On the subject of trade rumors, a topic that DeMarcus Cousins ought to be plenty familiar with, the mercurial-but-talented Sacramento Kings big man will offer only this blanket reply.
“I didn’t even know my name was in trade talks,” Cousins said early Wednesday, before the Celtics defeated the Kings, 99-81, at the Garden.
Pressed again on the matter, specifically how such talks affect him, Cousins retorted, “I didn’t know about it, so it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Ah, ignorance is bliss. Or alleged ignorance, in this case.
But facts are facts, and Cousins name has been attached to a slew of supposed trades, including to Boston, that never went down at various points this season.
Oddly, with the trade deadline less than a month way (Feb. 21), there has been little buzz that Cousins might be moved.
Yet, despite the pie-in-the-sky dreams of Celtics fans, the only green that Cousins might be wearing anytime soon – save for St. Patrick’s Day – is likely not to be in Boston but in Seattle.
That’s where the Kings franchise could move next season, if the NBA’s relocation committee approves the team’s move — and it’s been reported that the committee will do so.
“It’s a business,” Cousins said of the potential move.
And that idea – that the NBA is a business – is what the third-year center drafted fifth overall out of Kentucky said he has learned most of all since entering the league in 2010.
“I’m a loyal guy,” he said. “I’m a family-orientated guy. [But] not so much in this league. You’ve kind of got to look out for yourself most of the time and always do what’s best for you.”
What’s best for Cousins might not be known until his contract expires; he’s got two years left on his rookie deal.
Cousins is considered not only one of the best young players in the NBA, but one of the more promising players overall, regardless of his position.
The 6-foot-11-inch, 270-pounder was averaging 17.4 points and 10.2 rebounds entering the game; he had 13 points and six rebounds Wednesday night.
But Cousins is also not without his issues, such as being suspended three times this season.
His most recent suspension, a one-game penalty, stemmed from “unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team.”
Which is another way of saying that Cousins and Kings coach Keith Smart exchanged heated words during halftime of a December game against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
“I don’t think it’s a challenge,” Smart said of coaching Cousins.
Smart said there are often good players who want to be great but want to skip the process of getting there.
“Because the guy gets 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] and it’s not a hard thing for him,” Smart continued. “He can be a guy who’s going to get 25 and 14. But now I’m trying to push him to do the other little things.”
One of those little things that Smart mentioned was playing better defense, which is one of the biggest adjustment every basketball player makes when he or she rises through the ranks.
The goal, Smart said, is to help Cousins develop to the point that he receives NBA All-Defense honorable mention honors.
“The guy handles the ball like a guard,” Smart said. “He’s got a good jump shot. His post up game is developing. I think if he develops that [defense], that will put him in a position where he can be counted on every night as a go-to guy.”
Said Celtics coach Doc Rivers: “The one thing with Cousins, I don’t think he’s a great athlete. He’s just really skilled. And he’s really savvy.
“He’s a heck of a passer. I think people get lost in the other stuff, and they don’t give him enough credit for his basketball IQ.”
As for the issues Cousins has had . . .
“You look back in the history of this league,” Smart said, “and you look at all the talented, young players, and they all had some little issues, but issues that are controllable. For me, it’s not a hard thing.”
Smart also noted that Cousins has had to adjust to teams scheming against him with double-teams and so forth, and that the adjustment hasn’t exactly been smooth.
“I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse,” Cousins pointed out.
“I’m not even one of the top players in this league. Players like Kobe and LeBron face it every night, and they still find ways to make it happen, so that should be the same thing for me.”
That’s just one adjustment Cousins has to make to become the elite player he has shown tantalizing flashes of being.
Another adjustment might be a jersey change, though at this point, it’s hard to say for sure where the young star might one day end up.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes