What a difference a coach makes. Let's go back to January 1, when then Kings head coach Paul Westphal commented about his (at the time) troubled young center, DeMarcus Cousins."When a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwillingunable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely. DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded."Cousins said this to Fox Sports Florida yesterday, re-stating what he had said after Westphal's New Year's day comments:
"I did not ask for a trade. That's what he said, and that's what the story got put out. I just had to take that one on the chin. There wasn't much I could really say. I don't really understand what his motives were, but that's what he said."
The Kings essentially sided with the talented 21-year-old Cousins in his battle with Westphal and fired the head coach on Jan. 5 after he posted a 51-120 record in two-plus seasons with Sacramento.Enter Kings assistant and former Warriors head coach Keith Smart, who was handed the reigns of what looked like a bad job -- a losing team, disgruntled star player, and the cloud of a potential Kings move hanging over Sacramento.
Cousins on his new head coach:
"It's been incredible. I've learned a lot. I've become a better player just from him taking over some things, and I enjoy playing in the system. Everything is great. Everything has been positive."Eveything except the wins and losses, of course. The Kings are struggling with a 10-22 record and are in the middle of a six-game losing streak.Cousins and Smart however, are seemingly in the middle of a love-fest.In fact, Cousins told Fox Sports Florida that he has given Smart his keypad code to his gated community so his coach can come and visit him as he pleases. And according to the story, the two recently enjoyed Gumbo prepared by the player's family at Cousins' house.
The Gumbo dinners might be paying off, at least as Cousins' stat line is concerned.RELATED: DeMarcus Cousins game logs Stats Splits NewsIn 24 games under Smart, Cousins' numbers have improved from his playing-under-Westphal days. His points per game are up from 14.1 to 17.4; his rebounds are up from 8.7 to 11.8; field goal percentage is up from 42.7 to 46.1 since Keith Smart took over.The answers are in the events, and Cousins' elevated numbers have to be considered good news for Kings fans. But perhaps an even better sign is Cousins acknowledging that it's about wins in the NBA, not individual stats.
"They're impressive numbers. But, at the same time, we're not collecting wins."
Has DeMarcus Cousins turned a corner in his professional career and is Keith Smart
his catalyst for change? Or is this just a temporary correction in the career of a highly-talented but ultimately a "me-first" player as has been widely reported?
The answers will be in the events.
You can link to the full Fox Sports story on DeMarcus Cousins here
Geoff James is a writer and web producer for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area