I’mma throw shade if I can’t get paid… –Lil’ Kim f/ Lil’ Cease and Biggie Smalls, “Crush on You”
As the saying goes: if you’re gonna be a ho, be a high-priced ho.
DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins of the Sacramento Kings is allegedly taking this adage to heart. Word on the curb is that the Kings are going to use the newly upgraded designated veteran player exception to throw armored trucks full of money to franchise player and free-agent-to-be Cousins, to the tune of over $200 million ($207 million is the last estimated figure I saw).
Cousins, despite his magazine rack full of issues, is extremely talented (look up his stats). He’s playing some of the best ball of his year, this season. Some consider him the best center currently in the game, and there is valid argument for that. He is a two-time NBA All Star and has made the All-NBA Second Team twice, as well as the NBA All-Rookie Team back in 2011.
Cousins is apparently on board with his projected payday…or he could be giving a politically correct (non-) answer (yeah, which would be a different thing for him). You make the call.
I applaud any player gaming (ha ha) the system to line his or her pockets (holla, Diana Taurasi!), even if some of the deals are eyebrow-raising–in the end, no one is looking out for you but yourself. But if the team front offices are willing to put a sizeable dent in their respective coffers, it would be remiss for certain players to turn down anything but their collars. As we say in the vernacular: If you see a sucker, lick it. Get that money, y’all.
While Cousins is well within his rights to get as much money as possible in the prime of his career (and real talk: even $207 mill isn’t enough to compensate for seven years of immersion in the psychological clusterfuck that is the Sacramento Kings), he is also within his rights to pursue growth as both a player and a leader — or not.
Therein lies the rub. The Kings haven’t been relevant since Chris Webber donned the purple and white alongside current Kings General Manager Vlade Divac; and Peja Stojakovic, the Kings legend who now serves as the Director of Player Personnel and Development, as well as the GM of Reno Bighorns (the Kings’ D-League affiliate team).
Part of this mediocrity is the fact that Cousins is not surrounded by role players that complement his playing style; however, that’s on the front office. Cousins’ questionable leadership, though–that’s on him.
The front office has not yet found a veteran that can come in and help Cousins through his worst impulses–and stick around long enough to make sure the help works. Likewise, Cousins does himself no favors by refusing to accept responsibility where it counts: as the franchise player of a struggling team.
Seriously, who wants to come to the Kings, unless it’s for googobs of money? And those that do come are considered problem children themselves–e.g., Rajon Rondo and Matt Barnes–so it’s like the blind leading the blind.
Cousins needs to do for self and seek the help he needs, not just consort with enablers. Just as he’d look for the best offseason workout to elevate his physical basketball skills, he should look for the best mentorship to elevate his mental hoop skills–which include leadership. As my grandma used to say, a closed mouth don’t get fed.
[sidebar: Recent NBA retirees Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and Ray Allen are all just a phone call away. All were tremendous, well-respected players, leaders, NBA champions, and future Hall of Famers. All aren’t that far removed from the game. Just a thought.]
Cousins needs to be on a team that demands both individual and group accountability. He needs a coach that will put a foot up his ass if and when necessary and bring out the best in him. He needs veteran teammates who will check him when he gets out of pocket. He needs to be in a culture that plays to win versus playing not to lose (this is an important distinction).
Sacramento ain’t it, no matter how many new arenas it builds or how many zeroes are on a players’ paycheck. And until Cousins proves himself beyond his hardwood prowess, reputable teams will be hesitant to take a chance on him.
Yet for Cousins to make or take that quantum leap to the next level, he has to first admit that he needs the help–outside of the Kings roster. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting there is a problem. That requires introspection and a humbling that is not easy to come by for most people, let alone professional athletes whose egos have helped propel them to play at the highest professional level possible.
Next, he has to want to get better. At 26, Cousins still has not reached his full potential. As stated earlier, the right coach and right supporting cast can go a long way toward unlocking Cousins’s next level. He’s had the former (shoutout to Mike Malone). The latter? Hardly.
If Cousins wants to be one of the highest-paid never-wases in the league, then by all means: do you, boo. But if he wants to be truly great, to see his name in Springfield, MA one day, then he needs to reach out to those who can make a true, honest, positive difference in his life. He needs to make a concerted effort be The Man that he’s paid to be.
A journey of a thousand miles, and all that.
Thanks for stopping by.