The legend of DeMarcus Cousins is growing.
After four years of relative obscurity in Sacramento, the gregarious Cousins is making the most of his FIBA World Cup opportunity. Not only is he playing exceptionally well, but he is winning folks over with his personality as well.
When asked by a European journalist on Sunday, “Do you know where Slovenia is?,” Cousins fired back with, “No, do you know where Alabama is?”
Cousins can be funny, but without seeing the interaction, I’m not sure of his motivation for this specific response.
That is the beauty of the 23-year-old Sacramento King center – he is open and honest, often to a fault. But without seeing the look on his face at the moment of delivery, you have no idea whether he was serious or just poking fun.
In four years of covering Cousins, I have seen growth, both personally and as a basketball player. The growth hasn’t always been consistent, but beggars can’t be choosers. He will get there in his own time, and for now, that is enough.
During his run with Team USA, we are seeing Cousins make sacrifices, perhaps for the first time in his career. He is not the star of the team, but he could be. He is accepting a role and drawing rave reviews every time he takes the floor.
From the outside, his maturation as a basketball player is exciting to watch.
Cousins is clearly in the best shape of his entire career. He is lean and strong and running the floor. He is engaged in the process, and in one summer, he is trying to reset his image on a global scale.
Cousins has been a professional every step of the way. He is learning to control body language and facial expressions, which have always betrayed him at every step.
His talent has always been undeniable. And now the world is getting a glimpse of how good this kid can be.
As Team USA moves through the elimination rounds, Cousins is quietly building momentum. In 14 minutes of action against Mexico on Saturday, Cousins scored 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting, while grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots.
Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but Cousins has clearly won the trust of coach Mike Krzyzewski. He is the third big man on a glorified All-Star team, and his role on the team is bound to increase as Team USA builds toward the epic gold medal matchup with Spain.
“We have believed in DeMarcus right from training camp,” Krzyzewski told reporters following Team USA’s win over Mexico. “All the reports about him not making the team and all that were all not right. We felt he would be the perfect guy with or in place of Anthony at times, but more in the place of Anthony.”
Cousins has shown vast improvement in two specific areas during the tournament so far. First, he is moving his feet on defense and learning how to be an effective team defender. Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone is loving this development.
The defensive-minded Malone needs Cousins to anchor one of the league’s worst defenses from a year ago. Malone needs Cousins to bring back all that he has learned from coaches Krzyzewski and Tom Thibodeau and impart such knowledge to the young core of players in Sacramento.
Secondly, the Kings have been preaching pace all offseason. If this team is going to become a running squad, it all starts with Cousins. There is no doubt that he is in phenomenal shape, but there are plenty of Porsche drivers on the road that don’t know where to find the gas pedal.
Cousins has an incredible ability to start the break with his rebounding, passing and even ball-handling. He has the tools to become one of the great two-way post players in the league, if he is motivated.
From ownership to management, the Sacramento Kings pushed hard to get Cousins on this team. They were hoping that the experience would help develop one of the game’s most intriguing talents. So far, the experiment has been a huge success.
Cousins has held up his end of the bargain. He is maturing before our eyes and representing both the Sacramento Kings and Team USA extremely well.
This has been the summer of Boogie Cousins. If he can bring the momentum he has built with Team USA into training camp and the regular season, things are about to get a whole lot more interesting in Sacramento.