DeMarcus Cousins knew he had made a mistake. He recognized it immediately after tossing Marcus Smart to the ground.
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Cousins said. “I shouldn’t have done it.”
Cousins was ejected for the first time this season during the Sacramento Kings’ 106-84 loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday. He began having issues with Smart because of his picks. Midway through the fourth quarter, the 6-foot-4 Smart tried to box out the 6-foot-11 Cousins, and Cousins grabbed him and threw him to the parquet. Referees issued double techs, which was Cousins’ second of the game and resulted in him being tossed.
“It didn’t start with the box out; it was the pick,” Cousins said. “He tried to run through my chest and then he came and I felt he took a cheap shot on the box out. That resulted to what happened. Even with that being said, I’ve got to make better decisions. The team depends on me every night and I just can’t do things like that.”
Cousins’ fifth season has been a solid one. He is averaging 24 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. He seemed to benefit from his time this summer with Team USA, emphasizing defense and leadership heading into the season.
“Basketball is a physical game,” said Rudy Gay. “He’s a physical player and things like this are going to happen.”
It can take just one bad decision to overshadow a season of improved behavior. Cousins developed a reputation for being immature and fiery early in his career. He was ejected three times as a rookie, and led the league with 16 technical fouls last season and 17 the previous year. Entering Wednesday’s game he had only been issued one tech (a second was rescinded), yet his previous actions are referenced in spite of his growth.
“Everyone is going to be analyzed by what you’ve done in the past,” said Jason Thompson, who has played with Cousins his entire career. “If you have a lot of stuff history-wise, if something happens it’s just, ‘Ok, that’s him being him.’ Even in practices and off the court, things have not been like that. He’s definitely changed and matured. For something like this, it’s not normal because he’s definitely shown he’s changed.”
Thompson noted he has seen Cousins walk away from heated situations on the court this season. In early November, he even restrained former head coach Mike Malone. But there are still moments when his feelings trump his self-control.
“I let my emotions get the best of me and let them carry over into that last play,” Cousins said. “I just can’t do that. I’ve got to be smarter, got to make better decisions.”
There will be times when Cousins overreacts. There will also be players who try to get under his skin. Cousins has to learn to stop reacting to the actions of others and focus on being dominating player the Kings need him to be.
“They depend on me every night,” said Cousins. “Me doing stuff like that, that’s not being a good leader for this team. I’ll definitely apologize to my team and move on to the next one.”
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