DeMarcus Cousins is just one of several players who is allowing a bad attitude hurt his career.
Some of the NBA's biggest talents are causing distractions with their bad attitudes, continuing a long and storied history of abrasive personalities in the Association.
As great as he was, Wilt Chamberlain was traded twice in his career, due in part to his selfish play. While with the Warriors, Latrell Sprewell infamously choked his head coach, P.J. Carlesimo. And we all know about Allen Iverson's feelings about "practice."
In the NBA today, the best of the best have cleaned up their behavior. LeBron James has gradually improved his image in the years following "The Decision." Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook have started passing the ball more. Kobe Bryant's coarseness has transitioned from absolutely obnoxious to curmudgeonly adorable.
However, not every star player in the league is a model citizen. Let's take a look at the guys whose attitudes are overshadowing their play—or even worse, hurting it.
The look of a man who needs to get back on the court.
Andrew Bynum's comeback has been hard enough with all of his setbacks. His talk is not helping.
As a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Bynum drew a lot of criticism attacking his professionalism and maturity.
Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports! said he needed to grow up. Mike Brown treated him like a child by benching him for his ill-advised three-point shooting. Even the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar questioned Bynum's commitment to winning.
Then, at a time when the Philadelphia 76ers were focused solely on his recovery from serious knee injuries, Bynum decided to take unsolicited shots at Kobe Bryant for stunting him as a player.
"I thought it really helped me a lot obviously at first, because he draws so much attention it's hard for guys to double team and key on you, so it helped me tremendously," Bynum told a group of L.A. reporters before the Lakers played the Sixers on Sunday. "Later, I felt I was able to get the ball more and do more things with the ball, so I could definitely see how it could stunt growth."
There was no need for those comments, and any graciousness Bynum displayed in his L.A. homecoming was undone by that barb.
From an ability standpoint, Bynum probably did deserve more opportunities with the ball. But when he says things like that, one has to wonder whether he has the attitude to be a cornerstone player.
DeMarcus Cousins won't reach his potential if he can't stay on the court.
At this point, it's clear that DeMarcus Cousins just doesn't get it.
The Sacramento Kings knew "Boogie" had maturity issues when they selected him fifth overall in the 2010 NBA draft. When his relationship with Paul Westphal crumbled just seven games into his rookie year, the Kings sided with the man-child and fired the coach.
In 2012-13, the team and the league have refused to tolerate Cousins being Cousins, so the big man has had to miss some games.
First, he got into a hostile confrontation with San Antonio Spurs commentator Sean Elliott after a game, drawing a two-game suspension from the league. Next, it was a shot to O.J. Mayo's groin and another league-mandated game off, not to mention a tongue-lashing from his victim.
"That guy has some mental issues, man," Mayo said Monday night. "He's a talented player. He has an opportunity to be the face of that organization, but I don't think he wants it. ...
"He's immature, man. Big maturity problem. Hopefully, he'll grow up out of it and become great. He definitely has the talent to."
Boogie's particular brand of locker room poison became too much for the Kings on Dec. 22, when they suspended him indefinitely for "unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team."
As of Dec. 27, Cousins had been permitted to return to practice, but not to play.
Though he is the only King who could possibly be considered a star, it makes sense that Sacramento is taking its time in allowing him back. The struggling franchise has to decide whether he is worth the trouble going forward.
Griffin's views on flopping are downright hypocritical.
Blake Griffin is one of the most exciting athletes ever to take the court, but his flopping is an affront to his ability. Even worse, his attitude about it insults everyone's intelligence.
No, it’s not really a concern. I guess it depends on the individual but it’s not really a concern for me. Especially in the playoffs, guys are doing everything they can to get an extra possession or to get a stop, whatever it is. I’m not sure what David Stern feels, but it’s not a concern to me, really.
Then again, it makes a lot of sense that Griffin wasn't worried about flopping. After all, he was using it to his advantage, and quite liberally so. This figurative self-flop is a prime example, as is this literal one. He has gone method with his acting, and it's a farce.
For one of the league's most physically dominant players to resort to such extracurricular activity is shameful. To do so after publicly dismissing it is hypocrisy, plain and simple.
No wonder David Lee wanted to fight him.
Griffin still has some work to do to reach his ceiling. Developing his post game and improving his positioning on defense would be a good start.
As long as he flops, though, his on-court acting will be a black cloud over his performance—an underhanded crutch he uses to game lesser opponents.
A player as skilled as Griffin should not be remembered this way, but he will be if he keeps flinching at the air.
A rare moment in which Monta Ellis is not shooting the ball.
It's pretty clear that Monta Ellis is an elite scorer.
But that title does not give him license to hog the ball, nor does it give him the liberty to slack off in every other facet of the game.
This season, Ellis has maintained top-10 positioning in field-goal attempts per game, yet his shooting percentage has seldom gone above 40 percent.
On their own, those stats are not damning. Russell Westbrook, Raymond Felton and Brandon Jennings, Ellis' own Milwaukee Bucks teammate, all take about as many shots as he does and hit them at about the same rate.
However, Westbrook averages 8.6 assists per game and Felton averages 6.3, and both run the point for two of the three most efficient offenses in the league.
As for Jennings, he's played heady defense this season, while Ellis has been a sieve at that end his entire career. Ellis will get an opportunistic steal every now and then, but most of the time, he loses track of his man due to a mix of absentmindedness and weak fundamentals.
With the way he scores the ball, it's almost justified for Ellis to chuck the ball so indiscriminately. But when he pays little consideration to anything else on the court, every missed jumper is a sign that he is playing the game the wrong way.
Williams doesn't seem to want to lead the Nets.
The Brooklyn Nets kicked off the NBA's Christmas bonanza against the Boston Celtics, but Deron Williams might as well have stayed at home to open presents. To put it simply, he didn't show up.
Granted, most of the Nets delivered subpar performances against Boston, but they took their cue from Williams—their scowling, listless leader.
The Nets have since fired coach Avery Johnson, just a short time after Williams declared himself a "system player" and said he preferred the system that Jerry Sloan ran with the Utah Jazz—of course, Sloan himself left Utah amid a deteriorating relationship with Williams.
Williams, playing like a man bogged down by tryptophan and eggnog on Christmas, begged an unfortunate question: Is he up to the task of leading this Nets team?
Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News certainly doesn't think so, calling the supposed star point guard "invisible" and disparaging his performance:
Speaking of Williams, he passed up shots when the Celtics didn’t double-team him on pick-and-rolls or off screens. More than any Net, he had a miserable Christmas.
“I think it’s already a concern,” Williams said of the team’s December slump. “We feel we’re a good team. We’ve got to get back to that. We need a win.”
Williams might as well be speaking about his individual performance.
The All-Star point guard is shooting below 40 percent from the field this season, his 16.6 points per game are his fewest since 2006-07 and his 8.0 assists are his fewest since his rookie year.
You could chalk that play up to an extended early season slump and an adjustment period, but look at Williams' career stats. Though he was a bona fide star with the Utah Jazz, Williams has been in a funk ever since he became a Net.
Maybe this is karmic retribution for forcing Jerry Sloan into retirement. Maybe Williams' time as a star merely passed him by. It's impossible to say for sure, but it's clear that he's not the player he used to be.
It's not the end of the world for Brooklyn. Despite giving him a max contract, the Nets have enough talent to get by with a good Deron Williams rather than a great one.
But there is no excuse for his lackadaisical and uninspired play. It definitely doesn't help his performance, and it harpoons his teammates' morale.
Way back when, Williams was on pace to have a storied rivalry with Chris Paul, ending with each of them enshrined in the Hall of Fame. In the past two years, however, Williams has fallen off significantly and his legacy has become uncertain.
Williams still has time to alter his career arc, but if he continues to put forth these lifeless performances, he will tarnish his reputation as a leader and as a star.