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Gay and Cousins return to Kings closer after Team USA

Gay and Cousins return to Sacramento with a better connection after winning gold for America.

Sacramento Kings teammates Ryan Hollins, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay take a selfie. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

Basketball is a team game, but the Sacramento Kings’ success this season hinges on two players in particular. Fortunately for the Kings, those two guys are entering this new campaign with more chemistry than they had last.

Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins were afforded a unique experience this summer that they enjoyed together. The Kings’ two top players teamed up with some of the world’s best and competed in Spain for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The opportunity gave them the chance to not only learn some new tricks from other NBA stars, but it also allowed the two players to come back to Sacramento with a stronger connection.

“That’s one thing that I can say about that experience – me and Rudy did grow a lot closer,” Cousins said during Kings media day in Sacramento on Friday. Not to say that we weren’t close before, but being around each other that much (helps).”

The Team USA experience gave the 24-year-old starting center and veteran small forward the opportunity to develop better chemistry on the court with one another. The two were oftentimes the first reserves called off the bench by USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who capitalized on Cousins and Gay’s existing familiarity with each other from Sacramento.

But they also were able to share in something meaningful, too. At a time of year when players are far removed from their teammates and NBA home cities, Cousins and Gay competed and won the prestigious honor of FIBA World Cup gold with one another.

“Usually during the offseason, everyone kind of goes their separate ways,” Cousins said. “But, a lot of times we had to lean on one another because we knew each other best in that situation. We learned a lot about each other, we grew closer and I’m sure you’ll be able to tell when it comes to us playing on the floor as well.”

Gay shares a similar opinion to Cousins. The Kings starting small forward agrees that playing and winning on behalf of their country made them much closer teammates.

“I believe we did,” Gay said of building a stronger connection with the Kings starting center. “We were together a lot, a lot more than obviously what would have happened if I didn’t go there. So it was big for us.”

Kings to limit Gay and Cousins’ practice time during training camp

Thanks to their FIBA experience, Gay and Cousins are coming back to Sacramento in arguably the best shape of their careers. While the rest of the team works themselves back into game condition during training camp, Kings head coach Michael Malone will be monitoring their minutes.

“I told them both when I was in Spain visiting them we may hold them out of one practice during the two-a-days early on,” Malone said on Friday. “But I think it’s also important that they maintain their conditioning and shape that they’re in because I don’t want them losing that.”

Cousins and Gay each played just around 15 minutes a game off of Team USA’s bench in the FIBA World Cup. However, the travel around the world across different time zones likely took a toll on their bodies. Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said that Cousins and Gay’s workload will be left completely up to Malone’s discretion.

“They’re in phenomenal shape right now,” D’Alessandro said. “They walk in the door like that so we get that advantage. But we also want to make sure we don’t overuse them at this point. I’ll leave it to Michael, but he and I have discussed it and we want to be a little bit careful with those two guys to bring them in slowly in training camp.”

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