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DeMarcus Cousins speaks highly of Keith Smart. So far.

Keith Smart, DeMarcus Cousins

Keith Smart, the new head coach of the Sacramento Kings and center DeMarcus Cousins, celebrate after the Kings beat the Milwaukee Bucks 103-100 in an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012. Smart had been named the teams head coach after previous head coach Paul Westphal was fired earlier in the day.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)


In just his second season in the league, DeMarcus Cousins has a reputation in some quarters as hard to deal with and a coach killer. Fair or not, it’s out there.

Paul Westphal is out and Keith Smart — who went from a nearly impossible situation in Golden State (due to an ownership change) to a nearly impossible one in Sacramento — is in. Right at the top of the list of job priorities is for Smart to gain the respect of Cousins, the talented big man who could anchor that franchise for years.

So far, so good. At least that’s what you take away from Cousin’s comments to the USA Today.

“Everything has been positive right now. Coach isn’t scared to speak his mind. He’s going to tell the truth. He’s going to tell you how it should be and how it’s not going to be. He sets his guidelines and we all go by them. That’s something that we needed from the beginning. Coach is going to be real. If you mess up he’s going to tell you, ‘You messed up.’ That’s all we needed from the beginning.”

So you didn’t have that structure under Westphal?

“We didn’t, honestly. And it showed.”

You’re starting to see some more motion and other changes to the Kings offense, even if that has not been reflected in the win column. This is a team with a long way to go. But at least the attitude seems better in the locker room. That’s a good beginning.