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Pelicans’ DeMarcus Cousins cries foul over technical calls

‘In previous seasons, I got a tech for playing after the whistle is over. Now it doesn’t matter because it’s me.’

MOBILE, Alabama — DeMarcus Cousins spent Tuesday playing his annual role of “Santa Cuz” as he rewarded 100 underprivileged kids who have excelled in school in his hometown with a $200 Christmas shopping spree. The New Orleans Pelicans center also believes that NBA referees have been in a giving mood this season — assessing him with technical fouls despite Cousins’ feeling that he has been nicer and not as naughty.

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“I got a tech for saying, ‘Good job, referee,’ ” Cousins said after the Santa Cuz event. “I said, ‘Good job. Good call.’ And I got a tech? I swear to God on my kids. I have yet to have a moment where I just erupt or go off [this season]. I haven’t had one of those, but for some reason I’m still leading the league in techs.”

Referees have called nine technical fouls on Cousins through 29 games this season. Two have been rescinded, a league source said, including the technical for telling the referee, “Good job.” Cousins’ seven technicals tied him for the league lead with Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (seven through 25 games). Cousins led the NBA in technicals the past two seasons with 18 and 17, respectively. The eight-year NBA veteran received a suspension for one game on Feb. 17 last season after picking up his 16th technical foul against the Chicago Bulls, marking the earliest a player has ever been suspended for exceeding the number of technical fouls allowed per season. A league rule created in 2006 states that any player who receives a 16th technical will receive an automatic one-game suspension without pay.

“Now it’s to the point where teams are saying, ‘Yeah, just go over there and beat the s— out of him.’ I don’t get calls, and I’m not protected like other players are”

Cousins said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry and his teammates have told him a quieter approach is better with the referees. While Cousins says he has adopted that quieter mindset this season, it hasn’t worked and he believes referees are allowing him zero leeway because of his reputation.

“I am going out of my way. I am going over and beyond,” Cousins said. “I am coming in saying, ‘We can’t do this, this and this …’ Even calls I know I should be arguing, I’m letting go. And they’re still like … it’s a one-sided thing. Everything is changing from one end. But with them, it’s like, ‘We are not letting go of the past. You are who you are. You’re getting a tech.’

“So, when it comes to me getting a tech for saying, ‘Good call, referee …,’ vets and coaches tell me to butter them up. Switch it up a little bit. Do a little reverse psychology. Tell them it’s a good call. And you still getting a tech for it? They’re not trying to make it work. They’re stuck in their ways, and it is so obvious.”

Cousins added that he believes foes are taking advantage of his troubles.

“Now it’s to the point where teams are saying, ‘Yeah, just go over there and beat the s— out of him.’ I don’t get calls, and I’m not protected like other players are,” he said. “Even [Monday] night, I got a tech for pushing [Houston Rockets forward] Trevor Ariza off of me. The whistle was blown. The play was over. Trevor Ariza continued to hit me after the play was over. I just got him right up off of me. I got a tech?

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

“In previous seasons, I got a tech for playing after the whistle is over. Now it doesn’t matter because it’s me.”

NBA executive vice president Kiki Vandeweghe, who serves as the league’s disciplinarian, declined to comment.

The good news for Cousins is he is playing on a level with the NBA elite such as LeBron James, James Harden and Kevin Durant. Cousins entered Thursday sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging a team-best 26.1 points per game. The 6-foot-11, 270-pounder was also third in the NBA in rebounding, averaging 12.5 per game. The big man also was tied for 23rd in the NBA in assists per game with 5.1 and is making 2.2 3-pointers per game.

While Cousins’ statistics are on a level that warrants consideration for NBA MVP, he said he is more worried about winning on a team that gives him a much better chance with fellow All-Star Anthony Davis and guard Jrue Holiday than he ever had during his 6.5-year tenure with the Sacramento Kings. Cousins added that he is also benefiting from being on the same page with Gentry and his coaching staff.

“My whole mindset this year is to leave it on the floor,” Cousins said. “I don’t care about numbers. I don’t care about mindset. I don’t care about All-NBA. My only focus is making the playoffs. I’m doing whatever it takes to win a game on a nightly basis. [If] it means it’s me taking two shots and us winning, I’m OK with that.

“I have been put in a situation where there are supertalented guys around me. On any given night, it can be A.D.’s [Davis’] night, it can be Jrue Holiday’s night, it can be my night. I’m happy that now on every given night I don’t have to have a great night in order to have a chance to win. Now, I am in a better situation where we can share the responsibility. I like it. Enjoy it.”

Even if Cousins finishes the season with MVP-worthy statistics, he doesn’t believe he would get true consideration for the award.

“What I am starting to understand about MVP is it is not about what it should be about,” Cousins said. “It’s a popularity contest. It’s a guy who is on TV every night. Like I said, my only objective is to win on a daily basis and take my team to the playoffs. If it happened, I’d be more than grateful. It would be amazing. I know where I stand amongst the people that look down on me.”

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The Kings stunned Cousins by trading him to the Pelicans during the 2017 NBA All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. The loyal-to-an-admitted-fault big man has said that he now considers the NBA much more of a business. Cousins will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he is expected to give New Orleans serious consideration in free agency. Cousins said he believes that he and Davis will play in a Christmas Day game together soon.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all.”

Cousins also said Davis has been in his ear about re-signing with New Orleans.

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

“They have been great about it. It’s never been like a pressure thing. But I know where their heart is and they know where mine is. We have a great understanding.”

Cousins has yet to play in the postseason in his NBA career. Assuming he will still be with the Pelicans after the trade deadline, he believes he will finally break his streak with a team he says is capable of beating anyone.

“It would definitely be a special moment for me,” Cousins said. “I am a supercompetitive guy. I come out to play every night no matter who it is in front of me. And I love to win. I hate losing more than I love to win. To be able to reach that goal, something I haven’t been able to do in my career, which is sad, that would be one of the more special moments of my career so far.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.