Earlier this week, news broke that former Laker great Shaquille O’Neal bought a stake in his former rival, the Sacramento Kings. After first meeting with new majority owner Vivek Ranadive at his home (where he reportedly spoke to his children about dating and social media as well… remember Shaq is a man of many talents), the former NBA All-Star formerly got involved with the team he once referred to as the Sacramento Queens.
Although his official role will most likely be “advisor” (like Hall of Famer Chris Mullin), the Big Diesel is interested in helping revive the energy that once made Sacramento one of the most imposing arenas to play in. However, his main objective will be mentoring extremely talented/troubled center DeMarcus Cousins.
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Can the Big Aristotle (I’m trying to get all his names into this column.) reach the 23-year-old big man? Nobody (and I mean nobody) is challenging the notion that Cousins has enough talent to be an All-Star and franchise cornerstone, but they are weary of giving out big money to a player whose on-court issues (constant threat of receiving a technical foul for arguing with the refs and known to be pouty when the ball doesn’t run through him) mix with his reputation for being a coach-killer (sorry Paul Westphal), and finally mixing with his off-court issues, like confronting Spurs announcer/former player Sean Elliott, and demanding a trade. In a way, all of this almost dropped DMC from franchise cornerstone to possible trade bait come February. (Remember he was almost dealt to the Cavs last year.) Reportedly, Cousins is nearing an extension with Sacramento.
All these negatives mask the fact that with averages of 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds at age 20, Cousins was one of only three players to average those kind of numbers as a center at that age (Shaq-Fu himself and Dwight Howard are the others). While Cousins is still raw offensively, his physical size and freakish athleticism make him extremely valuable. Big guys shouldn’t be able to do this:
And while Cousins isn’t a fantastic defender, he’s 6-11 and 270 pounds, with agile feet and stellar quickness. He doesn’t have to be technically sound just yet to make a difference. No, Cousins issues stem from his mental outlook on the game.
If Shaq really wants to improve the Kings, he should start with teaching Boogie Cousins a thing or two.
Shaq is almost universally loved by fans and players, mostly because of his outgoing personality. While Cousins may not have the same personality, simply TALKING to the Big Cactus, a player whose been in the limelight for over 20 years (and has successfully remained within the public eye’s good graces, which is nothing to scoff at) could make a major impact on his career. Cousins has quickly developed a reputation for being lazy, and being a “baby” when things don’t revolve around him.
Although it might be forgotten now, Shaq was once thought to be much the same. Remember the whole Shaq-Kobe feud, which included multiple rap songs and public bashings, leading to Kobe forcing Shaq out of Los Angeles? Or what about Shaq’s questionable work ethic early on, where he seemed to care more for being a successful actor or rapper than a champion? Throughout the course of his long career, Shaq matured and understood what he could and could not act like in front of the media. Helping Cousins work through his own demons would be a great start.