By Keith Jouganatos
The mood on a hot June evening at the Arden Fair Mall is a combination of fast paced pace walking and crowded corridors. Kids are out of school for the Summer, giving them more time to hangout with their peers and cause havoc around the different shops in the facility. The mall is already crowded at the moment, it’s 6 in the afternoon, people getting off from their jobs are filing in now. Basically it’s packed, and the combination of people going every which way makes it something of an odd spectacle if you view it from afar.
The mood changes when a towering spectacle of a young man files into the building. He is accompanied by a friend who he turns to talk with as they file into the building’s main parts. Decked out in a grey OBEY tank top, cargo shorts, medium high white socks, red Chuck Taylor’s, and a green bucket hat to match that would even make Schoolboy Q jealous. He has to be at least 6’11, but everyone in the building looks up at him in amazement. Someone that big, that tall, a giant of sorts. Is it possible the hat is a decoy to disguise himself from people? If so it doesn’t work. When you’re that big and that tall it won’t matter who you are, attention finds you.
Shock of seeing him turns itself into support, excitement.
“Yo bro, that’s Demarcus”.
“Oh shit, let’s go get a picture”.
He stops to take pictures with fans of all sorts. An old man most likely in his late fifties who expresses his approval as a Kings fan, a group of teenage girls surround him as his friend he’s with snaps the picture. They come in all shapes and sizes to tell him what he means.
“I’ve been a Kings fan my whole life and I just have to say you’re really talented and hope you can keep up the good work big guy don’t pay those negative people any mind”.
He tries his best to keep moving, making sure to help anyone who asks for a picture or autograph. He smiles, waves, says hi. This isn’t the Demarcus Cousins people in Sacramento are used to, the one that’s not flying off the handle with every questionable foul called on him, when he has an off night, can’t find position on the block, etc.
It’s a rather calm one, and it freaks out some people in the mall.
Yet he’s skeptical and weary of those approaching him. Sometimes coming off as a little weary or cautious. He reads what fans of the NBA say behind his back, on chat rooms, Twitter, Facebook etc.
” He needs to grow up, he’ll never be as good as he can be until he matures and gets his act together”.
Even he has to know some people aren’t fans, it comes with the territory. Especially when you don’t make it easy on yourself, and he knows at times he doesn’t.
There isn’t a middle ground when it comes to the Sacramento Kings controversial Center. You’re either a fan or a hater if you follow the NBAf and basketball in general. Either you think he’s misunderstood as both player and person or needs to get his act together and grow up.
People talk, people accuse and say things maybe without the knowledge or knowing of a person. They see a fight on the court or a tantrum and say, “that’s just him”. Maybe they have a point, maybe they don’t know him. But the talk is always surrounding him like a wildfire that continues to spread around a person until his lungs are filled with the hatred and smoke of those remarks.
That “talk” has followed Demarcus Cousins wherever he has gone. Ever since his early days growing up in Mobile, Alabama.
Before he ever dunked a basketball Demarcus Cousins wanted to be a football player in the Gridiron hot bed that is the State of Alabama.
And so goes the story that became the peculiar story of a young man in a football state developed a basketball career. Boy plays football, boy continues to grow and sprout like a weed as he matures into his pubescent years. His Mom tells him he’s too skinny to play football and needs to find a new sport. By the time he’s 14 he stands an amazing 6 foot 6, gets recruited to play for a local AAU team. Boy struggles to learn the basics of basketball, goes to his first tournament and falls in love with the atmosphere and the team. He begins to call said AAU Coach every single day once the small things come natural to him on the Court and only gets better in time. He posts a triple double his first ever game as a Freshman in High school and by his sophomore year is the Number 1 ranked player in his class.
Then everything turns when a fight breaks out between him and a faculty member folowing a game. Cousins was suspended for the rest of the season. To this day he maintains he was defending himself.
“If a grown man puts his hands on you, you’re either going to defend yourself or get mad and react in some type of way” said Cousins. He transferred to Leflore High School and played out his last two years of eligibility over the altercation. But the word got out to other High School Coaches. He was a head case, a ticking time bomb that would explode if you messed with him, fucked with him, beat him up down low. His two front teeth were knocked out four times at Leflore though never was ejected from a game during those last two years.
He was able to elude the hostile grounds in the State of Alabama and play for John Calipari at Kentucky. Where he and future NBA players John Wall and Eric Bledsoe revived the dead College Basketball giant to a 35-3 record and an appearance in the Elite Eight in his lone Freshman season.
But the main headlines surrounded his constant clashes and arguments with Coach John Calipari on the bench. The talk wasn’t about him averaging 15 points per game and 10 rebounds, but about how at every turn it seemed Demarcus Cousins was angry.
The days leading up to the NBA Draft only solidified people’s opinions of the highly touted, but also highly unpredictable big man.
“Talented but is a risk to blow up at any moment”.
“Seems not to have the drive to compete, stay in shape, or keep his emotions in check”.
All Demarcus Cousins wanted was a chance to show his talent, his heart, who he trully was. And the Sacramento Kings gave it to him when they selected him with the 5th pick.
Cousins from a stats point of view was a success his rookie year, he averaged 14 points and nine rebounds. Yet an abysmal record in Sacramento, combined with the above the rim fireworks that was Blake Griffin got lost in the Rookie of the Year voting. The stats and the 33 points scored in the Rookie Sophomore game didn’t grab headlines. Once again Demarcus Cousins grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.
There was the fight with Donte Greene in the locker room, and the fight on the team plane, and the constant clashes with then Kings Head Coach Paul Westphal that eventually lead to Westphal being let go and the rumors that Cousins had asked to be traded from the team.
Once again Demarcus Cousins it seems is catching headlines for all the wrong reasons.
His track record has included a beef with Dwight Howard, catching attention for not allowing Isaiah Thomas to shake hands with Chris Paul following a loss, cussing out former San Antonio Spurs player and now radio broadcaster Sean Elliott during a game, telling famed Sacramento commentator/radio personality Grant Napear he had something to talk about after a victory, calling him a “bitch” in the process.
This past seson was his best, as Cousins averaged a career high in points with 22.7 and rebounds with 11.7 per game. Many felt he should have been an All-Star. And even with all of that, Cousins missed the final game of the season at home against Phoenix due to a technical he picked up when he nailed Minnesota Timberwolves Forward Robbie Hummel.
The reports have always been the same on Demarcus Cousins and his NBA future. A talented, young, highly athletic Power Forward/Center who will never truly realize his full potential until he’s been able to harness his emotions.
So who is the real Demarcus Cousins? That’s the question at hand.
Is he this extremely volatile, combustive athlete who’s head you can get into with one elbow in the back or cheap foul?
Is he a misunderstood soul who’s sick and tired of being judged that just doesn’t care anymore what people think of him?
Does he have a right to be angry? Do the people that judge him have a right to judge?
Who knows, one thing we do know is that Demarcus Cousins won’t make it some boring ride. It’ll be entertaining as hell. And whether it becomes good or bad one thing we know for certain.
Either you’re pulling for him to get it, or could care less if he ever does.
Follow Keith Jouganatos on Twitter @KeithJouganatos