USA TODAY Sports
DeMarcus Cousins' final ally has flipped, and it's time to change or be left behind.
It hasn't been a great season for DeMarcus Cousins. The Sacramento Kings stink (again), he hasn't improved on his sophomore production and he's now missed 3-3/4 games this season due to disicplinary actions. He's been suspended two games for approaching Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliott after a game. He was ejected in the third quarter of another for arguing calls. He got sat down for a game for tapping O.J. Mayo's turkey. And on Friday he was benched for the entire second half due to a verbal altercation with coach Keith Smart.
That's important. That Cousins lands on the wrong side of the league and its referees is not surprising. It's not even rare. Heck, Gregg Popovich lands on the wrong side of the league and its referees. But Smart was basically hired, retained and extended solely because he could reach Cousins. He could keep Cousins in line and on the path upward.
It was really stunning what a difference Smart had made over Paul Westphal last season. Westphal and Cousins seemed to legitimately dislike each other, and the situation was always a moment from boiling over. When it finally did with a bizarre little suspension and press release, the Kings finally cut Westphal loose and installed Smart. And Cousins flew. He had a great season in 2011-12, and looked like the future All-Star so many believed him to be. I don't know what happened between then and now, but his shot selection has fallen apart, his defense is totally erratic, and despite looking to be in fine shape despite the jokes we've all heard, his conditioning appears to be suffering. (There's a lot of hands on hips on defense.)
And now he's had a rather public dust-up with the only guy who seemed to believe in him.
For what it's worth, Cousins immediately apologized to the team and in front of the media after the game. He seems legitimately angry at himself for putting his coach and team in this situation. He never apologized publicly to Westphal, or to Donté Greene after a physical altercation. He's never admitted that he deserved a suspension, eject, tech ... anything. So maybe this moment, when Smart, his greatest ally, sat his ass down -- maybe this helped him realize that he's running out of rope.