As a kid you learned that when you put your hand on a hot stove, that’s something you probably don’t want to do again.
The Dallas Mavericks put their hands on a hot stove on Dec. 18, 2014, when they traded for four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo and thought he was going to be their savior and point guard for the future.
Instead, the Mavericks got burned.
Which is why the Mavericks should send the Sacramento Kings a bouquet of roses for NOT trading DeMarcus Cousins to Dallas. More on that later.
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First, about two months into his apprenticeship with the Mavericks – after the clock on the honeymoon period ultimately expired – Rajon Rondo turned into well, Rajon Rondo. Then again, the good folks in Boston who knew Rondo when he played for the Celtics warned us that the day would eventually come when the marriage would hit some rough patches and Rondo would become Rondo again.
And like clockwork, it happened.
On Feb. 24, 2015, in a home game against Toronto, Rondo cursed out coach Rick Carlisle because the coach was upset with him not running a play Carlisle had just told him to run. The bad behavior by Rondo continued in the locker room after the game.
Thus, a one-game suspension ensued.
But that didn’t stop the madness.
Less than a minute into the second half of the Mavericks’ second playoff game against the Houston Rockets, they had to send Rondo home – for good – because of his continued bad behavior. He was so antagonist and so unsettling that his teammates didn’t even vote him a playoff share, despite starting 46 games that season.
This is why the Mavericks are better off that their pursuit of DeMarcus Cousins didn’t wasn’t fulfilled. In many ways, he’s nothing but a taller version of Rondo.
I know Cousins and his freshly minted New Orleans Pelicans teammate, Anthony Davis, are the only two players to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of the past four seasons. I know Cousins is the game’s best big man, a nightmare to guard and can put up some outrageous numbers. In 55 games this season he’s averaged 27.8 points, 10.7 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
But basketball is more than making ESPN’s Top 10 plays for that night.
It’s about a player’s attitude, how he treats his teammates, how he interacts with his coaches, how he deals with criticism, and what kind of dude is he in the locker room and in the community.
In the culture the Mavericks have assembled – where a player’s character reigns supreme – head-strong tempestuous players such as Cousins aren’t good fits. Just like Rondo didn’t fit.
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In the case of the Mavericks and Cousins, this is a clear case of been there, done that, got a cookie on it.
Sure, there could have been a honeymoon phase where Cousins looked like the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon. But once that shine wore off and the day-to-day process of dealing with Cousins on a regular basis sunk in, the Mavericks would have been left with a taller version of Rondo, who probably would have been shown the door once this season is over.
Let’s not forget the ongoing icy feud Cousins had with former Sacramento Kings coach George Karl.
Let’s not forget the stack of technical fouls Cousins receives on a yearly basis. (He has 19 technical fouls this season).
Cousins acts as if all of his technical fouls and character issues are egregious mental errors that everyone should be OK with. No, actually they’re deal breakers.
Let’s not forget Cousins shouted “(expletive) Golden State” at fans after the Kings upset the Warriors earlier this month.
Is this the type of player you want representing your franchise?
Are you sure?
If you can turn a blind eye to all of those shenanigans, let the buyer beware.
Yeah, Cousins is very passionate about the game. But being passionate about the game and being a polarizing figure is not a recipe for winning.
The Kings were so eager to move Cousins that they basically gave him to the Pelicans for a bowl of jambalaya. Although I firmly believe they just didn’t want to be on the hook for a five-year, $209 million maximum contract Cousins could have commanded from the Kings when he becomes a free agent next summer.
So, Kings general manager Vlade Divac did what he thought was best for his franchise. And the Mavericks should be happy Divac ignored their overtures and decided to instead trade Cousins to the Pelicans.
Cousins, of course, has many in his corner who believe that he can get a team deep into the playoffs if management surrounds him with some credible talent, though his next playoff game will also be his first.
“DeMarcus, in my two years with Sacramento, he was just a standup guy,” Kings assistant coach Nancy Lieberman said. “He wanted to win and gave the best of who he was.
“In pro sports, sometimes people have to look to the future, and Vlade made a decision and we have to respect that. They traded Babe Ruth and Wayne Gretzky. You can trade DeMarcus Cousins if you see fit.”
Thus, the Kings saw fit to trade Cousins to the Pelicans. After those hot-button issues they experienced with Rondo, the Mavericks should be rejoicing.
It’s still hot.
Mavs found some energy in the second half and went on to defeat the Utah Jazz, 112-105, in overtime