UK Men's Basketball

Cousins turning heads in pros

DeMarcus Cousins, fresh off starring at UK, is turning heads in the NBA summer league. "There's certain things you can't teach and he does all of them," Kings assistant coach Pete Carril said.
DeMarcus Cousins, fresh off starring at UK, is turning heads in the NBA summer league. "There's certain things you can't teach and he does all of them," Kings assistant coach Pete Carril said. AP

LAS VEGAS — DeMarcus Cousins probably didn't realize how his honesty would be mistaken for cockiness.

The Sacramento Kings' rookie center told reporters before June's NBA Draft he had a diverse offensive game.

Yes, he could score on the perimeter. He loved to pass. Not to mention, Cousins said he had a little "boogie" in him with some deft ball handling.

Guess what? So far, Cousins has been right.

Forget those pre-draft allegations of the former Kentucky standout having a bad attitude and poor work habits, among other criticisms. What observers have seen from Cousins during the Kings' first three NBA Summer League games is all the rookie said he was — and more.

"I'm having a lot of fun," Cousins said. "It's not even about showing off. I'm just doing what I do and having fun doing it."

Cousins has used his size, strength and all-around skills to create a buzz felt from the Strip to midtown Sacramento. Although it's just three games in July, many around the league are already believing the Kings have pulled off another coup in the NBA Draft.

A year after snagging Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans with the fourth pick, the Kings appear to have plucked a gem with the fifth selection this year.

To Kings assistant Pete Carril, Cousins is something he has never seen before.

"I've been in the pros 13 years now ... he's the first and perhaps authentic ... only original, different type of player that I've seen," Carril said during the broadcast of Wednesday's game on NBA TV. "There's certain things you can't teach and he does all of them."

Cousins had another solid showing Wednesday night in the Kings' 79-78 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. He hit the winning shot with 2.8 seconds left and recorded his third consecutive double-double — 22 points and 12 rebounds — to go with five assists.

For all the chatter about his alleged immaturity, Cousins is showing a game that is seasoned, especially considering he's one year removed from high school.

"It's the plays he makes consistently," said former All-Star guard and NBA TV analyst Steve Smith. "Being able to accept a double team, pass out of the double team, handle the basketball. He's got a floater. He's got a jump shot. He ran the point a little bit on the break.

"Everybody talks about his conditioning ... but he ran the floor well."

Smith was a broadcaster for Cousins' second summer league game, in which the center finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three assists Tuesday in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Smith was skeptical as to whether Cousins really could do all he claimed.

"When I was reading everything, I kept saying I've got to see this for myself, and he was right," Smith said. "He's doing all those things. And what also impresses me is he's a guy with footwork and instincts already. Then, you look at him and fail to realize he's still only 19 years old. It's scary how good he can be."

Smith noted limited minutes in college and zone defenses probably didn't allow Cousins to showcase all his talents.

"Now, he's actually getting to showcase that he can shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor, he can run up and down the floor in transition," said Houston Rockets forward Patrick Patterson, who played with Cousins at Kentucky. "A lot of people have doubted him and his skills and have limited him to an image in a little box."

With each deft pass and nifty spin in the paint, Cousins is breaking out of that box.

He's already one of the rookies — along with former Kentucky teammate and No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall — drawing loud cheers during their summer games.

It doesn't hurt that a large contingent of Kentucky fans has made its way to these games. But Cousins seems to be winning over all the fans in the stands.

It's a reason Kings co-owner Joe Maloof is smiling about the future of the franchise. He said it's hard to believe the Kings could have picked Evans and Cousins in consecutive drafts.

"I think (Cousins) is definitely the best player in the draft," Maloof said. "I have all the respect for John Wall, but I think Cousins is the best player."

There's one person who would definitely agree with that observation — Cousins.

He could be right again.