Ailene Voisin, sports columnist

Ailene Voisin

Ailene Voisin: Cousins looks forward to being Kings' leader

Published: Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jul. 23, 2013 - 1:42 pm

LAS VEGAS – DeMarcus Cousins is a character. He is a reality show without the props and preparation. He is refreshingly uncensored and unscripted, and seemingily incapable of guile and pretense. Except for those momentary flareups – Sean Elliott anyone? – he is impossible to dislike.

Humor? Charm? Charisma?

What else do you want to know about Cousins? That he wants to remain with the Kings? That he is more intrigued with the idea of transforming a franchise than running off to the nearest contender? That he remained committed to Sacramento throughout an arena ordeal that sucked the energy out of a locker room and had most folks packing their bags for Seattle?

"It's a big relief," Cousins said after Monday's practice at Team USA's minicamp at UNLV, "and I'm ready to get to work and move forward with this franchise. It was tough not knowing where you were going to be. Now I'm going to do my damn best, and hopefully I can lead this team to some wins."

Monday was a calm, encouraging start to the next phase of his career.

Cousins, who made amends with USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo after last summer's dust-up, put his talent on display during the 30 minutes of media viewing. He swiped rebounds out of the air, grabbing the ball with his enormous hands. He maintained a presence around the basket, missed a few jumpers, threw a few nice passes.

Most important, unlike the opening day of Team USA training camp a year ago – the day his physical play and excessive exuberance got him into trouble – Cousins was just another big, talented guy Monday. He didn't distinguish himself one way or another, which at this point in the week probably works to his advantage; he has three more days of auditioning.

The annual minicamp serves as a prep school for future World Cup and Olympic teams. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and most of the league's other superstars spent summers in the desert trying to impress Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke coach who has guided Team USA to gold medals in two consecutive Olympics.

With several NBA coaches, general managers and scouts watching from the stands, this year's list of Team USA wannabes includes Anthony Davis, John Wall, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Ryan Anderson (Oak Ridge High School). Kentucky coach John Calipari – who had Cousins and Wall for a season in Lexington – sat alone in a cluster of seats between the two courts.

"I love DeMarcus," Calipari said later. "I'm glad that he's going through this experience again. I tell all these (NBA) types, 'You're taking my guy after one year of college. You can't coach him and expect him to be totally mature.' These young kids make mistakes, and then get stubborn and don't admit they made mistakes. When I coached him, my wife used to say, 'Yell at somebody else. You yell at him all the time.' But he's a great kid."

In an era when NBA stars hurriedly exchange sweaty uniforms for suits and ties and speak in an unwritten code of clichés, Cousins is an exception. He charms. He cracks jokes. He inquires. He invariably draws a crowd.

The only topic that remained off limits during Monday's media scrum is his contract status. The Mobile, Ala., native, who replaced longtime agent John Greig with Dan Fegan late last season, is eligible for a five-year, $80 million maximum agreement. If the Kings decline to tender an offer by Oct. 31, contract talks are tabled until next summer. Cousins then becomes a restricted free agent and can pursue deals with other teams.

Pressed repeatedly to discuss any negotiations between Fegan and Kings officials, Cousins smiled and shook his head.

"USA basketball," he said. "That's what I'm about."

He likes his chances of making next summer's World Cup team – dismissing his competition as "nobody" – and approves of the Kings' offseason moves.

"Tyreke (Evans) was a big piece of our team," he said, "but we added another good piece with (Greivis) Vasquez. Overall, as you can see, we're going with a plan where we share the ball and defense is first. I think we're making good changes, and I'm ready to get to work."

Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.

© 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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