Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin: Cousins is Cousins, and Kings win

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C

For a while there, it looked like the sky was falling. Black, plastic tarps kept dropping from the rafters. The Kings suffered one of their familiar scoring droughts, the Warriors kept creeping closer, and the fourth quarter became a showcase for strange calls and shaky nerves.

But hey, this was Sacramento's lucky day.

Klay Thompson missed from the elbow. Stephen Curry missed from the top of the circle. And after all the bells and whistles that come with the home opener, the Kings slipped out of Sleep Train Arena on Monday with a 94-92 squeaker.

Marcus Thornton provided an early lift, Aaron Brooks contributed two tough jumpers late, the defense was suffocating throughout, and DeMarcus Cousins was DeMarcus Cousins. Let's say that again. DeMarcus Cousins was DeMarcus Cousins.

He grabbed 15 rebounds, blocked two shots, challenged everything around the basket and established a physical, formidable interior presence in the opening moments. And those 23 points he scored? Where would the Kings have been without those 23 points?

Here's a hint: The Kings were winless on their recent trip partly because their third-year center was immersed in an immense funk. Either that, or he was suffering from a sudden identity crisis. Within a matter of days, the 6-foot-11, 270-pound bruiser went from launching jumpers like a shooting guard to dribbling like a point guard to forgetting that, at his best, he grabs rebounds like one of the league's best rebounders. Which is what he is – one of the league's best rebounders.

That 11.0 average last season wasn't a misprint. Those massive, yet amazingly soft hands aren't a mirage.

"I've just been struggling," Cousins said late Monday. "I went out there (Monday night) knowing what I have to do, and that's grab the ball. And we changed the offense up a little bit, and I got the ball a little higher, a little farther from the basket. We shared the ball and got to our spots, and it was a lot more effective for us as a team."

The evening started well, even before Cousins selectively began tossing in his assortment of jump hooks, follow dunks, fast-break dunks and an occasional mid-range jumper.

As expected, the game sold out about an hour before tipoff, prompting team officials to make a few hundred standing-room tickets available.

Even the old building looked better than usual, or at the very least, appeared neater and cleaner. The lower-level hallway had been painted with player images sketched on the walls. Thirty-five flat-screen televisions were added and positioned around the concourse. For those who like to tweet and talk while they watch the action, the WIFI infrastructure was upgraded to improve connections.

But back to the game. After the high-tech pregame festivities sent a thick blanket of fog over the court, the question was this: Would the Kings ever be able to find the basket?

This is the team that shot 37 percent during the three-game road swing to Chicago, Minneapolis and Indianapolis and managed a total of seven points in two overtime periods against the Pacers.

For long stretches Monday, the Kings seemed to have made significant progress. They moved the ball, they moved their bodies, they fed off the energy of the crowd, repeatedly scoring in transition – the highlight being rookie Thomas Robinson's one-handed throwdown off a lead pass from Thornton.

So, the sky didn't fall, the Kings didn't lose, the tarps that dropped onto the court didn't do any damage, except to embarrass the management. (The first time the tarp fell, coach Keith Smart ran onto the floor and grabbed it. The last time, the crowd chanted, "New arena, new arena."

And Cousins played like Cousins, which is the only way the Kings have a prayer of moving out of the Pacific Division cellar and having some fun this season.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. She earned a bachelor's degree in political science from UNLV and a law degree from the University of San Diego before committing full time to journalism.

Her career includes stops at the San Diego Union, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and time spent as the backup beat writer for Dodgers and Angels, Clippers and NBA beat writer, sports columnist, along with numerous assignments covering international events and the Olympics. Ailene joined The Sacramento Bee in 1997.

Phone: 916-321-1208
Twitter: @ailene_voisin

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