LAS VEGAS — DeMarcus Cousins is exceedingly aware of those who don't believe in him.
This can be a problem.
He can get distracted. He can lose his temper.
Nurture, or lack thereof, can overpower his nature—which plenty of people in Sacramento or the many converts within the USA Basketball organization will tell you is a good nature.
What, then, would be even more powerful than Cousins' simple good nature? His good nature working in tandem with, as opposed to against, the roaring fire that rises up when he feels wronged.
And it might well be Cousins has finally arrived at that sweet spot in his career.
The chaos between him and the Kings this offseason has brought him to a sweeping conclusion, one that is not exactly an endorsement of his fellow man but might just be the best thing to happen to him.
"People love negativity," Cousins declared Tuesday after the opening of USA Basketball's minicamp, his voice rising and his head shaking. "They feed off of that. They'd much rather see that than something positive happen."
Same as ever, though: Cousins is intent on proving the masses wrong.
So he finished his thought with his brow under that headband furrowed in earnestness instead of a scowl, determination clear in his pursed lips and the eye contact he is making.
"But we're going to make things happen," he said. "We're going to make something positive happen."
Cousins, who turns 25 Thursday, is ready to connect with Kings coach George Karl.
"We're growing each day," Cousins said. "We're getting better, so we're on the right path—and that's all that matters."
Asked how to compare the relationship now to when Karl was hired in February, Cousins was clearly positive despite the rocky summer, one that reportedly saw Karl pushing to trade the All-Star center.
"Things are a lot better," he said. "We're on the right path. We're trying to understand each other better. That's the biggest thing. We're trying to make it work."
Wanting to be in alignment with a coach he might have his doubts about is a sign Cousins recognizes it's the only way for the team to succeed, a sign of maturity. It's Cousins wanting to win for the right reasons.
But it's just as obvious that Cousins would love to get along with Karl to show the naysayers they don't really know him and they are wrong for gravitating toward people's scandal over success.
"People that don't know think they do know," Cousins said, later adding, "I hate to say it, but they're gullible. That's the stuff they listen to. Hell, most of the time they don't even know what they're talking about."
This is a good time to point out Cousins' own Twitter emoji acknowledgement of Karl's apparent betrayal—via Jay Z's "When the grass is cut, the snakes will show"—pushed public perception that the coach and star had irreconcilable differences.
"There were some things we had to iron out, but at the same time, I wouldn't make it as big as it came out to be," Cousins said. "It was a lot of people who didn't know what the hell they were talking about. Me and him are on the same page. We're working on our relationship. We're getting better every day. And that's all that matters."
The ongoing reality remains that a Boogie scorned is one dangerous bear.
But no longer is the bear trying to attack a certain balding man with 1,915 career coaching victories. Cousins would rather teach the world a lesson about making peace. (His Instagram photo with his arm over Karl's shoulder, alongside Kings president Vlade Divac and general manager Mike Bratz, was meant in that vein…albeit still with a snarky caption: "Give them something to talk about…")
The whole endeavor, however, gives Cousins a clear, positive goal to pursue. If he can hit his target, then Divac adding high-risk, win-some-now talent this summer around Cousins will prove to be the right move to stabilize the franchise.
And maybe Cousins becomes ready to lift a franchise up.
It's true of all our faults. They can be transferred to strengths.
Cousins has already tapped into this area on some level to get where he is in his career. All the outside slights have served as motivation to prove what he can do.
This is the guy who six months ago called out a TV personality who once predicted on Twitter: "There is a 100 percent chance that DeMarcus Cousins is arrested for something in the next five years. 100 percent. Write it in stone."
It was certainly written in Cousins' memory. He couldn't wait to shove it back at the guy as soon as the five-year mark was reached.
Even USA Basketball director Jerry Colangelo's criticism of Cousins' maturity in 2012, when Cousins aggressively entered their program in practice sessions with all the tact of a falling boulder, has played a part.
Cousins has plenty of folks with the national team who will ardently vouch for him now. They'll argue his intentions are pure, and the inability to stay focused on those intentions is an issue Cousins is capable of addressing.
He has won them over. Mike Krzyzewski—unsolicited—on Tuesday was still reliving how Cousins a year ago comes off the bench and "turns the game around" in the World Cup final that gave them the gold.
Cousins wants to win you over too. It's part of the package for all of us wanting to shut the haters up:
Deep inside, we're all yearning for the love.
The thorny part is figuring out how we can actually get it.