DeMarcus Cousins

Randolph makes statement to Cousins as Kings' leader: 'Bullies get bullied'

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USATSI

Randolph makes statement to Cousins as Kings' leader: 'Bullies get bullied'

It’s a new day in Sacramento. With five rookies, four second-year players and a lone third-year guy, the Kings are going the route of building through the draft on nitro. 

Despite hitting a hard reset button at the trade deadline last season, the Kings are only one game off their pace from a season ago. An 8-17 record is nothing to brag about, but it’s a better start than anyone should have expected.

Friday night’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans shows growth in a youthful team. The Kings competed well in their previous two games against the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, only to come up short in crunch time. 

First compete, then learn how to win. That is the mantra for any young team. Sacramento is slowly grasping the concept.

The victory over the Pelicans was a stark reminder of the world the Kings once lived in. DeMarcus Cousins, the team’s former All-Star big, put on a show. He punished Sacramento’s depleted front line for 38 points and 11 rebounds, but like so many nights with the Kings, he came up short. 

Where the Kings were and where they are heading was captured in one moment in the fourth quarter. With 3:19 remaining and Sacramento trailing 100-91, Frank Mason III went to the rack and was fouled. When his teammates went to pick him up off the floor, Cousins started chirping.

Always ready to talk, Cousins said something to Buddy Hield and tempers started to flair. 

During his last few seasons in Sacramento, Cousins was Sacramento’s de facto leader. On more than one occasion, this exact scene played out and it rarely worked out for the Kings.

But the climate has changed in Kingsland. Hield didn’t even need to say a word. Veteran Zach Randolph stepped in and handled the situation. No one in the league wants a piece of Z-Bo, including DeMarcus Cousins. 

Randolph fielded questions following the game, but the real meat was hidden in the NBC Sports California television broadcast.

Following the dust up in the fourth quarter, Randolph and Cousins lined up while Mason shot free throws. With cameras rolling, Z-Bo defined the new direction of the Sacramento Kings franchise. 

“Where we’re from, bullies get bullied,” Randolph said to the official. Then looking directly at Cousins, Randolph continued, “In my hood, bullies get bullied.”

Sacramento outscored the Pelicans 11-2 in the final minutes of the fourth. Hield scored eight of those 11 points, including a 3-pointer to tie the game with 36.3 seconds remaining. 

On a team filled with players under the age of 24, the 36-year-old Randolph has quickly become the Kings’ rock. On the court, he’s strung together an incredible run of games, including a 35-point, 13-rebound performance against New Orleans. 

Over his last four games, Randolph is averaging 25 points and just under 11 rebounds per game. More importantly, the Kings are 2-2 over the stretch and they’ve competed with NBA heavyweights. 

“We just came out and played hard, it was a team win,” Randolph told NBC Sports California’s Kayte Christensen following the game. “My young fellas, hey, they’re amazing.” 

The 17-year NBA vet hit two huge 3-pointers in overtime and the young guys finished off the win. Randolph’s output on the floor carried the Kings, but his handling of Cousins made a statement to everyone on the team. When he’s on the floor, he is big brother and the team’s enforcer. 

Gameday: Can Kings' kitchen sink guard DeMarcus Cousins?

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Gameday: Can Kings' kitchen sink guard DeMarcus Cousins?

The road is a lonely place. After a close loss in Cleveland on Wednesday evening, the Sacramento Kings venture to New Orleans where DeMarcus Cousins and his Pelicans teammates await.

Zach Randolph continues to be the driving force behind the Kings better play of late, but he had plenty of help against the Cavs. The young backcourt tandem of Frank Mason III and Buddy Hield came off the bench to drop in a combined 32 points for Sacramento. 

In addition to the strong bench play, two-way player JaKarr Sampson got a call-up and start against LeBron James and played huge for the Kings. His defense against James was about as good as it gets and he ripped down 16 rebounds in 32 minutes of action.

Cousins has his team sitting just a game over .500, but firmly planted in the playoff race. The former Kings star is stuffing the stat sheet in New Orleans, averaging 25.9 points, 12.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.7 blocks per game. He’s become the focal point of the Pelicans attack with All-Star Anthony Davis ailing.

OPENING LINE 

Kings by 8.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

DeMarcus Cousins vs. The Kitchen Sink -- The Kings know Cousins better than any team in the league. They’ll try Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos on the 6-foot-11 center to start, but don’t be shocked to see Jack Cooley come in the game to try and get under Cousins’ skin. Sampson worked against the Cavs, why not give Cooley a shot. 

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 7-17, fifth place in Pacific

Pelicans: 13-12, third place in Southwest

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: C Willie Cauley-Stein (lower back strain) out, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January. Justin Jackson, Malachi Richardson and Skal Labissiere have been assigned to the Reno Bighorns. 

Pelicans: C/PF Anthony Davis (pelvis) game time decision, Alexis Ajinca (knee) out, Solomon Hill (hamstring) out, Frank Jackson (right foot) out. 

SERIES HISTORY 

The Pelicans own a 1-0 lead in the season series after defeating the Kings 114-106 at Golden 1 Center on Oct. 26. New Orleans holds a 43-39 lead in the all-time series between these two clubs.  

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Who Guards Cousins? -- We asked this same question last time these two teams played and Cousins answered it loudly - no one. Cousins dropped 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists against his former team in 44 minutes. He’s tough for any team to handle, but he plays angry against the team the traded him.   

Slowing the Supporting Cast -- With Cousins bombing away, the Kings' focus shifted to slowing the All-Star big last time these two teams played. Jrue Holliday and Jameer Nelson exploited the overplay. Nelson has a reduced role with the return of Rajon Rondo, but Sacramento has to find a way to keep the supporting cast quiet.

Continue the Strong Effort on the Road -- The Kings started the road trip with a win over the Chicago Bulls, but they’ve lost the last two against Eastern Conference playoff teams in Milwaukee and Cleveland. Showing improvement, Sacramento was in both contests and lost by a combined 11 points. That’s much better than the three-game trip earlier in the season when they were outscored by a 91 total points.

Gameday: It's the Warriors big men vs DeMarcus Cousins

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Gameday: It's the Warriors big men vs DeMarcus Cousins

UPDATE (3:39pm PT on Monday): Starting center Zaza Pachulia has been ruled out with left shoulder soreness, head coach Steve Kerr announced before the game.

***

The Warriors have played four back-to-back sets this season, and the Pelicans have been involved in two. Make that three when the teams meet Monday night in New Orleans.

Coming off a rout of the Heat on Sunday night in Miami, the Warriors (18-6) are aiming for their fourth consecutive win on the road trip. They are 3-1 on the second half of back-to-back sets.

The Pelicans (12-11) believe they will be in the Western Conference playoff race and they’ll enter this game in the No. 8 spot in the standings. New Orleans, which has lost three of its last four, will be without All-Star forward Anthony Davis.

BETTING LINE

Warriors by 9.5

MATCHUP TO WATCH

Warriors Big Men vs. DeMarcus Cousins: Zaza Pachulia and his tag-team partners were decisive winners nine days ago, when Boogie committed five fouls and six turnovers along with 15 points and seven rebounds. Pachulia’s physicality along with the clever tactics of Draymond Green and David West made Cousins a prisoner of his own emotions. Even if Pachulia can’t play, the Warriors will employ the same plan. With Davis out, Cousins is essential. Can he keep calm and produce?

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: G Stephen Curry (R hand contusion) and F Andre Iguodala (L knee soreness) are listed as probable. G Shaun Livingston (rest) and C Zaza Pachulia (L shoulder soreness) are listed as questionable. C Damian Jones is on assignment with the G-League Santa Cruz Warriors.

Pelicans: C Alexis Ajinca (R knee injury), F Anthony Davis (L adductor strain), F Solomon Hill (L hamstring tear) and G Frank Jackson (R foot fracture) are listed as out.

LAST 10

Warriors: 7-3. Pelicans: 5-5.

GAME OFFICIALS

Derrick Stafford (crew chief), Matt Boland and JT Orr.

SERIES HISTORY

The Warriors won the first two meetings this season, 128-120 on Oct. 20 at New Orleans and 110-95 on Nov. 25 in Oakland. The Warriors have won the last nine in a row and 19 of the last 20 overall, and 11 of the last 12 in New Orleans.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

THE LANES, THE LANES: The Pelicans, with point guard Rajon Rondo leading the way, are embracing the free-flowing ball-movement concepts of coach Alvin Gentry. They rank second to the Warriors in assists and seventh in pace (the Warriors are fifth). New Orleans is susceptible to turnovers, and the Warriors at their best excel in creating them. They’ll have eyes on the passing lanes at all times.

RUN, RUN, RUN: Even on the second night of a back-to-back set, the Warriors will want to run at every opportunity. Though the Pelicans have improved several aspects of their defense, they still surrender more fast-break points than all but four teams. The Warriors specialize in this category, leading the NBA by a wide margin with 22.4 fast-break points per game.

STEPH 2K: Stephen Curry needs five 3-pointers to become the eighth player to reach the 2,000 mark for his career. He’s shooting 11-of-26 from deep (42.3 percent) on the road trip. Moreover, some of his best long-distance exhibitions have occurred against the Pelicans, including the NBA single-game record of 13 last season. He dropped eight triples in his 53-point game at New Orleans on Oct. 31, 2015.