When the Sacramento Kings look back on their 2010-11 season this summer, reflecting upon a year that began with promise and will no doubt end in disappointment, they'll have plenty of burning questions to address. Foremost among them — how good is DeMarcus Cousins, really?
When they drafted him last summer, as the No. 5 overall pick in a questionable draft class, the Kings had visions of Cousins being a rising All-Star at the pro level, but Cousins has meandered on the path to greatness, getting easily sidetracked by issues on and off the court. For this and many other reasons, the Kings are 12-33, hopelessly out of the race for a playoff spot out West.
Cousins is the Kings' greatest source of potential, but he's also their biggest question mark. You can't debate his talent — he's big, athletically gifted and for a 20-year-old kid, impressively skilled as a post scorer — but his character and his leadership abilities have come into question both this season in Sacramento and last year at the University of Kentucky. He's fought with opponents, teammates, coaches, officials and everyone in between. There are reasons to wonder if Cousins has what it takes mentally.
Being a hothead can be a blessing and a curse. It can make your play more intense, more physical; it can also ruin your chemistry with your team and your favor with the refs. Can Cousins walk that tightrope? If not now, at 20, perhaps down the line?
Cousins' production is as inconsistent as his character. Some nights, he looks like an automatic 20-and-10 guy; he dropped an impressive 27 points and 10 rebounds Friday night on the Lakers in an upset Kings win. Other nights, he's a no-show.
There's still plenty of time for the new kid to figure things out. One way to grow is to build up experience playing against great veterans, and Cousins will get that chance on Tuesday night. The Celtics are coming to town, and the budding rookie will clash with Shaquille O'Neal, Kevin Garnett and the rest of the league's best veteran team.