The weight of the world lifted off DeMarcus Cousins
DeMarcus Cousins sat quietly in his locker following Wednesday night’s surprise victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He had already showered and he knew it was time to talk to the local media after more than 10 days away.
Reporter: “How much was this needed tonight?”
Cousins: “It was a good win for the team.”
Reporter: “Was it to your liking to get a comfortable win like that?”
Cousins: “It was a good win for the team.”
Cousins (interrupts): “No, I’m just messing with you.”
The locker room immediately turned to laughter. For the first time in a few weeks, the often surly Cousins was smiling from ear to ear.
“I just wanted to try a little Marshawn,” Cousins said through the laughter, referring to Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s post game interview from late November.
There hasn’t been a lot of reasons to laugh in the Sacramento Kings locker room since head coach Michael Malone was let go on December 14. Especially not from the 24-year-old Cousins, who held his former coach in very high regard.
The former Kentucky star wears his heart on his sleeve and his true feeling on his face. He can be the biggest kid you’ve ever seen one moment, and something much different a few minutes later. He is frustrated. Maybe not so much at new head coach Tyrone Corbin, but at the situation the Kings are now in midway through the season.
Who and what DeMarcus Cousins is has yet to be fully determined. He is a work in progress both on and off the court, a fact he knows very well. He has the potential to be a top five NBA player, but in this league, you have to be so much more.
Over the last few weeks, Cousins has run the gambit of emotions. A 9-6 start led to individual success as well in the form of a Western Conference Player of the Week award. Viral meningitis cost him 10 games and 10 pounds worth of muscle and maybe even his head coach. Malone was fired, the Kings started losing and his All-Star bid is now hanging in the balance.
On Wednesday night, all of the noise from a wild couple of weeks of instability faded away. Cousins didn’t play particularly well on paper. He shot just 6-for-23 from the field and turned the ball over six times. He picked up his fourth technical foul of the season for arguing a foul call and he was blocked eight times by the Thunder frontline.
None of that mattered though. Cousins and his Kings teammates got a win against a quality opponent. They fought through the ebb and flow of a wild game, and they came out on top for just the sixth time in their last 21 games.
“This feels like a good win,” Cousins explained. “We’ve gotten other wins, but even after those wins, you could just tell, like, it wasn’t a good win. It wasn’t a good way to win. It wasn’t the right type of basketball to play. But tonight we played the right way and we got the win.”
Cousins and his teammates jumped all over the Thunder early. They enforced their will upon their opponent, like they did in the first month of the season. They were the aggressor on both ends of the floor and the result was a 21-point trouncing.
As Cousins goes, so goes the Sacramento Kings. He is not only the most talented player on the roster, but in his fifth season in the league, he has taken an active role in the culture of the team.
“Me being the leader of this team, I have to come out with a certain type of approach every night,” Cousins said. “If I come out aggressive, the team is going to follow my footsteps.”
Cousins has notched 19 double-doubles this season out of the 24 contests he’s played in. His 15 rebounds were a game-high and he’s now scored 20 or more points in 17 games this season.
When he wasn’t bullying his way through the post, Cousins was leading the defensive unit, which held the Thunder to just 83 points on 33 percent shooting. Sacramento never trailed and pushed their lead to as many as 26 points in the blowout win.
“Everybody was playing for one goal tonight, no matter who was scoring the basketball, who was getting the shots, everybody came out with one goal tonight and that was to win the game,” Cousins said.
Cousins pointed to a solid practice on both Monday and Tuesday as one reason for Wednesday’s success. He pointed to the aggressive nature of those sessions and how the action from the practice floor carried forward to the game.
It’s not too late for the Kings. They blew a relatively easy December schedule and made life much more difficult on themselves. But at 15-20, they are not completely out of the playoff conversation.
What is clear is that if they have any hope of recapturing their early season success, it has to happen now. The clock is ticking on the current season.
“This is new for everybody,” Cousins said of the team’s situation. “It’s not easy for us. It’s not easy for Ty (Corbin). It’s not easy for anybody right now. The best way for all of us to get through this is to come together, find some kind of positivity and find a way to move forward.”
Kings fans are hoping to see more of this DeMarcus Cousins. Throw all the numbers out the window, the only thing that matters to this young star is wins. On Wednesday night, the Kings picked up a big one at the hands of a quality opponent.