Kings

When asked about facing Kings for first time, Cousins plays possum

When asked about facing Kings for first time, Cousins plays possum

It was going to happen eventually. The Sacramento Kings were going to face the New Orleans Pelicans at some point, which means they’ll see their former franchise cornerstone and all that entails.

“It’s just another chance for us to come out, play hard and get a win,” DeMarcus Cousins told media members when asked about his Friday matchup against his former team.

Cousins gave the same exact answer the next five times reporters asked about the Kings, grinning as he played possum in front of rolling cameras.

“I enjoyed my time there,” Cousins eventually said. “I developed a lot of relationships. It will be good to see the guys again. I haven’t seen them since before the break, so it will be a good chance to see those guys and laugh a little bit.”

To say there is bad blood is an understatement. Cousins wanted to spend the rest of his career in a Kings uniform. He had already discussed parameters on a potential $200+ million extension. He wanted to be the player that ended the franchise’s decade long postseason drought - and then he was traded.

Cousins wears his emotions on his sleeve, which more often than not has gotten him into trouble. After just a few months with the team, Matt Barnes wanted to “kill ‘em” when asked about the Kings. You can only imagine what Cousins is really thinking.

“If I was in his shoes, I’d come out trying to take it to us,” Garrett Temple said. “Just like Matt said he wanted to kill us, I’m assuming DeMarcus has the same mindset. That’s what makes him one of the best players in the league.”

The deal that sent Cousins to New Orleans cost the player tens of millions of dollars and his parting gift on the way out the door was a strongly worded press release about the Kings looking for a cultural change.

“It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization,” Divac said in the team’s press release. “Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward. We thank DeMarcus for his contributions and wish him all the best in New Orleans. The fans in Sacramento are the best in the world and we are all committed to building a team that will continue to make Sacramento proud.”

At the time of the trade, the Kings were just a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the playoffs. Since the trade, they’ve gone just 5-13 as they’ve pushed towards a complete youth movement.

The Pelicans have struggled with the transition as well. Adding another high usage player on the frontline alongside All-Star Anthony Davis has taken an adjustment period. They are 9-9 since the deal, but 7-3 over their last 10 games.

Cousins’ numbers are down across the board, but he is beginning to adjust. In 14 games with New Orleans, he’s averaging 22.9 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks in 33 minutes a night. He’s missed three games due to injury and one due to suspension. The Pelicans are 3-1 without him on the court.

With seven games remaining in the season, the Pelicans sit 4.5 games behind the Trail Blazers for the eighth seed. They finish the season in Portland, but that’s a lot of ground to cover with so few games to play.

This is the first time that Kings players will see Cousins in a different uniform. After playing against him in practice and alongside him for plenty of games, Sacramento’s players know the reality of facing a motivated Cousins.

“You’re not going to stop, you’re not going to stop him,” Willie Cauley-Stein said. “You just have to get in his way and pray to God he misses. Other than that, you’re not going to stop him from doing what he wants to do. You just have to keep coming back at him and just be competitive and don’t lay down.”

Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos and even rookie Georgios Papagiannis will take turns defending Cousins in the post. The trio have 18 fouls between them and if Cousins is motivated, he will try to get all three out of the game.

“I expected him to get his numbers, but I’m going to try and make it as difficult as possible,” Cauley-Stein added. “That’s going to be fun for me just because, I was kind of like his apprentice here and it’s going to be cool to go against a big bro.”

Friday night’s matchup should be a lively affair. You’ll have a motivated player, seeing his former team for the first time while embroiled in a playoff chase. Hopefully the Kings brought plenty of ice packs, they’re going to need them.

How injury stints might have helped Marvin Bagley develop mental, physical game

How injury stints might have helped Marvin Bagley develop mental, physical game

LOS ANGELES -- Injuries are part of the NBA game and for a young player, they can be particularly cruel. A lot of first and second year players have never experienced the lows that sitting out can bring. Watching from the sidelines can be a very lonely game.

If the right approach is taken, an injury can also be an opportunity to reassess what’s working and what’s not on the court. Watching a game from the sidelines, listening to a coach or a veteran and hitting the film room can help develop a player as well.

Marvin Bagley has seen action in 54 games this season for the Sacramento Kings, but two separate stints on the injured list cost the top prospect a total of 17 games. The injuries were spaced out and may have even helped break the season into smaller blocks.

The first injury came 26 games into Bagley’s career when he came down hard against the Warriors and sustained a bone bruise on his left knee. After missing 11 out of 12 games, he returned to action and instantly started to produce.

A second injury 21 games later cost Bagley another five contests and since his return, he’s become a double-double machine.

“I was still doing stuff while I was out - still working out, conditioning, and doing stuff like that,” Bagley insisted. “I feel pretty good. It’s just about finishing off these last few games we have strong and leading that into the next season.”

While away from the game, the former Duke star didn’t just sit around. He worked on both his body and his mind. The mental aspect of the game may have been the most important piece.

“Oh yeah, I was watching and studying it, watching film, seeing what I could do better,” Bagley said. “I’ve been trying to work on it. Ever since I got back in, it’s been working for me. I just have to keep going, keep playing, and, like I said, finish out strong.”

Bagley roasted the Lakers for 25 points and 11 rebounds Sunday evening in the Kings’ 111-106 loss to the Lakers. He played 36 minutes off the bench for Dave Joerger, seeing time at both the center and power forward position.

“He’s got lots to learn and we’re always trying to teach him throughout the course of games different things,” Joerger said.

Against the Lakers, it was trial by fire. Joerger even left the rookie in to face one of the greatest players the NBA has ever known.

“It was a good experience for him. He guarded LeBron [James], LeBron guarded him a little bit,” Joerger said. “There’s a lot of experience there.”

Following his first stint against James, the coaching staff took a moment to go over the positives and negatives they saw in his approach on both ends of the court. Bagley is a sponge and took it all in for the next time he saw the matchup.

“He jots all of that stuff down,” Joerger said. “He’s very cerebral and he’ll continue to learn and get better.”

Since returning from his latest setback, Bagley is crushing the opposition, despite playing on a minutes restriction for much of the time. In the seven games since his return, the athletic big is averaging 20.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in just 26.1 minutes per game.

[RELATED: What we learned from Kings' loss to Lakers]

He’s also added the 3-point shot to his game since his return, knocking down 8-of-16 from long range over the stretch. Bagley has always had the ability to shoot from the perimeter, but his confidence, despite coming off an injury, is at an all-time high.

The Kings have nine games remaining on the 2018-19 schedule. At 36-37, they are playing for pride and the possibility of finishing the season above the .500 mark.

As they get closer to the season’s conclusion, it’s clear that Bagley is a keeper. He has the look and feel of a franchise cornerstone. He has a nice long break coming up to continue his development both on and off the court.

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

Kings takeaways: What we learned from surprising loss to Lakers

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES -- In a game of runs, the Sacramento Kings ran out of gas Sunday evening at Staples Center. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings couldn’t buy a bucket the entire night.

Sacramento continued to hang around throughout the game, but Kyle Kuzma put up huge numbers and LeBron James notched his 81st career-triple double to hand the Kings a 111-106 loss.

Here are three takeaways as the Kings dropped back under the .500 mark on the season at 36-37.

Energizer Bunny

Marvin Bagley has springs in his legs, even when the rest of the roster doesn’t. Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Kings’ rookie big looked fresh. The 20-year-old rolled through the Lakers' defense, scoring 25 points on 10-for-19 shooting in 36 minutes. He added 11 rebounds and a block, but it wasn’t enough to come away with the win. Since returning from injury, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft is crushing it, averaging over 19 points and eight rebounds per game.

A third to forget

The Kings couldn’t buy a bucket early, but they slowly came around in the second quarter to take a 49-48 lead into the half. Los Angeles came out hot in third and ran the Kings off the court. Led by the hot shooting of Kuzma, the Lakers outscored the Kings 39-28 in the period to take a 10-point lead into fourth. Kuzma torched the Kings for 21 of his 29 points in the 12-minute stretch, hitting 7-of-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from long range.

The Rally

Sacramento looked dead in the water coming out of the third, but the Kings never stop playing. Bagley and Bogdan Bogdanovic kept the Kings afloat in the fourth to make things interesting. After trailing by as many as 17 in the third, the Kings reduced the Lakers' lead all the way down to two multiple times in the final three minutes, but they couldn’t get the big shot to fall when they needed it.