SACRAMENTO, Calif. — What do you do with DeMarcus Cousins? Seriously. What do you do with DeMarcus Cousins?
If he was a toddler, you would send him to timeout. If he was a middle-schooler, you would take away his X-box. If he was a teenager, you would hide the keys to the family car.
But Cousins is 22 years old. He is supposed to be an adult. He has an infant of his own, for crying out loud. Yet his inability to control his impulses primarily his anger is dominating his otherwise productive third season, eroding relationships with teammates, alienating the league's entire officiating crew, and frustrating, infuriating and confounding his coaches and Kings officials alike.
And the fans? What about the fans? They want to know who took away the teddy bear. They want to know what happened to the impassioned, improving, expressive young center who, a year ago, earned an invitation to train with the U.S. Olympic team in Las Vegas.
Cousins' latest transgression elbowing Bucks forward Mike Dunleavy in the back of the head earned a fourth ejection and is likely result in his fourth suspension of the season. NBA vice-president Stu Jackson probably has Geoff Petrie on speed dial. How many games does Cousins deserve this time? One? Two? Five? Is any of this even resonating?
"Actually, I was cool about it," Cousins said after practice Tuesday. "I didn't know if he did it (lowbridge) on purpose. That's what I asked him. 'Was that on purpose?' His response was, 'What if it was? What are you going to do about it?'"
Trash talking isn't the issue here, of course. Verbal jousting has been a part of NBA culture since the invention of the peach basket. Michael Jordan and Larry Bird could have taught college courses on the subject.
But when it comes time to cool down, to shut up, and to back away from opponents and referees, Cousins' alarm clock stays mute. His behavior pattern and this has become chronic too often causes situations to escalate, resulting in fouls, ejections, suspensions. It kills good vibes and costs games. Then there are the other occasions when he simply becomes distracted and emotionally removes himself from games, when he becomes the victim and everyone else the villain.
"The whole situation was based on my reputation, which is unfair," Cousins continued. Asked if his elbow to Dunleavy's head was deliberate, he added, "it really wasn't. If you see the replay, it's not as hard as he acted out. I was just trying to get around the screen."
Cousins said this with a straight face. This was not one of those DeMarcus-being-funny-moments. It was too sad to be funny.
A few minutes later, when Cousins' account of the incident was related to Isaiah Thomas, the Kings point guard couldn't stop grinning.
"He (Cousins) got him good," Thomas said, laughing. "That's all I've got to say. He got him with an elbow. Hopefully the consequences aren't too bad.... You always feel if somebody (Dunleavy) goes down low, they might have done it on purpose. But you've got to calm your nerves and be professional about it. Things escalate. They got a double technical. Everybody in the arena is going to be looking at you for the next couple plays."
So again, what do you do with DeMarcus?
The options are limited. There should be another league-mandated suspension. Petrie undoubtedly will contact Cousins' agent, reach out to his mother, and, once again, encourage his best player to undergo counseling. Coach Keith Smart will keep whispering in Cousins' ear.
But with 17 games remaining, these solutions are like placing bandaids on a massive wound. One game, two games, three games. That's not the answer. Cousins, who in fact has made tremendous strides in terms of conditioning and work ethic, needs to look in the mirror and see what everyone else sees. He needs to watch that replay again, and see what everyone else sees. And sometime in the very near future, he needs to reach out to Ron Artest.
The man known as Metta World Peace finally, finally, finally came to terms with his mental health issues. And it took how long? And how many suspensions later? And how many games missed following the brawl at the Palace?
Maybe Metta can help. And maybe Cousins will listen before he destroys his career.