Just when Paul Westphal and the Sacramento Kings couldn’t draw any more heat for their 1-3 start, along comes some DeMarcus Cousins drama.
Or should we say more drama.
On Sunday afternoon the Kings sent out a press release with Westphal claiming Cousins “demanded to be traded” and was promptly sent home from the team’s home game against New Orleans Hornets.
“Whenever a new season begins, in any sport, there is great hope that everything will progress in only a steady, upward direction. As we all know, it seldom happens like that in this life,” Westphal is quoted as saying in a statement from the team.
“As coaches, we can only ask that our players do everything they can to improve themselves as individuals and teammates. If they do this with all their hearts, we live with the results.
“Everything that happens on a team does not become known to the public. This is how it should be. However, when a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely.
“DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded. In the best interest of our team as we go forward, he has been directed by me, with the support of management, to stay home from the New Orleans game tonight.”
That is Westphal and Sacramento’s stance on the story. Then there is the other side.
Cousins’ agent, John Greig, told Sam Amick of SI.com that his client “never demanded a trade”.
“I’m surprised the Kings, if they believe the player wanted a trade, wouldn’t have made a phone call to his representative. Maybe Westphal is just feeling the heat early this season,” Greig said.
On the season, Cousins is averaging 13 points and 11.3 points per game in 4 games for the Kings and appeared to have shaken off any telling notions of immaturity that plagued him during his rookie season. The 6-foot-11 center out of Kentucky was selected 5th overall by the Kings in 2010 and averaged 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in 81 games on his way to making NBA All-Rookie First Team.
But this isn’t the first time the team has had to send Cousins packing before evaluating his future with the the Kings.
Last February, Cousins was removed from the team plane bound for Phoenix after an altercation with teammate Donte Greene over Greene in-bounding a last second game pass to Tyreke Evans –-who missed the three-pointer– instead of Cousins in the post. Cousins and Greene exchanged words in the locker room, which escalated to the team plane, where the rookie center was promptly removed by Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie.
Back then, the team took their time evaluating the incident and Cousins future with the team. The sad part is there were three previous incidents involving Cousins that brings Sacramento to the current mess they are in.
Cousins was fined $5,000 by the team last October after exchanging heated words with strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro, a scene that followed Cousins furious disagreement during a practice with Kings assistant coach Truck Robinson. The warning signs were there, this much is true. Cousins was kicked out of practice by Westphal in late November during his rookie year after the two exchanged words, an episode that eventually led to Cousins losing his starting job.
At that time, Westphal deemed the entire situation with Cousins unprofessional.
So where do the Kings go from here with Cousins? Will they actually trade him, only to have Westphal shown the door before long too?
How much more evaluation is needed to know that a player simply doesn’t fit the culture or system of a team already in a funk to start the season, particularly given the suspect track record. While Cousins contemplates his decisions and behavior in Sacramento, it’s clear the Kings are ready to move forward without him.
And it sounds like they already have.