DeMarcus Cousins has never been one to hide his true feelings.
In many cases, his emotional honesty has resulted in on-court outbursts that have earned ejections and, more broadly, a reputation as a hothead. But in an interview with Ailene Voison of The Sacramento Bee, Cousins' open-book approach revealed something else: This guy cares.
When asked how it might feel to be cut from Team USA ahead of the FIBA World Cup in Spain, the Sacramento Kings big man said:
I would be crushed. Everyone knows how much I want to do this. This is my third year here (two with Select Team), and I don’t run from any challenge. I would be crushed, but I’m not a quitter. I would come back and try again.
Cousins' devotion to making the team shouldn't be surprising. For someone whose image needs plenty of rehabilitation, a chance to represent the U.S. in international competition could provide a terrific boost. In addition, there's a case to be made that Cousins' lack of emotional control on the floor stems from the fact that he's genuinely passionate about winning.
Obviously, he'd be better off channeling that passion in ways that don't involve scowls at and shouting matches with officials. But maybe that approach is better than the alternative of not caring at all.
Unfortunately, Voison's hypothetical about Cousins not making the team wasn't just an out-of-the-blue question. She asked because it's a real possibility.
Were Cousins to lose his spot to Mason Plumlee, a player with just one year of NBA experience and a more limited game, there'd be cause for disappointment. And coach Mike Krzyzewski's familiarity with Plumlee from their days together at Duke would likely fuel cries of favoritism.
But the truth is there are plenty of reasons to leave Cousins off the roster—defense and the potential for an ugly overseas outburst being chief among them. With Anthony Davis locked in as the starting center and plenty of talent to choose from in reserve, Team USA could be justified in leaving Cousins at home.
Still, it's easy to understand why it would hurt the big man.
What's most encouraging, though, is Cousins' pledge to keep trying. For him, Team USA and the Kings, that dedication can only be a good thing. And if the slight of being left off the FIBA roster provides Cousins with the wake-up call he needs to finally get his emotions in check, all the better.
Cousins' maturation is an ongoing process, and how he handles either making the team or being left off of it will be a good indication of how far he's come. No matter what happens, though, we can be sure Cousins will let us all know how he's feeling.