After DeMarcus Cousins confronted a Sacramento Bee columnist last week with a locker room shouting tirade, the Kings announced Tuesday that they have given their All-Star center a "substantial fine," and media reports indicate it's $50,000.
From the Kings' statement:
"The Kings have a clear set of standards of conduct expected of our entire organization. As a result of negative interactions with certain members of the media that were not corrected after verbal warnings, we have decided to impose a substantial fine. If this behavior is repeated again we will be forced to consider further discipline."
Cousins issued his own apology via the Kings but did not directly apologize to the Sacramento Bee columnist:
"There is a time, place and manner to say everything, and I chose the wrong ones. Like most people, I am fiercely protective of my friends and family, and I let my emotions get the best of me in this situation. I understand my actions were inexcusable and I commit to upholding the professional standards of the Kings and the NBA. I apologize to my teammates, fans and the Kings organization for my behavior and the ensuing distraction and look forward to moving on and focusing on basketball."
If you want to take this as an isolated incident, there's plenty of reason to consider this to be a case where both sides were in the wrong. The team did what it had to in order to try and maintain control of the situation, and everyone can go on, if even in an uneasy, uncomfortable situation. There's not going to be much resolution from either side. It's not like Cousins is going to believe he's wrong on these issues.
But there is a larger concern here. Even if you feel that Cousins was in the right to defend his brother (which was the central issue in the dispute), and that the media have painted him in an unfair light, there's still an inconsistency here that is relevant. Cousins went on a tirade while on the bench last year cursing at George Karl, then the Kings' coach. No matter their issues, it was a pretty terrible situation for a star player with his coach, regardless of who was right or wrong. Karl wanted Cousins suspended over the incident, the Kings declined. Local media later reported Cousins was fined for the incident, but that fine was never publicly announced.
A Kings blog, Cowbell Kingdom, talked about this on a podcast this week. That site has also had problems with Cousins, with Cousins refusing to answer questions when a writer from that outlet was present. So, as always, there's a reason to discount the position as "bias" against Cousins, though the offending column in question was hardly on par with the Sacramento Bee column in terms of its criticism. The podcast discusses the fact that if you set a standard for Cousins that he's not going to be disciplined for his behavior, if you enable him to try and keep him happy, you're going to open situations like this. And then to reverse course and issue a "substantial fine" in this situation may seem unfair to Cousins, because he can claim he did nothing wrong in the past to warrant discipline, so why is this different?
In truth, Cousins, even with his incredible talent and a sincere passion that drives him to want to win, is holding the Kings hostage to a degree. They're unable to discipline him for fear of alienating him after they have failed to put a winning team around him for seven years, and they are unable to let things go for fear of letting him run rampant. This is why so many GMs are starting to sound dubious about whether Cousins is worth trading for at this point.
The organization that eventually absorbs Cousins (which is where this seems to be headed) has to be iron clad, rock solid, unassailable, and those are hard to find. You can't gamble on Cousins; you have to know it works. One thing is for certain, however.
It is not working in Sacramento.