The Sacramento Kings are a mess, they have been for six years. But this season can mark one of change, a shift in fortunes. And such a transformation begins, and ends, with DeMarcus Cousins.
You know Cousins, the player who has been kicked out of practices, clashed with coaches and been a volatile presence in general. Yes, that Cousins.
During the lockout-truncated 2011-12 campaign, Cousins emerged as a star, yet even to this day, he still has not received the credit he deserves. He averaged 18.1 points, 11 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.5 steals per game, posting a PER of 21.72, good for 21st in the league. In case you’re wondering, that’s incredibly impressive.
But now, it’s time for Cousins to take the next step, to continue his statistical prowess while also assuming the role no one thought he ever would, or could—that of a leader.
In all actuality, Sacramento has a bevy of talent on its roster. Marcus Thornton is one of the league’s better scorers, we’ve seen what Tyreke Evans is capable of and Isaiah Thomas appears on the verge of improbable stardom.
What the Kings lack is leadership, and perhaps a little depth, but mostly leadership. And who better to lead them than the player who led the team in rebounds, steals and blocks, a player who, with a little fine-tuning and heightened anticipation, will undoubtedly become a Defensive Player of the Year Candidate?
Yes, we’re still talking about Cousins. The time has come for him to step up and lead the Kings, a team without a clear identity, a team sorely in need of the type of direction coaches can’t preach and money can’t buy. They need Cousins.
He must become the vocal presence the team lacks, especially on defense. He must call his teammates when they blow an an assignment, motivate them when the going gets tough and lead them into battle on a nightly basis. It’s time for him to take responsibility for himself, as well as the rest of his team.
But is he ready? Can he table his borderline childish ways for the sake of the team, for the sake of a franchise that is withering away as we speak?
Yes, he can. And he will.
He showed up to training camp in the best shape of his career, which already shows a heightened sense of not only interest, but commitment. And that has been Cousins’ knock all along, a lack of commitment, the absence of a drive that fuels him to become not just a better player, but a better teammate, a better person.
Which is why, if for no reason other than Cousins, the Kings and their fans can look forward to this season. The team won’t be clinching a playoff berth, but they do have the opportunity to get it right, or at least begin to get it right.
Sacramento doesn’t have to be a team that finishes 22 games under .500, it doesn’t have to continue its string of lottery appearances. Blundering ownership or not, there is still hope for the Kings.
Hope that comes in the form of a 6’11”, 270-pound center, who has the ability to alter the course of Sacramento’s misfortune, and restore faith in a dying organization.
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.