One of the most frustrating feelings as a writer is reading an article written by someone else that touches on all of the things you’d been trying to get out onto your computer screen. This time, that writer was Kelly Dwyer. I was all set to write about DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans and the Sacramento Kings and then I read Dwyer’s piece written yesterday for Ball Don’t Lie.
Despite Dwyer hitting home a few of the same things I’m about to say, I’ll continue on with the things on my mind in the wake of Cousins-Greene-Gate. While I don’t think anyone can support Cousins’ decision to go after his teammate after he disagreed with a play-making decision, I think it’s pretty important that we look at what’s going on in Sacramento. Maybe, more specifically, we should be looking at what’s not going on.
It’s pretty clear that the Sacramento Kings have made Tyreke Evans the face of their franchise. Can you blame them? He flourished last season as the Rookie of the Year and he is young and exciting and extremely talented. One issue that can come with having such a young superstar happens when a franchise forgets that he is a young man who still needs to be groomed into a leader and shaped into a professional. Start treating that rookie as though he’s earned more than he has and you’ll find yourself with a problem, particularly when you draft a headstrong young man the next season.
DeMarcus Cousins comes to the Kings with immense talent and potential. He also comes with some baggage that hasn’t yet been checked at the door. If he sees something he disagrees with, if he feels he isn’t being given the same respect as someone else, he’s probably going to let you know about it.
In this case, Cousins has issues with Evans. Really, anyone who has watched the Kings this season can tell you that he’s not entirely off-base when he shows his frustration at some of the shots and decision-making that has come from Evans this season. The problem is, basketball is a team sport and like your teammate or hate them, you don’t get to throw a tantrum and throw punches, fists or elbows at them when they don’t make the decision you want them to make. It doesn’t work like that.
Basketball also rarely works when a young star is given the kind of offensive leeway that Evans has been handed by his team, without also being handed the appropriate criticisms when necessary. In an article written last week by Sam Amick, Evans is quoted as saying, “We’re on the same page. He [Paul Westphal] knows when it’s time, when the game is on the line, give me the ball and (I’ll) try to make a play.”
His coach knows when it’s crunch time to give him the ball. Yeesh. If it were a veteran like Kobe Bryant saying this, maybe it wouldn’t sound strange. Even a point guard like Rajon Rondo, known for making the right plays for his teammates, or Derrick Rose, with a reputation that’s growing by the game for being able to take over in crunch time, it wouldn’t sound odd. When it’s a young player like Evans who has had his share of miscues this season, it sounds off-putting.
As Amick pointed out, in the wake of Jerry Sloan stepping down amid rumors of a rift with star guard Deron Williams, it sounds almost as though the power struggle in Sacramento has been won by Evans and no one has challenged him. Not teammates. Not the coaching staff. No one. Until now.
His challenger is a yet-to-be proven rookie who has to prove to his organization that he can rein in the outbursts and harness his talent to become a great player in this league. His challenger has the support of veteran leader Francisco Garcia.
Here’s the thing that gets me about this whole situation. The unproven rookie picks a fight, starts a physical altercation with Donte Greene and was punished for it by his general manager. Call comes in to the team on the plane to take Cousins off of the plane and away from the team as punishment. Simple enough. Orders are followed, Cousins is removed. All is well.
Except it isn’t, because Garcia takes an offense to the decision to punish Cousins and he wants a different resolution. When the veteran on the team is standing up for the rookie, perhaps that rookie is speaking out about something that has been bothering more people on the team than just himself. If that’s the case, the Kings are in a mighty predicament.
Cousins was wrong for fighting with a teammate. He was wrong for overstepping his boundaries and acting as he did. Maybe, though, he was right in being angry with the way the team has handled Evans. And maybe when he acts out he’s also speaking up for some of his other teammates. Doesn’t make it right, does make it complicated.
We’ve seen how the LeBron treatment usually works out. Make a player out to be a King and he’s the one who gets to call checkmate.