While watching the Kings play on television the other night, I was impressed with Chuck Hayes, a six-year NBA veteran who signed with the Kings this season after a heart scare almost derailed the deal. Hayes battled for rebounds and dove to the floor for loose balls. He’s a tough, blue-collar player who has made the most of his modest talent. The 6-foot-6 center/forward averaged 3.4 points and 4.7 rebounds in 17 minutes per game in six seasons with Houston.
Then there was DeMarcus Cousins, who looked as though he were pacing himself through a McDonald’s all-star game, making a few good moves for the highlight films, pouting and scowling when things didn’t go exactly his way, and then complaining about the coach. Cousins has been whining his whole basketball life and finding fault with everyone but himself.
Asked why so many questions were raised about his emotional maturity and temper during the 2010 NBA draft, Cousins said: “I have no clue.”
The clueless Cousins now wants to quit the struggling Kings, says coach Paul Westphal, who sent him home hours before Sunday night’s game against the New Orleans Hornets. Cousins has demanded to be traded, Westphal said in a statement, although Cousins’ agent denied a trade is being sought.
“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,” Westphal said.
Call me old school, but I’d rather have a player like Chuck Hayes on the floor than a toxic guy like Cousins, who has hurt his teams and been out for himself since his high school days. As a rookie with the Kings last year, Cousins was fined after an argument with the team’s strength and conditioning coach; kicked out of practice after clashing with Westphal; fined and benched for making the “choke” sign in a game against Golden State that the Kings lost in overtime; and suspended for a game after an altercation with teammate Donte Green.
Unsurprisingly, Cousins has his apologists, folks who like to infantilize the 21-year-old millionaire and make him a victim. Bee sports columnist Ailene Voisin, who called Westphal’s action a “public spanking,” said in today’s paper: “Westphal’s action had the feel and smell of a diversionary tactic, an attempt to spin the team’s downward tale and sluggish start on the biggest and easiest target in the building: the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.”
The Kings should cut their losses now, send the self-indulgent Cousins packing and build a team with players like Hayes, players who show respect for their teammates, their fans and the game of basketball.