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The Unfortunate & Steady Decline of DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins is currently riding through the lowest point in his rollercoaster of a career.

At the age of 29, and seemingly halfway through his career, some would already suggest that Boogie has had one of the most marred careers ever. Whether it’s been through devastating injury, uncontrollable aggression, or more recently, off court misdemeanours that may see him with a criminal record.

How did everything go so wrong?

How good could Boogie have been?

From being touted as a physical phenomenon coming out of Kentucky, ready to rip the league to shreds and become a dominant big man in the league, to now basically being forced to spend the rest of his career ping-ponging around the league on veteran minimums, or to never be seen on the court again.

Here is a timeline of all the events that led to the unfortunate demise of DeMarcus Cousins’ career.

Strap yourselves in, there’s a lot to go through.

24 June 2010 – NBA Draft – 0 fouls outs, 0 technical fouls, 0 ejections

Draft Night is always, for the majority of players, a time to celebrate and be happy about the prospect of starting a career in the NBA. For DeMarcus, this was no different. 5th pick in the draft. His Kentucky teammate John Wall at Pick #1. It was all very exciting…

…Except for one little thing that would be the first domino to topple.

Issue #1 – Being drafted by the Sacramento Kings

From the moment Cousins was drafted, the Kings organisation was in complete and utter turmoil and dysfunction.

For his 7 seasons at Sacramento, DeMarcus faced what no young talent should ever have to face. He endured constant questioning over rumours of the franchise relocating. He played under 6 different head coaches. 2 different ownership groups. And many, many front office reshuffles.

But even as DeMarcus was growing up as one of the best players in the league, Sacramento never managed to scrape a decent team together for him. Throughout Boogie’s tenure, the Kings had win totals of 24, 22, 28, 28, 29, 33, and 32…yikes.

But while the Kings organisation played a factor in Cousins’ tumultuous start to his career, unfortunately it was DeMarcus’ attitude that played an even larger factor, earning him the title of “Coach Killer”.

Issue #2 – Angry and undisciplined

End of 2nd Season (2011-12) – 17 foul outs, 26 technical fouls, 3 ejections, 1 game suspended

Boogie’s undisciplined anger issues all begun at the end of his 1st season. Cousins was taken off a team plane and suspended 1 game following a post game incident with teammate Donte Greene.

But it was in his 2nd season at the Kings that DeMarcus showed the more troubling signs of continued anger issues and a poor attitude.

On 1st January 2012, Boogie was sent home from a home game against New Orleans for showing unwillingness to align himself with the team’s direction according to then Head Coach, Paul Westphal.

4 days after that game, Westphal was fired from the Kings, and the link to his fractured relationship with Cousins was made, and was speculated to be a main factor behind the dismissal.

To top off a turbulent season, on 6th April 2012, Cousins was fined $25,000 for complaining directly to the media about the officiating in a game against the Clippers, in particular a call against Blake Griffin who seemed to flop…”I guess the wind from my hand hit him in the eye” said Cousins.

End of 3rd Season (2012-13) – 21 foul outs, 43 technical fouls, 7 ejections, 4 games suspended

It was quite clear from early on in this season that DeMarcus was going to be a big issue for the Kings franchise. On 9th November 2012, Cousins was suspended for 2 games after he aggressively confronted San Antonio Spurs commentator Sean Elliott.

It was clear from this point that Boogie had quite a few behavioural issues.

Barely a month later, on 10th December 2012, Cousins was suspended another game for striking O.J. Mayo (playing for Dallas) in the groin.

And not even two weeks after that, Cousins was indefinitely suspended (ended up being 2 days) by the front office after being benched the entire second half of a game against the Clippers on 22nd December 2012. DeMarcus had showed unprofessional behaviour and was conducting himself in a manner that was detrimental to the team.

Already there were multiple red flags early in his 3rd season.

End of 4th Season (2013-14) – 25 foul outs, 59 technical fouls, 8 ejections, 6 games suspended, $192,400 forfeited (Spotrac)

Incidents aside, Cousins was asserting his dominance on the floor. After earning a 4-year/$62m extension with the Kings, he went on to post career high averages in every major statistical category. 22.7 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks in his fourth season.

Besides Cousins pulling former teammate Isaiah Thomas away from a handshake with Chris Paul after a close game against the Clippers, you could say that the start of DeMarcus’ 4th season was ‘quiet’…I mean…he didn’t get suspended until 25th February 2014.

In a game against the Rockets, Cousins was suspended and fined for 3 separate incidents. First, punching Patrick Beverley in the stomach. Second, verbally abusing an official. Third, failing to leave the court in a timely manner following his ejection.

Although it was the only ‘major’ blip in this season, it was a moment that confirmed a year-in-year-out trend in DeMarcus’ inappropriate and immature behaviours.

To top this season off, Cousins picked up his 16th technical foul in the second last game of the season, subsequently missing the season finale.

End of 5th season (2014-15) – 35 foul outs, 73 technical fouls, 9 ejections, 6 games suspended, $239,000 forfeited (Spotrac)

In terms of lack of misdemeanours and on/off courts issues, Boogie’s fifth season was his ‘best year’, a shining light if you will, but unfortunately this was his last season without major criticism and misfortune.

In his best season so far, Cousins earned his first All-Star nod as a replacement for Kobe Bryant, signifying his first major accolade in the league since making the All-Rookie 1st Team, averaging 24.1/12.7/3.6/1.5/1.7.

He also joined some illustrious groups:

  • 4th player to have 20+ points, 20+ rebounds, 10+ assists, 5+ blocks in one game; joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Chris Webber and Tim Duncan
  • 3rd Player with back-to-back 20 point, 20 rebound, 10 assist games; joining Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain

DeMarcus also made his first All NBA team, being selected on the All-NBA 2nd Team.

Looking back, DeMarcus Cousins was truly an incredible player still on the rise, and really could’ve achieved quite a lot if it weren’t for his next 4 and a bit seasons…

End of 6th season (2015-16) – 42 foul outs, 90 technical fouls, 10 ejections, 9 games suspended, $691,327 forfeited (Spotrac)

A small early season Achilles injury, which kept DeMarcus out for 4 games, would unknowingly be a precursor to something much more serious, which would ultimately end up being the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Soon after this injury on 18th November 2015, Cousins was suspended 1 game for hitting then-Hawk Al Horford in the head with his forearm.

Cousins then went on to earn a 2nd All-Star selection in another dominant season, averaging 26.9/11.5/3.3/1.6/1.4.

On 10th March 2016, the Kings suspended Cousins for 1 game after shouting at Head Coach George Karl during a game. Earlier in the season Cousins had aggressively directed comments at Karl off the court, for which Karl wanted DeMarcus suspended for 2 games, but GM Vlade Divac overruled this, and there was no suspension.

Cousins picked up his 16th technical foul on 30th March 2016, resulting in another 1 game suspension.

Cousins was selected to the All-NBA 2nd Team for the second and last time in his career.

In the offseason, after the NBA Draft that saw the Kings get Georgios Papagiannis and rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic, DeMarcus went ahead on voiced his displeasure at what they did…

End of 7th Season (2016-17) – 49 foul outs, 108 technical fouls, 11 ejections, 11 games suspended, $1,008,490 forfeited (Spotrac)

The season of the mouthguard.

In just the 3rd game of the season, Cousins was fouled out of a game against the Wolves, and out of frustration decided to throw/bounce his mouthguard roughly 10 rows into the stands. He was promptly given a tech and fined $25,000.

The incident was clearly fresh in the mind, as Cousins, having just scored his 53rd and 54th points in a game against the Blazers, “accidentally” spat out his mouthguard at the Blazers bench and was ejected from the game. After review, the officials reversed the ejection and called DeMarcus back out onto the court.

Frustrated at the debacle, Cousins launched into a huge tirade in a post-game interview saying how ridiculous the whole situation was, before being cut off…and promptly fined $50,000.

Cousins continued to play well however, and was selected for his 3rd All-Star game.

But in typical DeMarcus fashion, toward the end of the season, within 3 days of each other Cousins was fined $25,000 for giving Warriors fans the double-middle-finger on 4th Feb 2017, and then proceeded to receive his 16th technical foul on 6th Feb 2017, resulting in a 1 game suspension.

Exactly 2 weeks later, DeMarcus Cousins was finally and thankfully traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. Although it was a new team, it was the same old DeMarcus.

One week into his tenure with the Pels he received his 18th technical foul (2 technicals after his suspension), which resulted in yet another suspension.

And finally, on 5th-6th March 2017, at 2 separate games, Cousins was fined a total of $50,000 for using inappropriate language towards fans of both the Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz.

End of 8th Season (2017-18) – 49 fouls outs, 118 technical fouls, 13 ejections, 11 games suspended, $1,063,490 forfeited (Spotrac)

In many ways, this was the moment DeMarcus Cousins was going to usher in a new era. People were going crazy over the newest, biggest and best frontcourt duo, AD & Boogie.

And in some ways it did. Cousins was awarded the inaugural Offseason NBA Cares Community Assist Award on 20th October 2017 for his work among the communities in Alabama, New Orleans, Sacramento and South Africa. A somewhat different side to DeMarcus than what the casual fan would see.

Only TWO DAYS beforehand however, DeMarcus had been fined $25,000 for directing inappropriate language towards a Grizzlies fan.

DeMarcus had the foundation of an impactful career in New Orleans, both on and off the court, but he kept just flushing it all down the drain.

However, this would be his last major slip up.

On January 26 2018, while averaging a career high in assists per game (5.4), fulfilling the role of the modern big man incredibly well. having just earned his 4th All-Star nod, and on a triple double with 15 seconds to go in a match against the Rockets, Boogie’s roll coaster career started its biggest descent. This game would be the beginning of the end.

Issue #3 – 1st Major Injury: Torn Left Achilles

This injury is infamous for destroying careers. But for a player with such calibre, many people were optimistic that he could return to his best. Despite this, it seemed that every NBA team were unwilling to take a chance.

With such a history of misdemeanours, fines, ejections, and everything in between, only one team could take him on, and of all teams…the Golden State Warriors.

End of 9th Season (2018-19) – 51 foul outs, 124 technical fouls, 14 ejections, 11 games suspended, $1,083,890 forfeited (Spotrac)

Signing a 1-year/$5.3m deal with the Warriors sent NBA fans into hysteria. 5 All-Stars. Reigning Champions. Couldn’t get any better. It was ludicrous, but realistically, all for pretty much nothing.

Cousins returned to the court on 18th January 2019, and in typical fashion fouled out of the game without really exerting much of an influence.

DeMarcus would go on to have a relatively decent season, considering his injury, going 16.3/8.2/3.6/1.3/1.5, but never really showing any signs of the old Cousins. It was clear he had been affected by his injury.

Issue #4 – 2nd Major Injury: Torn Left Quadriceps

And in Game 2 of the 1st Round of the Playoffs, DeMarcus proved that his body was starting to break down.

Whilst this only kept Cousins out until Game 1 of the Finals, his presence would not end up making a difference, and the Raptors would make history with a 4-2 series victory to claim the Championship from the Warriors.

With basically only one healthy leg to stand on, this truly was the point where people started to see Cousins as a liability.

In similar fashion to the Warriors, albeit with 2 less All-Stars, Cousins signed a veteran minimum with the Lakers after being recruited by LeBron and old teammate AD. Again, it looked like there may have been a glimmer of hope for DeMarcus in the league’s biggest franchise with a Championship-calibre team.

Alas, it was not to be for Cousins.

On 15th August 2019, DeMarcus Cousins’ career came seemingly to an end.

Issue #5 – 3rd Major Injury: Torn Left ACL

With 3 major injuries to his left leg, something that probably hasn’t happened to any NBA player, I don’t think DeMarcus can recover.

He certainly won’t be anything close to his career best…it is just way too much. The most he can do now is take a serious amount of time out of his career to completely rehabilitate every issue with his left leg…and then hope for the best.

As I said at the beginning of the article, Cousins will be forced to accept veteran minimums from any team willing to give him a shot.

But to make matters worse, and to put the cherry on top of his career…

Issue #6 – Arrest Warrant

Alabama Police issued an arrest warrant for Cousins on domestic violence charge for threatening to kill his ex-wife, the mother of his daughter.

The cynic in me thinks that this arrest warrant has put the nail in the coffin. DeMarcus Cousins won’t be seen on the NBA hard-floor ever again.

The optimist in me thinks that this might be a huge wake-up call. It might finally change DeMarcus’ whole attitude, anger issues and immaturity. He WILL return to some sort of form and play good minutes as a role player coming off the bench, hopefully some point next season.

One thing is for certain; his future in the NBA is uncertain at best.

With a history of anger and violence that just keeps on growing, Cousins has hit rock bottom.

Will we ever see him in an NBA jersey ever again? We will have to wait and see…

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