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Cousins hopes to change perceptions at NBA combine

CHICAGO (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins understands there are questions about his maturity, his focus and whether he's even a good teammate.

The way he sees it, that's "ridiculous."

The big center from Kentucky was out to prove he's not really a bad guy and maybe boost his standing at the NBA's draft combine this week.

While fellow Wildcat John Wall and Ohio State's Evan Turner figure to go to Washington and Philadelphia with the top two picks next month, the next few spots appear to be up for grabs.

The New Jersey Nets select third, and Cousins could be a candidate along with Georgia Tech power forward Derrick Favors and Syracuse small forward Wesley Johnson.

"I just want them to know the truth and get that perception ... out of their head," Cousins said.

So what is the truth?

"It's what you see now," Cousins said. "I'm a good guy."

Cousins has until the draft on June 24 to make his case and convince a team like the Nets to match him up front with Brook Lopez instead of Favors. To some, that would be a bold step for new owner Mikhail Prokhorov if New Jersey kept the pick.

The 6-foot-10 Favors was the ACC rookie of the year for Georgia Tech after ranking second on the team in scoring (12.4 points a game) and rebounds (8.4). He compares himself to Amare Stoudemire with his ability to run and finish and doesn't come with as much baggage.

"I think Georgia Tech got me ready," he said. "I think it'll be a good transition."

Cousins feels he's ready, too.

With a mean streak to match his 6-11, 292-pound frame, he dominated on the inside for Kentucky while earning SEC freshman of the year and first-team All-America honors.

He averaged 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds while helping Kentucky go 35-3 on the way to the SEC regular season and conference titles in its first season under coach John Calipari.

Not bad, considering foul trouble and lopsided scores limited him to 23.5 minutes a game.

"That's never really a question," he said. "It's always about the red flag. My game's not a question. It's just a perception."

The red flag stems from concerns about his focus and body language. He didn't always get back on defense, and his temper boiled over when he threw a forearm at Jared Swopshire of Louisville in a nationally televised game.

His weight is an issue, too.

Cousins is on a seafood and salad diet in an effort to improve his conditioning, and he's incorporated boxing into his training regimen.

"If you talk to any of my teammates, you'll get a positive answer back," he said.

Yet he understands some view him as sort of the villain of this draft and even had some fun with it.

He said Calipari told him to "come in and smile."

He asked: "Which one would you take, a nasty big man or a friendly one?"

And he talked about his childhood dream of playing in the NFL. There was one small problem, though.

"I was terrible," he said.

He played "everywhere."

"I wasn't that good, but they just put me in spots," Cousins said.

He stopped playing football after the seventh grade and took up basketball as an eighth-grader. It didn't take him long to realize he could make a living at it, and he insisted he's more versatile than most people realize, that he can face up and doesn't have to anchor himself in the post.

"Cal wanted me to play with my back to the basket, so that's what I did," he said.

With a 7-foot-6 wingspan and almost automatic ability to finish down low, Cousins could simply be nasty for opponents if he keeps his nasty side in check. If he does, others can pick up those red flags.

NOTE: Favors said he met with San Antonio, which holds the 20th pick. "I feel like they're trying to make a move to try to get me," he said.