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NBA PM: Trading DeMarcus Cousins?
Posted By Bill Ingram On December 24, 2012 @ 5:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
For a time, it was a match made in heaven. DeMarcus Cousins, misunderstood and unappreciated by his first head coach Paul Westphal, found a father figure, a confidante and a friend when Keith Smart took over as head coach of the Sacramento Kings.
Considering the talent Cousins possesses, the draft pick the Kings spent to get him and, more importantly, the number of dismal losses that led to that draft pick, the budding relationship between Smart and Cousins was a godsend for the organization. They couldn’t afford for Cousins not to work out, and the news that he and Smart were on the same page had management breathing a little easier.
For a while, anyway.
Sooner or later, even the most patient father will reach the end of his tolerance, and that appears to be where things are at with Smart as he wrestles with what to do about Cousins’ lack of maturity and his unwillingness to listen to others who are trying to help him become the best player that he can be.
“The player, at the moment, doesn’t see himself as a big man, he’s just big,” Smart said recently in talking about some of the issues he’s had with Cousins. “Because he has skills and can handle the ball just as well as some guards in our league, I don’t like him to do it a lot, but he can do those things. He doesn’t see himself in that frame of mind. I played over in Europe for a couple years and I saw a couple 7-foot-2 guys handling the basketball. It was strange for me to see that because here in the States you’re not supposed to dribble, you’re not supposed to pass it. You’re supposed to go to the post up, get close to the rim. That’s not even a concept over there. Over here look at Dirk Nowitzki. Everyone kind of said things about him as a post-up guy, and over time he started to develop that post-up game, so this young man here is along those same lines. He doesn’t see himself as a 22-year-old player who is just a post-up guy, because he has other skills. We have to spoon feed a few of them down there for him to keep him growing, so we can keep that film in front of him and show him, but along the line, we can continue to develop other parts of his game as well because he still has to have a good game for us to have success, and I don’t want him to be in a position where every night he’s struggling trying to score with his back to the basket, and then he gets frustrated from doing the other things. I shared with him that I won’t talk to you again about scoring tonight, but I always say, you need to go out and get 20 rebounds. Get 20 rebounds. If you go out every night with the mindset of getting 20 rebounds, you’ll probably finish up with around 14.”
But Cousins doesn’t get 14 boards very often, only four times this season as a matter of fact. His determination to play like a guard has him out of position to rebound more often than not, and Smart has had a hard time making Cousins understand what the team needs from him. The same was true when Smart tried to talk to Cousins about looking for a hook shot in the paint instead of a face-up jumper.
“That’s a new territory for him because right after that he finished up and said, ‘I’m probably not going to work on that shot as much anymore,’” recalls Smart. “But what we did, right on the plane that night, flying back here the next day, we got him in a film session, right on the plane, and right away he saw that, and said, ‘Wow, I’m right here, all I have to do is work on distance and timing.’ Because you’re getting where you want to go; your shot’s not getting blocked, and you just have to finish that little play. The shot is the right shot; it looked like a real NBA shot of a big man trying to put the ball in with a jump hook. Now we just have to refine that, that’s all it takes. And we showed him that. And we got him back again, and probably pulled one off tonight, but what I was doing a little bit too much, and what our team was doing, was trying to load him up with the post ups. Put him down there, and let him try to do something that’s he’s not ready yet for. Because he is a guy that can play on the perimeter and then move in toward the basket, so I think the way we played over the last couple games we played on the move a little bit more, and now him catching the ball on the move, which he’s still got perimeter skills to do that, as opposed to just trying to back a big guy down and then using that skill he’s trying to develop.”
As patient as Smart has been through this process with Cousins, there comes a time when the best thing for the team is to simply move on. It’s not easy, not when so much is riding on the success or failure of Cousins, but with him currently serving a suspension that spans the foreseeable future, it’s entirely possible that the Kings will now look to trade him.
In the classic Kevin Costner film “Bull Durham,” Costner’s “Crash” Davis is brought down to the single-A Durham Bulls so he can help mature a hot young pitcher by the name of Nuke LaLoosh, played by Tim Robbins. LaLoosh has amazing talent, but is so caught up in other things that he doesn’t work on his game enough or take his career seriously enough. In a memorable scene, Davis tells LaLoosh, “Come on, ‘rook, show us that million-dollar arm, ’cause I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours.”
This is where the Kings find themselves as they ponder what to do next with Cousins. He has million-dollar talent, but may not have the smarts to convert that into winning basketball. Certainly it seems that Keith Smart and his staff are quickly running out of patience for the attitude behind the talent.
Rest assured there will be teams willing to take a chance on a seven-footer who can put the ball on the floor shoot from mid-range and rebound, when determined to do so. Perhaps someone like Doc Rivers in Boston, Kevin McHale in Houston or even Pat Riley in Miami can harness the beast within Cousins and unleash it on the basketball court.
The Kings have not completely given up on Cousins, but the writing is on the wall. Don’t be surprised if his current ongoing suspension turns into a trade before the deadline.
Celtics Would Like A Little More Green
When the Boston Celtics traded starting center Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a move that landed them Jeff Green, they were looking for the additional offense that Green represented. In a little more than three and a half seasons with the Thunder, Green proved to be a very capable scorer, averaging 16.5 points per game during his second season, but giving OKC better than 15 points per game even as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were emerging as premier scorers.
Green’s role with the Celtics was different, of course, as he was coming off the bench, but he was still effective in scoring 9.8 points per game off the bench after being acquired in 2010-11. Unfortunately, he missed the entire 2011-12 season due to a heart ailment, so the Celtics were without both the defense of Perkins and the added offense of Green.
This year Green is back in action, and while he’s averaging 9.6 points per game off the bench, the Celtics would love to have him back to pre-injury form and contributing more than 22 minutes per game. Head coach Doc Rivers understands why Green has been inconsistent through the early part of the season, but does expect him to come around.
“Yeah, it’s confidence, it’s endurance for him, I think, as well, and it’s a year off,” says Rivers. “I don’t care how good of an athlete you are, you take a year off you are going to struggle for a while and be inconsistent and that’s what Jeff has been.”
As for Green, he’s just happy to be back on the basketball court, which is never a given when a heart ailment is involved.
“It feels good, I’m blessed to just play this game again,” Green tells HOOPSWORLD. “It’s been a long year, but to be back on the court is a true blessing.”
Green kept any nagging doubts about his return to the game at bay by staying positive and surrounding himself with family and friends who would support him no matter what.
“I tried not to have doubt,” says Green. “I always wanted to stay positive. That was one that I continued to do. … My family and friends, they were with me through the whole thing. They always kept me in a good mood, always kept me going positive. I owe it all to them.”
Though it was difficult to sit out for an entire season, Green didn’t hang his head. He watched and learned from the sideline and came back with some ideas about how to be a more effective player.
“That’s with everybody,” says Green. “Everybody sees who the open guy is or what the player should have done. But it’s tough to make those decisions when you’re out there just playing. I saw ways that I could be effective, ways that I could be great for this team.”
It’s been clear, at times, that the Celtics don’t yet have all of their new faces playing together as a cohesive unit, and Green admits that’s been an issue early on.
“Yeah, we all got to get on the same page, I mean, we’re all in the NBA for a reason,” says Green. “It’s tough to sometimes put that ego aside and sacrifice, but we’re coming together as one, slowly but surely. It’s a long season and great things don’t happen over night. We’re just going to learn from each game and continue to get better.”
At times it’s looked like perhaps team president Danny Ainge should have moved some of the older pieces over the summer instead of keeping the core veterans together for another title run. It’s understandable that older players might lose some of their edge, especially when they already have a championship to their credit. Green, however, feels that everyone on the team is still hungry for a championship, from the vets who already have one to the young players who still long for a ring.
“Most definitely, you always want to be known as a champion,” says Green. “That’s what drives every player in this league to get better and to want to get better as a team. We have guys that have been on that level and won championships, we’re just following their lead.”
While many may have written off the Celtics as contenders this season, in the locker room the team still very much believes they can get to that level by the time the playoffs roll around. If that’s going to happen, Jeff Green is going to be a big part of the reason why. Right now it’s enough that he’s back on the court and playing basketball again, but by midseason he’s going to have to do more of the heavy lifting if the Celtics are going to realize their lofty dreams.
Marcus Morris Has His Day
Most of the time, when an NBA team loses its starting power forward, it presents a major challenge for the head coach to overcome. In the case of the Houston Rockets, however, when Patrick Patterson went down with a foot injury, head coach Kevin McHale just plugged in one of the many other players he has at his disposal at the four.
In this case, it was Marcus Morris who got the nod, and in his four consecutive starts since Patterson went down he is proving his value to the team. He scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds against Toronto, then put up 13 and three in a lesser role in a blowout win over New York, compiled 14 points, five assists and five rebounds in a win over Philly, and then scored 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting in a blowout of the Memphis Grizzlies.
“In our offense, I’m stretching,” Morris told the Houston Chronicle. “I’m a three-man playing four. There’s a disadvantage on both sides. I get help from the team and I can try my hardest on defense, but I think they have a little tougher time guarding me just because I’m spreading and they have to run out from the paint.”
It helps, of course, that Morris is shooting just a hair over 40 percent from three, at .408 with 40 attempts on the season. He’s also shooting 46 percent overall, which has enabled him to earn more and more minutes this season after spending much of last year either waiting for scrap minutes in garbage time or playing with Houston’s D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Despite losing Patterson, the Rockets have won five of their last six games going into tomorrow night’s game in Chicago against the Bulls. James Harden may be the driving force, but it’s been a team-wide effort for the Rockets to mount this winning streak, and Morris has been an important part of that.
“Unfortunately Pat went down, but it’s a chance for me to get in there and show my coaches and show the team I can actually play,” Morris said. “I can actually be a good player in this league.”
That’s precisely what the Rockets are counting on.
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