It’s always topical to discuss which team wins or loses a trade, but that often cannot be sorted out for years.
The parties involved can work to move on and that’s something DeMarcus Cousins said he’s doing after being traded by the Kings at the All-Star break to the New Orleans Pelicans.
On the court, Cousins overwhelmed his former team, with 37 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks as the Pelicans routed the Kings 117-89 Friday night at Smoothie King Center in the first game between the teams since the deal.
The Kings were 1 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference when they decided to trade Cousins and reset their plans for the future. The loss dropped Sacramento to 5-14 since the trade.
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Cousins remains popular among the Kings. Former teammates and support staff greeted him before and after the game and visited the locker room after the game. Cousins, however, said he didn’t need the game for any sort of closure, even though it was obvious he wanted to win badly.
“I don’t look at it like that,” Cousins said. “I still communicate with those guys all the time. My chapter of me putting on a Sacramento Kings jersey, of course that’s done, but I’ve still got nothing but love for those guys. I still talk to them on a daily basis. I don’t look at it like that. There’s no bad blood.”
Cousins did have some fear about the game.
“My biggest thing was I didn’t want to come in and make it about me,” Cousins said. “My biggest fear was doing that and coming out with a loss and that would have been terrible. I was just happy we came out with the right approach, we came out with a lot energy. We set the tone early. We just played the right type of basketball throughout the night.”
That didn’t mean there weren’t some awkward moments for Cousins after more than six seasons with Sacramento.
Playing against a team he wanted to finish his career with was strange, as was seeing his former teammates and coaches on the sidelines.
“It was very weird actually,” Cousins said. “You practice against those guys every day but in a game setting to play against them, it’s a very weird feeling. I’m so used to those guys being on my side. It was just weird. I even caught myself looking over at (Kings coach Dave Joerger). It was just weird.”
The Kings have predictably struggled since trading the three-time All-Star. The focus from management is draft picks, and more losses means increased odds of moving up in the draft lottery.
So the Kings rested three veterans, including their best post defender, Kosta Koufos, giving Cousins opportunities against second-year center Willie Cauley-Stein and rookies George Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere.
They also had to deal with All-Star Anthony Davis (19 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks).
“It’s only going to make them better,” said Kings guard Darren Collison. “I think this is a good test for them ... when you’re playing against these top-tier bigs, they’re only going to get better. ... Papa, Skal, they’re going to be good players.”
Cousins said he’s monitored the progress of the young bigs and he’s proud of how far they’ve come over the season.
“Those three young bigs, they work their tails off,” Cousins said.
But as has been the case a lot since the trade of Cousins and waiving Matt Barnes, the Kings were roughed up as teams continue to push around their young players.
“They got all over us defensively and they were physical,” Joerger said. “We struggled to score, turned the basketball over a ton, gave them a ton of points off our turnovers. They just kind of overmatched us physically, getting in the paint. They had 60 points in the paint, some of those were off our turnovers, but DeMarcus had a terrific game and Anthony had a terrific game. By and large, their guys at the wings were just too physical for us.”
Ben McLemore led the Kings with 15 points off the bench. Buddy Hield, who came to the Kings in the trade, had 13 points.