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Scott Howard-Cooper

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DeMarcus Cousins averaged 15.1 points in his lone season at Kentucky.
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Despite potential, doubts continue to surround Cousins


Posted Jun 19 2010 10:14AM

He has been overweight and under motivated, a can't-miss talent and the name most likely to go on the tombstone when the sucker GM who takes him gets fired within a few years, and has been a target for the kind of verbal abuse no man should have to face. That's right. He's been compared to Derrick Coleman.

What to make of DeMarcus Cousins.

The Kentucky big man will be a lottery pick Thursday and could easily go in the top five, yet is a terribly risky investment as the most unpredictable of the draft choices projected to have star potential. There is the debate over whether Cousins or Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors is the best center/power forward available once point guard John Wall is chosen No. 1 by the Wizards, the debate over whether he is a sound choice for the Wolves at No. 4 or the Kings at No. 5 ... and the debate over whether Cousins will, simply, ever have the proper approach to succeed in the NBA.

Doubt was easy to spot last season, when scouts and executives often left Kentucky games rolling their eyes over uninspired play and conditioning issues. Then, given a chance to make a positive impression in the fresh start, Cousins showed at the pre-draft combine in Chicago boasting about his new focus on working out -- just before he tested out with the second-highest body-fat percentage among the 52 prospects who took physicals.

"That's been the question the whole year," he said. "My so-called red flags. But I'm misunderstood a lot. It's just something I'm trying to show [the pros] now."

He decided it was a perception problem more than an actual issue and right on schedule blamed the media, as if the NBA reps weren't going dizzy shaking their heads so much. Cousins met with the Raptors, Timberwolves and Warriors in between avoiding responsibility the early part of the Chicago visit and admitted to getting a lot of pointed questions about eating habits, work ethic and training regimen.

Cousins needs, one general manager said, to be "kicked in the ass every day."

The same executive continued: "Cousins is a big, heavy guy with a lot of skills. He doesn't quite have the mobility that you'd like to see. It's not that he's incapable of moving. He can certainly move around a little bit. The first two years in the league, I would imagine that Cousins would be a better player than Favors. After that, it could go the other way."

Why?

"Favors is still developing."

They're both coming off one season of college, though.

"Yeah," the GM said. "But [Cousins is] not going to get a lot better. I don't think. Think of Derrick Coleman. When he came in the league, he was pretty good, but he never got better. I think with Cousins, it depends on what system he gets into and what coach he plays for. I really believe that."

Cousins is 6-foot-11 and 290 pounds of very long wingspan and very tall question marks.

A Kentucky teammate, Daniel Orton, was asked to describe Cousins' personality.

"Uhhhh ... Ummmm ..."

Three-second pause.

"Yeah."

"That's the best way I can describe it," Orton, a reserve center expected to be drafted in the first round, said of not describing it. "Unpredictable. After a while, you can kind of predict what he's going to do. You can kind of read him as a person after a while, when he's going to get mad and stuff. Other than that, he's a funny guy. A great guy to be around. Really and truly, people don't realize it, but he's a loving spirit. Sometimes."

Ah, yes. The temper.

"If you step back and kind of laugh at it, you can kind of laugh at him, really," Orton said. "It's kinda like watching a little kid throw a temper tantrum. But it's a big little kid, so you've got to kind of control it before he gets way out of hand. He may hurt somebody, to tell you the truth.

"Definitely get out of the way if you can't handle it. You can't stop him. I remember one time, I tried holding him back. That was a mistake. I think he put a swim move on me."

Cousins is going for a different kind of rush next week. He's in the lottery, probably high in the lottery, to be followed by another chance at a fresh start. Then a new group of people -- teammates, fans, the media who apparently will be blamed -- will try to decide what to make of him.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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