with talented and productive players.
The Kings need to put up with Cousins and his baggage until the team has a better option, or until his issues are more of a problem than his talent is an asset. Because if they don't, then someone else will. So it might as well be Sacramento reaping the benefits of his on-court production.
As of this point, the Kings really haven't had to make a huge financial investment into Cousins, at least not one that compares to his production on the court.
He's making $3.88 million this season and $4.92 million next season. After 2013-14, Cousins is either due an extension or he'll become a restricted free agent. Either way, he figures to cash in big time.
Given that they aren't yet financially invested into Cousins like they might be in a year or two, the Kings can take the time until then to evaluate him. In Cousins' case, all you're really evaluating is his maturity, because his ability as a player is unquestioned.
If he starts to turn the corner, then giving him a big extension is a no-brainer. Even if he doesn't, the team might decide that his talent is worth the headache that comes with it. Or, if the franchise wants to go in a different direction, it can use its flexibility to either trade Cousins or let him walk following the 2013-14 season.
However the Kings want to play it is up to them. But they currently have some flexibility in the situation that they won't once Cousins gets the big contract that's coming to him.
As was mentioned in the previous slide, the Kings have some wiggle room when it comes to Cousins because of his relatively low salary. At the same time, the team is backed into a corner because it needs Cousins; it has no comparable options.
Just look back to training camp and the preseason. During that time, head coach Keith Smart had an open competition for starting spots at all five positions. Even then, Smart conceded that there wasn't much of a competition at center because the Kings "don't have anybody that can push (DeMarcus Cousins) yet."
If Tyreke Evans—the team's second-best (or best, depending on who you ask) player—starts messing around, Smart can turn to Marcus Thornton to replace him. Granted, Evans is better than Thornton, but there's not a huge gap between the two.
You can't say that about DeMarcus Cousins. If the team decides to reprimand him for his behavior, there's really nobody that can come close to matching his production. At that point you're punishing Cousins only to hinder your team. It becomes a no-win situation for the organization.
With something as annoying as an immature player that constantly reacts emotionally to the detriment of the team, you shouldn't have to become equipped to deal with the situation. But since Cousins has made it clear that he's not about to change, the next best thing is for the team to learn how to deal with it before it balloons into an even bigger problem.
That's what Keith Smart spoke about on Nov. 26. when asked how the team can deal with Cousins' outbursts before they have an adverse effect on the team:
Smart says it will take himself, and team, to help keep Cousins in line sulia.com/my_thoughts/e8…
— JasonJones (@mr_jasonjones) November 26, 2012
As Smart would say, Cousins' teammates have "got to see with a call or how a person looks and they’ve got to step in as well. He’s an ultra-competitive guy and sometimes the moment gets to him. That’s when the team has to be able to rush in there and calm that down."
The organization and his teammates may not like it, but this is the situation they're in. They've seen on more than one occasion what happens when Cousins is angry. To use a medical analogy, they can't treat the causes of Cousins' anger, which means their only option is to reduce the symptoms.
It's not pleasant, but maybe by being ready to put out the fire before it gets too big, it will become easier for the Kings to endure Cousins' outbursts.
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