We grade press conferences, and for that alone, there is a special place in hell for us all.
Was the subject charming and disarming, like Steve Kerr? Great guy. Was the subject dour and brooding, like Bill Belichick? Not a great guy. Was the subject snippy and dismissive, like Gregg Popovich? Way not a great guy.
None of this has anything to do with their actual character or humanity, of course, but that's the game we play -- putting people in artificial situations and using it as a measuring stick for genuineness and decency. Sometimes we're right, but largely we're wrong.
This is doubly and sometimes triply true for players. Do they command the king's English? Do they smile? Do they look good on television? Are they on your favorite team? Do they say things you agree with? These all go into the calculation, and then we spit out a grade based on the worst kind of metric: Did He or She Win The Presser?
Which brings us to DeMarcus Cousins on Thursday. The Golden State Warriors trotted out their newest competition-depressing bauble for the media gauntlet, an uncomfortable mini-tour of strangers that Cousins never have shown the slightest hint of enjoying. It is, for him, a painful reminder that judgments about him (and all celebrities, athletic or otherwise) are made and cemented by strangers based on snippets like this.
Thus, his use of the word "goofball" when describing his affinity for Klay Thompson first among his new compatriots might have been the most compelling moment, if only because Cousins is to the word "goofball" as Neil deGrasse Tyson is to the phrase "flat earth."
Cousins wasn't brought to Oakland to fill the goofball gap left by the departures of JaVale McGee and Nick Young, but on Thursday, he did offer a whimsical side that crosses swords with the thumbnail sketch of his personality provided by the outside world. He even offered to help the narrative along by offering to get into a fight with Kevin Durant and Draymond Green "just to get it over with."
"Might as well," he said with a laugh.
Cousins, though, didn't open a lot of doors to the outside world, which in some ways actually is good because he decided not to pander to the press conference imperatives. For example, he declined to offer any clarity on the dispute with the New Orleans Pelicans over whether general manager Dell Demps actually offered him a contract.
"Only Dell Demps and I know the truth of what happened in that phone call," Cousins said, "and I'm going to leave it at that."
In other words, he left all mysteries unsolved, almost certainly because his minimalist approach to feeding the public's appetite is important to him. He amplified when he wanted, and clipped his answers when he wanted, leaving people to find their own level of satisfaction with his, forgive the term, "performance."
In short, DeMarcus Cousins was DeMarcus Cousins on Thursday -- for good, for ill and for one day. He didn't win the press conference or lose it, and he played along with it only when the question intrigued him. He was true to what he chose to be true to, and he left the scoring to the millions of judges who value press conference performances more than he does.