- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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When the Lakers last played the Kings back on Dec. 26 in just L.A.'s second game of the season, Sacramento started the Lakers' season-long road woes with a 100-91 win. The game? Not that memorable aside from the four-time All-Star Pau Gasol getting tangled up with the second-year player DeMarcus Cousins, incensing the Kings' center enough to cause him to ball his hand into a fist and cock back his arm as if he was going to punch Gasol.
Fortunately, the punch went unrealized as Cousins calmed down and Cousins (12 points and 11 rebounds) ended up finishing the game with comparable numbers to Gasol (15 points and nine rebounds) in eight fewer minutes of playing time.
The question is, will Cousins' tremendous talent go unrealized too?
In Cousins' short amount of time in the league so far, he's already been removed from the team plane following a fight with teammate Donte Greene and demanded a trade, a poorly handled situation which ultimately cost Kings coach Paul Westphal his job.
Despite the controversy, he's performed. Cousins is averaging 16.6 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.2 rebounds this season, up from his rookie year numbers of 14.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks. During All-Star weekend, TNT analyst Charles Barkley even said that Cousins has the ability to be the best big man in the game in the future if he stays on the right track.
The Lakers play the Kings again Friday, this time at Staples Center and Gasol isn't holding a grudge against Cousins for their near skirmish the first time they played this season.
"You want all guys to succeed," Gasol said. "You want all talented guys to reach their potential, because I think they’re given an opportunity in life, a special opportunity, and they should value it and take advantage of it. Absolutely, I want any kid in the league who comes up to do well and have a successful career."
Lakers coach Mike Brown also believes in Cousins.
"He’s a big body that’s very skilled," Brown said. "Obviously, he’s young and he still has some growing to do, but I think he’s going to have a chance to be good in this league."
When asked if Cousins' attitude would get in the way of his development, citing the fist Cousins formed when going against Gasol, Brown said he wasn't even aware of it.
"He did?" Brown said. "I might send that [tape] into the league. They might kick him out for [Friday]."
Brown was kidding, of course.
He also knows that the tenuous relationship between Cousin's temper and Cousin's talent is no laughing matter.
"For me personally, I like some guys that have some fire inside of them," Brown said. "What does that mean [in regards to Cousins]? I don’t know, because I don’t really know him as a person. But, if he has some fire, that’s a good thing. As long as it’s used in the right way."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
1dMatt Walks, ESPN.com
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