By Tolulope Oladele
In the last eight games, power forward DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings has averaged 26.9 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 blocks. These beastly stats are a typical day at the office for players like Kevin Love and Dwight Howard, but not for the King’s hot-headed big man. Even more surprising about Cousin’s strong play is his consistency considering the turmoil that surrounded the Kings at the start of the season.
After a dreadful 2-5 start to the season, which saw the Kings lose by large margins, the team fired head coach Paul Westphal. The situation was met with great controversy since the head coach had been openly feuding with Cousins–who has a reputation for being a difficult to coach because of his immaturity and short-fuse temper.
Ever since the Sacramento brass replaced Westphal with Keith Smart, Cousins has been excelling. He has increased his scoring production each month this season from December through March, averaging 13.0, 15.5, 19.0 and 19.8 points respectively. On the season, Cousins is putting up 18.2 points per game and grabbing 11.1 rebounds, up from 14.1 points and 8.7 rebounds the previous year.
Cousins’s incredible play has grabbed the attention of his teammates.
“He’s a new player,” Tyreke Evans said. “I’m happy for him. He’s done a great job of just going out there and playing and helping us. No arguing with nobody on the team. Just staying focused, and I’m happy for him.”
Opposing players have also notice his development.
“He’s getting better and better,” said the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan. “Every time we play them, he’s getting better. He’s getting more comfortable with his role. He’s expanded his game and he always plays hard, so he’s getting better.”
Although the firing of Westphal has done wonders for Cousins this season, Cousins has shown maturity like never before. In the past, he saw his draft stock drop because of his hot temper. However, he has come a long way since then and credits his new found maturity to former Sacramento Kings’ superstar Chris Webber.
“He just gives me advice, tells me how to handle situations,” Cousins said. “He went through similar situations, so of course he has advice for me. I guess you can say [he's] a big brother looking over me.’’
During this dominating stretch, Cousins has also upped his energy on the defensive end, leading the NBA in the number of charges drawn. Although he is not a premier shot-blocker, the fact that Cousins is willing and determined to take charges shows his increased focus in the game on both ends of the floor.
Despite the disappointing start to the season, Kings fans should be excited with Cousins’s progression and the promising direction of the team. Cousins has the makings of a dominant power forward for the years to come: size, strength, length, developing post game, footwork and a soft touch around the basket. Furthermore, he has the impressive ability to make things happen when he doesn’t seem to be in the position to do so.
At 20-42 on the season, Cousins’s improved play may not seem that it has had much of impact, but the team is playing in a stacked Western Conference and has dealt with injuries, a head coach change and personnel changes throughout the season. Even with these distractions, Cousins has kept improving on both ends of the floor and should be a serious contender for the Most Improved Player Award. With his current skill set, there is no doubt that he will be multiple-time All-Star and will eventually lead the Kings to the elusive playoff berth.