Cousins needs to start acting like a pro

You can make a strong argument that DeMarcus Cousins was the most physically gifted player in the 2010 NBA Draft.

After all, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound man with skill can turn heads quickly in a game bastardized by the three-point shot. In fact, finding a big man that plays like a big man these days is about as likely as uncovering a leprechaun.

Despite that Cousins, who bolted Kentucky after his freshman season, was never seriously considered a threat to either John Wall or Evan Turner at the top of the '10 selection process and ended falling behind Derrick Favors and Wes Johnson before being picked by Sacramento with the No. 5 overall pick.

His work ethic or lack thereof was already on the radar of many scouts and a number of them projected that his waistband would inevitably affect an upside that was unquestionably higher than Turner's and could at least rival Wall's.

That and an immature personality probably should have been a red flag to Sacramento but the Kings were and still are desperate for talent.

By and large Cousins exceeded expectations on the floor during his rookie year in Sac-Town. He stayed in shape and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team after averaging 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.

His behavior off the floor, however, flashed more than a few warning signs. The Kings organization was forced to discipline Cousins a number of times after he argued with not only Westphal but a couple of former assistants as well as the strength-and-conditioning coach.

Cousins was also suspended after a locker-room fight with teammate Donte Greene last season after Greene overlooked Cousins for a potential game- winning shot in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That's the kind of stuff you expect from a 13-year-old at the CYO not an NBA player.

Still that didn't stop the Kings from basing their rebuilding program around Cousins along with the club's top pick from a year earlier, Tyreke Evans.

On New Year's Day, however, Westphal, who is already in the hot seat for his lack of success in Sacramento, reached his boiling point with Cousins and sent the enigmatic 21-year-old home before the team's home opener against the New Orleans Hornets.

Tired of the tantrums, the sulking and angered by a perceived selfishness, perhaps it was a New Year's resolution for Westphal to finally confront his big man. And the veteran coach certainly got a lot off his chest in a statement issued to the media.

"Whenever a new season begins, in any sport, there is great hope that everything will progress in only a steady, upward direction. As we all know, it seldom happens like that in this life!" Westphal began.

"As coaches, we can only ask that our players do everything they can to improve themselves as individuals and teammates. If they do this with all their hearts, we live with the results.

"Everything that happens on a team does not become known to the public. This is how it should be. However, when a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwilling/unable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely.

"DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded. In the best interest of our team as we go forward, he has been directed by me, with the support of management, to stay home from the New Orleans game tonight."

The trade demand was disputed by Cousins' agent, John Grieg, but at least one Kings player confirmed he overheard the center yelling he wanted out.

Wherever the truth lies, Kings co-owner Joe Maloof and general manager Geoff Petrie have already gone on record saying they will not trade Cousins, meaning this latest episode will likely only speed up what looks like an inevitable conclusion -- Westphal's departure,

"We're happy that he's a King," Maloof said of Cousins in a Yahoo interview. "But when a coach asks you to do something, you got to do it. We're not trading him. We have great expectations for him. Sooner or later he'll understand what the NBA is about. Just get along with people. That's all."

Remember Westphal's press release was issued through the team but it was made clear that it was directly from the coach. Meanwhile, Cousins is hardly the only disgruntled player of the three-year Westphal-Era in California's capital. Kevin Martin, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry, Samuel Dalembert and Spencer Hawes have all butted heads with the coach at various times.

A change to a disciplinarian is likely the end game here but whether it works or not is still up to Cousins. Eventually the young man will have to understand what the NBA is about and just go about his business as a professional.

In fact, an epiphany could turn Cousins into an All-Star. Heading down the same path, however, will turn Cousins into a journeyman -- with Westphal or without him.