Wolves made poor choice in character vs. talent

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2012 - 11:44 AM

Who would you rather have now, DeMarcus Cousins or Wes Johnson?

hide

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (right, guarding the Wolves' Nikola Pekovic) played about as poorly as he can Tuesday night in Minnesota's 86-84 victory, and he still produced his ninth double-double in 11 games.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

David Kahn should send Nikola Pekovic a gift this morning. Maybe a dessert. Whatever Serbian bouncers wearing skull tattoos on their arms enjoy after a big meal, like the bones of their forefathers' enemies.

Pekovic, now the Wolves' unquestioned starting center, dominated his matchup with could-have-been Wolf DeMarcus Cousins on Tuesday, giving Minnesotans temporary respite from regret. Those who don't overreact to individual games should still groan every time they remember the night of June 24, 2010, when Kahn, the Wolves' basketball boss, bought a ticket to the light rail instead of taking a ride on the crazy train.

At first, the debate over the fourth pick in the 2010 draft revolved around basketball philosophy. Would you rather have a polished wing or a promising but immature center? In the last two years, it has become a question of character. Would you rather have a nice guy who plays horribly or an immense talent who might get his coach fired?

Kahn chose Syracuse wing Wes Johnson over Cousins, the young center from Kentucky. Johnson was safe. Cousins is becoming the Randy Moss of that draft.

Johnson is the classic productive collegian who can't handle the speed of the NBA; Cousins, while occasionally dominating, demanded a trade this winter, leading to the dismissal of his first NBA coach, Paul Westphal.

So who would you rather have now?

The better question is: How could any Minnesotan not want Cousins?

Cousins could have given the Wolves three All-Star-caliber players, along with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. He is averaging 15.3 points and 11.5 rebounds per game. Tuesday, Cousins immediately got into foul trouble, and Pekovic's physical play and defense limited him to 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Cousins also produced 11 rebounds in the Wolves' 86-84 victory.

To put it another way: Cousins performed about as poorly as he can, against a powerful defender, and still produced his ninth double-double in 11 games while playing only 25 minutes. Johnson produced seven points and no rebounds or assists in 25 minutes.

Minnesotans should know that talented players are often worth the risk.

Cris Carter was an erratic receiver and a substance abuser when he played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Mike Lynn brought him to Minnesota and he retired as, statistically, the second-best receiver in NFL history.

Moss, the most talented receiver in history, fell to 21st in the 1998 draft because of his defiance and transgressions. He lived up to his volatile reputation in the pros. He also elevated the Vikings' performance on the field and popularity in the state before coming within a miracle comeback in the Super Bowl of being the most talented player on the first 19-0 team in NFL history.

Before they helped destroy a season and get Flip Saunders fired, Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell brought the Wolves to their only conference finals appearance in franchise history.

"He's been great," said Keith Smart, Westphal's replacement, of Cousins. "How he's performing on the floor, keeping his emotions in check ... that's the way he's going to become a really good player, keeping that all under control and still playing at a really high level.

"He's probably come as far as fast as I could have imagined in this period of time. ... So far, he's been fabulous.''

Johnson's struggles are so obvious that there were fans last night starting the first ever "Mar-tell Web-ster" chant in NBA history.

While Wolves coach Rick Adelman limited Wes Johnson to five seconds in the fourth quarter, Cousins almost won the game. In the final seconds, he drove the baseline, executed a spin move to the basket that few big men could manage, and kicked the ball to the corner for an open three-pointer.

Donte Greene missed. Cousins lingered at midcourt, slapped Greene's hand, smiled and walked off with his teammates.

Cousins is a rare talent. Plus, he might have gotten his first Wolves coach fired, doing everyone a favor.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500ESPN. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 10/20/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
UAB 22 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
SMU 3
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local team are you currently most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close