Ailene Voisin, sports columnist
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  • Gary Bogdon / Associated Press file, 2012

    DeMarcus Cousins, left, and Greg Monroe, who squared off in an exhibition game during the NBA's All-Star Weekend last season, will meet again tonight.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    DeMarcus Cousins' myriad skills were on display during an impressive 60-second sequence in the third period Monday against the Warriors that pushed the Kings to their largest lead of the night.

  • Ailene Voisin

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Ailene Voisin: Kings need 'good' Cousins every game

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 - 12:09 am

The next man up is Greg Monroe. He's tall and slender, talented and improving, and during the Detroit Pistons' last visit to the pavilion now known as Sleep Train Arena, he dominated his 2010 NBA draft classmate DeMarcus Cousins.

Thirty-two points. Eleven rebounds. Three assists. That's pretty dominant. And, by the way, the Pistons throttled the Kings that March 14 night.

"We have a pretty similar game," Cousins suggested after Tuesday's practice. "We're not the most athletic guys, not the fastest guys, not the highest jumpers, but we can get the job done."

Cousins, as we have seen, can do more than carry a bucket and mop. He scrubs, he paints, he sweats, he creates. He averaged 18.1 points and 11 rebounds last season, and after being a late invitee to the U.S. Olympic training camp, almost forced his way onto the team.

But the ongoing challenge confronting Kings coach Keith Smart remains this: Extracting the Full Cousins out of DeMarcus without making it seem as if his young center is full of himself.

"His mind right now, as a young player, is thinking to score first," Smart said. "But as he continues to grow and lets the game come to him, as he gets older and gains experience, you ask, 'How can I make the game easier?'

"The guy is so talented, and we want more from him. He has a big basket of nuts and bolts that slowly are being connected. When they all connect, that's when he becomes the player everyone believes he can become."

Despite his vastly improved physical condition and commitment to an offseason workout routine, Cousins, 22, started the season miserably. In the Kings' first three games, he was stuck in neutral, either overdosing on jumpers or positioning himself too close to the basket and luring clusters of defenders and shot-blockers. There was no balance to his offense, no movement by his teammates, too much time on the bench in foul trouble.

"I was mad that I got off to a start like that," he admitted, "and I know me being in foul trouble is not helping my team."

Hunting for shots (27 Saturday against Indiana) isn't helping his team, either.

Prioritizing and accepting where he is most effective is the next phase of his development, both for Cousins and for the Kings. It really is that simple. When the 6-foot-11, 270-pound center plays the way he did in the home opener against the Golden State Warriors, the Kings' weaknesses (perimeter shooting) are minimized, they control tempo, and they have a chance to win.

Monday's game was dictated in the opening moments, when Cousins and Jason Thompson contested every layup, every 2-footer, every Warrior who went anywhere near the rim. Cousins – and he agrees with this – had never imposed his will more forcefully. And not coincidentally, while he was consumed with establishing a bruising defensive mien and dominating the boards, his offense became increasingly fluid.

Instead of impatiently launching long jumpers or plowing into crowds of defenders, he seized openings from the high post, driving at Andrew Bogut for half-hooks and layups, stealing passes and blowing downcourt for dunks, following teammates' misses with resounding two-handed throwdowns.

His 60-second sequence in the third period – featuring three rebounds, a blocked shot, a layup, free throw and 19-footer – pushed the Kings to their largest lead (16 points).

"I would like to come out every game playing that way," he said. "Sometimes I'm not able to. It just depends on how the whistle blows."

If Cousins' growth spurt continues, that will change. He learns pretty fast. He has shed most of his baby fat and no longer needs an oxygen mask after every fast break. He doesn't feud with his coaches. True, he remains too stubborn and demonstrative on occasion; those frowns and head shakes nagged him throughout the three-game trip. But his demeanor is far better than it was his first two seasons, and additionally, he leans on teammates for information and advice.

"Last night I went to (Chuck Hayes) about Andrew Bogut," Cousins said. "Chuck told me to do this, do that. He told me (Bogut) shoots his hooks with his left hand but shoots from the free-throw line with his right hand. When I need advice on a player, that's who I go to."

And Monroe? The intensely competitive Cousins, who was drafted two spots (No. 5) ahead of the Pistons center, has his own scouting report on tonight's opponent. And he has a long memory. Asked his recollections of the most recent Kings-Pistons matchup, he smiled and nodded, then shuffled off to the locker room.

© 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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