If there was any player who needed to perform well this week at the 2010 NBA Combine, it was DeMarcus Cousins. Not perform well on the basketball court, as he - and most of the other top prospects in attendance - declined to participate in most of the basketball drills.
He needed to perform well on the interview circuit and, at least from the media perspective, he failed to deliver.
The interviews with NBA General Managers and decision makers were obviously the more crucial interviews he would conduct this week, and Cousins may have assuaged some of their fears there, although I've heard conflicting reports about those performances. That being said, having only been privy to the interviews conducted with members of the media, that's all we, and fans around the world, have to go on. The results were, unequivocally, negative.
On whether the questions about his maturity bother him, Cousins stated "It doesn't bother me at all, because I'm expecting it. That's been the big question mark all year. That's the main question I'm looking for." Cousins elaborated that he hopes they ask him those questions. "I want them to ask me so I can tell them the truth. I'm not that type of person."
Cousins reiterated numerous times throughout the two days that he wanted to be asked the tough questions about his maturity and character so he could use the opportunity to disprove the misconceptions. When asked what he wants people to see, he stated that he wants them to see "The truth. What you see now. I'm a good guy."
The problem is, without fail, only moments after proclaiming his desire to disprove his reputation, he would give more ammunition to his detractors.
When asked whether or not the questions surrounding him had anything to do with his personality, Cousins asked whether he came off that way. When it was answered that on the court, yes, it does, Cousins flatly stated that then it must be true.
Cousins clearly placed the blame for his current predicament on the media. When asked where his reputation came from, he didn't respond that he made some mistakes in the past, or that he wished he could take back some of his on-court reactions. He stated, succinctly, "[it came from] you guys [the media]." When asked whether that reputation was going to follow him regardless of what he does from here forward, he stated that it would, "As long as you all keep pushing it, yeah".
If the inability to accept accountability wasn't enough, he took moments to take parting shots at former coach John Calipari, the only of the Kentucky prospects to do so. Cousins stated that, along with him feeling he was basketball ready and with his other teammates declaring, one of the deciding factors in his decision to turn pro was "Cal pushing him away."
This wasn't exactly a revelation. It's been brought up before, but the fact that he brought it up without provocation was cause for concern. Later in the interview, when asked whether he would want to play for Calipari someday in the NBA (if Calipari decided to go that route), Cousins refused to comment.
Cousins was asked about questions surround him as a teammate, to which he responded that those questions were unfounded. "That's ridiculous," he said. "Talk to any of my teammates, you'll get a positive answer back."
To his credit, Wall and Patterson were complimentary of Cousins the teammate. Fellow big man Daniel Orton, however, was a little more hazy. Orton has a fairly sarcastic sense of humor, and some of it may have been tongue in cheek, but overall he was less than complimentary.
"Unpredictable," Orton described Cousins as. "After a while you can kinda predict what he's going to do, you can kind of read him as a person after a while, when he's going to get mad."
"If you step back and kind of laugh at it, you can kinda laugh at him really," Orton went on to say. "It's like watching a little kid throwing a temper tantrum, but it's a big little kid so you gotta kinda control it before he gets way out of hand. He might hurt somebody to tell you the truth."
Even when Orton went on to be complimentary, it was tempered. "Truly, people don't realize it, but he's a loving spirit...sometimes....sometimes."
Cousins can look at his former teammate and future number one pick John Wall for an example of how to conduct himself to ease the concerns some may have. On the second day of interviews, during a down period, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and I were sitting around a table by ourselves watching ESPN's combine coverage. John Wall walked up, unprovoked, and sat down with us for a good 45 minutes to an hour as we talked off the record about him, the combine, and basketball in general.
During this time at least half a dozen different members of the media came up and asked him for an unplanned, one on one interview, all of which Wall gladly accepted. I sat there listening to Wall answer the same questions over and over with ease and sincerity. Wall is a guy who has accepted that this is going to be a part of his life he's going to have to deal with going forward, and he's realized that confrontation is not going to make it any easier for him.
Overall, Cousins' performance at the media interviews does not prove he's a bad guy, although it may reinforce the "misconceptions" about his maturity level. It's not proof he's going to be a failure at the next level, but by the same token, if there was anybody who needed to have successful combine interviews, it was Cousins, and he said that was his goal numerous times.
Did he wind up doing just the opposite? With some people, yes.