SACRAMENTO - DeMarcus Cousins sauntered into the Sacramento High School gym a little later than scheduled on Thursday morning. The two-time All-Star was who everyone had come to see. From the nearly 200 youth basketball players enrolled in The DeMarcus Cousins Elite Skills Camp, to the bevy of local media, all eyes were on the 6-foot-11 big man.
You could see it from the moment he stepped out of his vehicle that he was leaner than usual. Although no one but Cousins knows his exact weight, the word around his team was that he was down 18 pounds and was hoping to lose a little more before joining Team USA next month for the Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
“I’m here to help the kids, teach them the game of basketball, bring them together - different age groups, different races, from different places” Cousins said. “Just bring people together having fun.”
Be it replacing the ancient scoreboard at Sac High, paying for the funeral for a local youth gunned down in a random act of violence or hosting a free basketball camp that includes eye exams from VSP, a local vision specialist company, Cousins is an active member of the Sacramento community.
Perhaps he is the most generous Kings in the 31 seasons the team has called Sacramento home.
“I feel it’s the right thing to do,” Cousins said. “I feel it’s part of my job (to) reach out to these kids, the younger generation, help the next generation. I mean, this is our future, so it’s very important that we reach out to them.
Cousins has spent the last month or so working out in Las Vegas in preparation for Olympics and upcoming season. Directly following the season, he underwent four sessions of shockwave treatments to alleviate some of the pain in his aching feet. He was able to skip the platelet rich plasma procedure that he originally had scheduled for the summer.
“I’m feeling great right now, my feet are well,” Cousins said. “I’m in the process of getting in shape. Everything is positive right now and that’s the way it should be.”
Cousins had just come from the Kings practice facility where he had met with coach Dave Joerger. The fledgling relationship between coach and player is still developing, by Joerger has gone out of his way to meet with his star center.
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“I think we get too caught up in the bonding and being great friends,” Cousins said of the coach/player relationship. “We talked about that - it’s not about that. It’s about being on the same page, having the same goal. It’s about coming out and doing what’s best for the team. We communicated that and we’re on the same page.”
Sighting the increased pace of the modern NBA game and his ever evolving role with the Team USA, Cousins said that he hopes to return lighter than any of his previous seasons.
This is the first time Cousins has spoken to the media since getting the call last week that he has officially been invited to compete in the upcoming Olympics. You could see the beam in his eyes when asked about the accomplishment.
“I’m very excited,” Cousins said. “I’ve always wanted to be on the Olympic team and I finally got the chance. In my mind, I’m happy and I can’t wait to play.”
Cousins confirmed that Jerry Colangelo called him to offer him a spot. And if need be, he is willing to make calls to talk other big name players into joining him in Rio.
“He told me what he expected from me, he told me what he needed from me,” Cousins said of the conversation with the director of Team USA.
Despite plenty of players backing out of the Olympics for one reason or another, Cousins is confident that Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski have a plan in place for the games.
When asked if he had any concerns for his safety with the current civil unrest in Brazil or potential for contracting the Zika virus, Cousins shrugged it off.
“We have our issues in America,” the big man said. “It is what it is. I feel I’m very protected, I’m not really concerned. If it’s meant to happen, it will happen.”
Midway through the camp, Memphis Grizzlies forward and Sacramento native Matt Barnes dropped in to say hello and do some work with the kids. Barnes, 36, played under Joerger last season and would love nothing more than to finish up his career in his home town. Whether that is an option or not is unknown at this time.
As for Cousins, he is ready for to finally break through and lead his team into the playoffs. He has two-years remaining on his contract and he has said countless times that he feels an obligation to deliver this franchise out of the doldrums that is dragged on for the last decade.
Coming into camp in great shape and fresh off a gold medal run in the Olympics would be an ideal situation for both Cousins and the Kings.
“I’m extremely excited,” Cousins said about the upcoming season. “I’m very confident this is going to be our year. This is the year we turn it around.”