by Charlie O. Mallonee
SACRAMENTO–DeMarcus Cousins is back in the news and not in a good way. On Friday, a story with video of the incident was released showing DeMarcus Cousins shouting at and frankly trying to physically intimidate Sacramento Bee sports columnist Andy Furillo over his story on the Barnes – Cousins incident in a New York City nightclub. Cousins was upset over a reference Furillo made to another incident from last summer about a fight that involved Cousins’ brother and himself in Florida.
You can click on the link to see the video and read the column: (http://www.sacbee.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/andy-furillo/article120107843.html). Let me just say I enjoy reading Andy’s column’s on sacbee.com and I have enjoyed the few conversations I have had with him at Kings games. He like myself has a few road miles on him and he probably carries a AARP card for discounts. I mention that to highlight the fact that Furillo is an experienced reporter and observer who understands the rules of the road. He is also the son of a famous Southern California sports writer and broadcaster so he knows his way around this business better than most.
I have read the column and there is nothing in the story that should have elicited the kind of over-the-top response from Cousins gave to Furillo. I would not have expected Cousins to have given Furillo any kudos for the column but his response in the locker room was uncalled for in this case.
This is my response to Mr. Cousins.
First, let me say that I have really enjoyed watching you play basketball as I have covered the Kings for the past three seasons. What you do on the court amazes me. You see, I am an “OG” who saw “the Big O” – Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell play each other in the first NBA game I saw in live and in person. I have had the privilege of seeing many of the best big men of the game play live and you fit right in on that list.
When you execute a dribble-drive from the arc into the paint then add a spin move with an underhand layup that makes every guard in “the association” jealous, its amazing. You will then turnaround on the next possession and bury a 3-pointer. Later, you are battling double-teams with your back to the basket and pull off a hook shot that’s good for two. We have not even started to consider your passing ability. George Karl said you were the best passer on his team and that was from a man we are fairly sure did not like you much.
You wear “best big man in the NBA” mantle well.
DeMarcus – in the spirit of full disclosure – I have called for the Kings to trade you. I have two reasons for calling for a trade:
- You are the Kings best asset. This team needs a lot of pieces in order to truly become a playoff contender. Sometimes, you have to part with an asset in order to get back the multiple assets you need. Trading you would probably bring the Kings two serviceable starters and two very valuable number one draft picks based on the projections I have read. Sacramento needs those extra first round picks to create the foundation they need to build a winning situation.
- The other reason I have called for a trade is because it is what I think is best for you. This next contract is your “BIG” contract. You will be at the apex of your career. This your chance to be on a team and play for a ring. A chance to play in a larger market and cash-in on the endorsement business. You can be one of players helping to carry the team rather than having to carry the entire team on your shoulders. It could be your chance to really become one of the best known players in the NBA by playing in a major market.
With that out of the way, I am now going to give you some “OG” words of advice from my personal perspective.
A battle with the press is a losing proposition. There are more of them than there are of you and they will not go away. You are in the sports and entertainment business. One of the reasons professional sports makes the money it does is because of the coverage it receives from the press. If television, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites and other social media ignored sports, the money that teams and players make would be much less than it is now. Of course the same is true for the press, they need the teams and players to sell the advertising that makes them their money. It really is a codependent relationship. Sports and the press need each other.
You can fight and intimidate the press in Sacramento easier because it is a smaller market where there are less media players and loss of access would have a larger impact. If you would be traded – say to Boston as some of the rumors have suggested – you would be in for a rude awakening. Boston is a large city with major media competition. Reporters in that kind of situation eat their young for breakfast. They are looking for something to set you off into a tirade so they can report it first. It is a minefield that you cannot control.
Fighting the press does not pay off in the long run – ask Barry Bonds. Bonds had an adversarial relationship with the sports press during his entire career. When his shortcomings came to light, reporters were delighted to report the story. At a time when a person could have used a friend in the press, he had none.
Bonds is still paying for his poor relationship with the press. Baseball’s all-time home run leader received just 195-of-440 votes from eligible voters for baseball’s Hall of Fame. Of course, there is the PED controversy but I believe that attitudes would be softening toward Bonds faster had he been less of an enemy to the press. We are talking basic human nature in this situation. Bonds has six more years on the ballot and will probably make it into the Hall but I think there are voters who are determined to make him wait until the final opportunity because of his attitudes toward the press when he was a player.
I know the press can be a pain, 20-plus people asking the same questions 20 different ways. After a loss, how many times do they expect you to answer “how do you feel?”. People not caring that you do not feel like talking after a loss. People who do not care if you did not like what they wrote about you, your friends or family. People who do not know how to play the game but just talk about it.
DeMarcus – when was the last time you read something negative about LeBron and the press? You do not read those stories. Is LeBron always up and happy with reporters? I will guarantee you he is not. He has made it part of his career to learn how to deal with the press in the best way possible. When he has an off night with the press, you do not hear about it because the press corps remembers all of those nights when he accommodates them and their questions.
Dealing with the press is as much a part of your job as is pulling down rebounds. That is one of the reasons you get paid so well. Actors do not get paid just to act. They have to be interviewed and promote their work. It is all part of the entertainment business and sports is part of the entertainment business. When you sneeze, it’s news. Eat at a new restaurant, it’s news. Get a traffic ticket, it’s news. Score 50 points, it’s news.
I close with three pieces of heartfelt advice:
- If you are unhappy about something a reporter has said or written, tell a member of you great media relations staff and ask them to let the reporter know or better yet – ask them to bring the reporter back for an off-the-record chat. Andy Furillo would have listened to you. It would not have changed his story but he would have politely listened to your opinion. And who knows, you might change someone’s mind once in a while.
- Hire a press consultant to teach you how to think and speak in sound bites. If you do this, you will be prepared after the tough loss when really do not want to talk about it. You know what questions are coming. Learn how to give those five to 10-second answers that will delight the readers and viewers at home while getting the reporters out of your hair.
- Finally and this is my most important piece of advice, stop reading and watching what we as reporters are saying about you on TV, radio, in the newspapers, the internet and social media. Do not let your staff tell you about we are writing. Do not let us count. The people who should count for you are Dave Joerger and the assistant coaches, your teammates, Vlade Divac and Vivek Ranadive. Trust me – you will be much happier.
DeMarcus – good luck with the rest of the season. Happy holidays and Peace on Earth.