Sometimes the glare from the light bothers Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
Not the light of stardom, but the light from cameras that have invaded his personal space this week leading up to Sunday’s All-Star Game. Sometimes he squints and/or uses his hands to shield himself.
But he might as well get used to it. If Cousins continues to play as he has this season, the lights won’t be dimming anytime soon.
Cousins, the Kings’ first All-Star since Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic in 2004, is enjoying being celebrated as one of the league’s elite players.
He hadn’t relished being an All-Star until landing in New York on Thursday. He had been preoccupied with what was happening with the Kings – mounting losses and the hiring of the team’s third head coach of the season and his rumored involvement in that process.
The gauntlet of media commitments and appearances have provided Cousins with a respite from the drama that has engulfed the Kings the last two months.
“This has kind of been a distraction from reality for me,” Cousins said Saturday after the Western Conference All-Stars practiced at Madison Square Garden. “I’ve been able to put some of the things going on with the team to the side and just enjoy myself with the experience. This has given me an escape from reality.”
This is a departure from the Cousins seen in recent weeks. He’s smiling more. He appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
And Cousins is modeling. The bruising center did his thing on the catwalk at an NBA fashion show.
Just don’t tell Cousins he’s a model. That’s not the kind of thing he’s known for.
“I’m not a model,” he said. “Not at all.”
But he is an All-Star, something he’s wanted to be since entering the league. Only over the last two seasons have Cousins’ statistics put him among the NBA’s elite players.
Cousins was angry he didn’t make the All-Star team the last two seasons. Wearing his All-Star practice jersey Saturday, he smiled, knowing he’d accomplished one of his goals.
“It feels good,” Cousins said. “I think I look pretty good in it, too. I’ve dreamed of this day. It’s been a goal of mine for a while now. I’m glad I could achieve it.”
The weekend has given those who don’t know Cousins a chance to see him beyond his scowl on the court. His personality makes him a natural to do more television appearances such as the one with Fallon.
That he’s able to laugh at himself and his brief modeling career is a contrast to his intense look on the court.
Usually, light moments from Cousins only appear when he lets the public into his attempts at singing via social media.
“A lot of people only see me when I’m doing my job,” Cousins said. “They’ve got the right to feel the way they feel, but at the same time, this is a way for them to see me in another light.”
Big men aren’t supposed to be able to dominate an All-Star Game. Their job usually is to get the rebound and pass the ball to a guard who does all the fun stuff.
But like the one player he wishes he could play one-on-one, Shaquille O’Neal, Cousins has plenty of showmanship to his game. That’s something many fans around the country might not know with the Kings struggling at 18-34 and the coaching saga getting attention.
So don’t be surprised if Cousins grabs a rebound and tries to start a fast break on his own.
“I think some of the guards are going to be mad at me,” Cousins said with a laugh. “Nah, I’m just going out there to have some fun.”
At some point, Cousins will be able to reflect fondly on his first All-Star Game. That time just isn’t now. There’s too much going on and too much to see.
“I promise you, everything is like colliding,” he said. “Just event after event. Not really a lot of time to sit down and think about it.”
That’s fine. Odds are this won’t be the last time Cousins will have the light that comes with being an All-Star shining on him.
Comments about Kings center DeMarcus Cousins from fellow All-Stars during Friday’s media session, tweeted by the Kings:
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors: “He’s an All-Star for a reason. He gives you 24 and 15 every night.”
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks: “He’s definitely one of the best players in the NBA and deserves to be an All-Star.”
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans: “He’s a great player. He competes and can do a little bit of everything.”
John Wall, Washington Wizards: “To see all the hard work he’s done get recognized is exciting.”
Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls: “He can dominate the game at different levels with his power and skill level.”
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers: “I’m a huge fan... he’s doing tremendous things, and I’m happy for him.”
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat: “He’s always been a phenomenal player ... he deserves to be an All-Star.”
James Harden, Houston Rockets: “He’s definitely up there among the best big men in the game.”