The media loves controversy. In today’s 24-hour news cycle, controversy means pageviews. It is the driving force behind social media, and, yes, it still sells newspapers.
DeMarcus Cousins has once again found himself embroiled in a controversy. After a summer of rebuilding his image with Team USA, Cousins came into training camp prepared to have a breakout season, free of drama. But he keeps getting dragged into a situation that in all reality has been completely blown out of proportion.
Isaiah Thomas is no longer a Sacramento King, and fingers are being pointed Cousins’ way.
Following Friday night’s victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, Cousins and I had a discussion. It started with your typical on-the-record questions about Rudy Gay’s big night and when I asked about Darren Collison’s 17-point, eight-assist, eight-rebound performance, the conversation went sideways.
“I didn’t know what he would be honestly,” Cousins said of Collison. “I know he’s a good player. I’m glad he brought what he did bring to our team. I hope this ain’t no type of baiting me into him versus Isaiah Thomas question.”
I am not a DeMarcus Cousins apologist. In fact, he and I rarely see eye to eye and over the last six months or so, we have not been on good terms. But the issue brewing with Thomas is perplexing and keeps coming back to the forefront.
The controversy in question is really more of a misunderstanding that comes when the proper context is removed from a player’s answer to a specific question. It stems from the only media scrum Cousins gave during training camp.
During the 12-minute exchange with media, Cousins was asked plenty of questions, not one of them directly pertaining to Isaiah Thomas. But the quotes that made it out of that scrum have been taken out of context and twisted into something more.
Reporter: “One of the hardest things as a go-to player is when your point guard, your playmaker, changes, and you’re going through that. How has it been so far, the transition and getting used to each other?”
Cousins: “It’s been incredible. It’s been incredible. It’s been a smooth transition. The ball is moving a lot better. It’s not stuck in one place. It’s not being over-dribbled by anybody on the floor, and I think the transition has been very smooth actually.”
The line of questioning stemmed from an earlier conversation with coach Michael Malone in which he referenced the difficulty of changing primary guards and how there is an adjustment period.
During an interview with Grantland’s Zach Lowe this week, the former Sacramento Kings guard was asked about perceived negative comments thrown his way by Cousins. Now with the Phoenix Suns, Thomas had plenty to say about his former teammate.
“It definitely is a jab at me,” Thomas told Lowe. “I see it, and I use it as motivation. I don’t think too much of it, because I definitely wasn’t the problem there. But I do see the shots thrown at me. I wish the people throwing the shots would say my name, but they don’t want to. I just go about my business and worry about what I’ve got to do with the Phoenix Suns.”
Thomas is going about his business with Phoenix. Through the first three games of the season, the former Sacramento King is averaging 18.7 points per game while shooting an impressive 56.4 percent from the field. More importantly, the Suns are 2-1 to start the year.
Before Thomas and Lowe switched gears in the conversation, there was one more exchange regarding Cousins.
Lowe: “Bottom line: If DeMarcus tells the Kings he wants you back, do you think you’re a King now?”
Thomas: “I mean, he’s the franchise player, so, I think anything he says, they’d probably take into high consideration. So … I guess.”
Lowe did an outstanding job asking a difficult question. The idea of a Thomas-Cousins riff is not his, but he had a platform to clarify a point of contention.
Thomas’ reaction is natural. He felt slighted by comments that he believed were aimed at him by a former teammate.
Let’s dispel a couple of issues here: First and foremost, Cousins was asked specifically about the transition to Darren Collison and Ramon Sessions, although not by name.
His response is that of a good teammate. Despite playing with two new guards for only a few days, he was supportive of their early contributions. While Cousins addressed prior issues the Kings had with a lack of ball movement and over-dribbling, those were team-wide issues last year and not specific to Thomas.
Secondly, the Kings have a lot of cooks in the kitchen. The last they need or would consider is letting DeMarcus Cousins grab a spoon and start stirring the pot.
The fact is the Kings front office didn’t see Isaiah Thomas as a starting point guard. And they knew that he wouldn’t accept the role he has willingly accepted as a reserve in Phoenix with Sacramento. They made an organizational decision to go in a different direction.
Collison is the player they wanted as the starter. Thomas found a new home with the Suns, including a giant pay raise. This sort of transaction happens all the time in the NBA.
Clearly, there are hurt feelings on Thomas’ side, and he fully intends to torch the Kings every time they meet up. But basketball is a business. Whether this was a good business decision or not is debatable, but it has nothing to do with Cousins.
Cousins is an easy target for the media and Thomas alike. He is the face of the Kings franchise, and he has a history of controversy associated with him.
But it’s time to move on. Cousins does not wield ultimate power in Sacramento. While his opinion might be part of a large decision-making process, he is not the reason that Thomas is gone.