DeMarcus Cousins Suspended: Blame The Kings, Not The Kid

A.J. Price is my favorite college basketball player of all time. He wasn’t the best. He never won a National Championship. But he’s still my favorite.

To me, Price represented everything college basketball and really, the college experience should be about. For all the discussion that we as fans and analysts have about paying players, college football playoffs, expanded March Madness and whatever, what college is really about, is molding young people into adults. It’s like the commercials say, most NCAA athletes will “go pro” in something other than their chosen sport.

Nobody signified that better than Price.

When A.J. got to UConn, he was a lot of what is wrong with the AAU sneaker culture we have in place right now. He entered school with a cocky, my s**t don’t stink, I don’t need to listen to anybody, swagger to him.

Believe me, I was there. While I wouldn’t say A.J. was a bad kid, he was definitely misguided and probably a bit immature. I bet if you asked him that, he’d tell you the same.

Then reality hit. Price had a near fatal injury (bleeding in his brain), which cost him his first year of college and most importantly, nearly his life. Just as he was finished up his recovery, Price followed that up by getting in trouble with the law.  

With the arrest, Price was suspended from school for a year and was away from basketball for two. Thankfully though, by the time he got back to campus in the fall of 2007, Price was humbled, humiliated and matured.

He ended his career by leading the Huskies to the 2009 Final Four and more importantly by becoming a great ambassador of the school in the process. A.J. Price entered UConn a boy and left a man.

To a smaller degree, that’s the same reason why DeMarcus Cousins may be my favorite non-UConn player ever. He didn’t quite have the same college experience as Price but then again, didn’t do the same time in school either.

Fairly or not, from the first day Cousins walked on campus at Kentucky, he was considered a bit of a bad apple, not that he did much to help his public image.

Cousins trudged around the court looking like an angry bouncer at a rowdy bar, just waiting to knock out the first drunk who gives him a problem. He bickered with John Calipari like the two were an old married couple. And at times it seemed like Kentucky was winning despite Cousins, not because of him.

At one point my buddy Matt joked, “That guy is going to get at least three NBA coaches fired.” Honestly, I didn’t think it was too far off.

But like Price, Cousins eventually let his guard down and spread his wings in Lexington. Within months, he went from “toxic” and “un-coachable” to the biggest goofball on the team.  He showed up at press conferences wearing funny outfits. He was no longer “DeMarcus Cousins” but simply, “Big Cuz.”

Go ahead and ask any Kentucky fan about the 2010 season, and they’ll all tell you the same: John Wall may have been the most important player on that team, but Cousins was the most beloved.

From there, you know how the rest of the narrative played out. Kentucky went on to a storybook season that ended just one game (and a few made threes) away from the Final Four.

With their coach’s blessing Cousins, Wall and three teammates left for NBA riches, where the 6’11 power forward was the fifth pick in last summer’s NBA Draft. And while things weren’t perfect in his first few months as a professional, they were getting better for Big Cuz. Entering Saturday’s game he’d had four double-doubles in his previous six games.

That’s when things changed though.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story from Saturday night’s loss to the Thunder, here’s what you need to know. 

The Kings and Thunder played a hard-fought back-and-forth game that went down to the final possession. Sacramento had the ball with just five seconds to go, and after a timeout, Donte Greene inbounded the ball to Tyreke Evans, who took a few dribbles, went up for the last shot and missed. Game over. Just another tough loss in the NBA, right?

Wrong. According to a report by Sam Amrick of AOL Fanhouse, Cousins became infuriated that he didn’t touch the ball on the final possession and let Greene know about it in the tunnel under Arco Arena.

Eventually their confrontation turned hostile, and Cousins took a swing at Greene. The players had to be separated, and later on, Cousins had to be pulled off the Kings plane which was getting set to leave for Sunday’s game in Phoenix.

Cousins was suspended Sunday night, and according to Amrick’s last report, he may be suspended for up to this three-game road trip the Kings are currently on. Just to be fair, this wasn’t Cousins first run in with his teammates or management, as he and Evans had to be sat down by Coach Paul Westphal just a few weeks ago.

So what should we make of the whole incident?

As expected, the mainstream media got the ball rolling as only they can and have spent the last 36 hours calling Cousins every derogatory name they can could up with. Selfish, a team cancer, immature, a head case, spoiled, un-coachable. You name it.

Me, I’m not so sure though. Obviously Cousins is to blame for this one, isolated incident, even I wouldn’t deny that. But is he to blame for the big picture problems with this team? That, I’m not so sure about.

Look, we don’t know, nor will we ever know what led to Cousins frustration. Was the last play called for him? Had Westphal given Evans or Greene explicit instructions to dump the ball down low? Is Cousins just straight off the funny farm? Or is it some combination of all those? Again, we’ll never know...

(Because of length, this is PART I of the DeMarcus Cousins suspension story. To read Part II, please click here, or visit

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