DeMarcus Cousins rarely, if ever, lacks confidence on the basketball court.
But the Kings center admittedly he was nervous as he made his NBA All-Star debut in the second quarter Sunday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I hit my first shot, so it helped out a lot,” he said.
Cousins made six of his seven shots, scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 18 minutes to help the Western Conference beat the Eastern Conference 163-158.
When Cousins, the Kings’ first All-Star since 2004, entered the game, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge filled out the West lineup.
He could see two-time NBA champion Chris Bosh in the game for the East. LeBron James was on the bench, as was Cousins’ favorite player growing up, Carmelo Anthony.
“I’m out here with the best players in the NBA,” is what Cousins said went through his mind. “I had a lot of fun, it was a great experience, and I look forward to doing it again.”
That first shot settled Cousins’ nerves as he took his place among the league’s elite in front of a national TV audience.
“You guys know how high my confidence is,” Cousins said. “Let me tell it – I’m the best in the league. It was an incredible experience playing besides these guys.”
The biggest names in basketball also probably wished they could have grabbed their cellphone for a selfie with a star. Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Diddy, Chris Tucker, Ethan Hawke and the ever-present Spike Lee were a few of the big names in attendance.
Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed and Julius Erving also were present, as was boxing’s biggest name, Floyd Mayweather Jr.But the person who caught Cousins’ attention was former President Bill Clinton.
“Bill Clinton was an O.G. (original gangster) on the sidelines,” Cousins said.
Despite all of the celebrity, media and charity commitments Cousins had, the game was the main reason he was in New York. All-Star Games aren’t tailored toward throwing the ball into the post, which Cousins knew. Big men usually are tasked with grabbing a rebound and getting it to a guard, even though a center could exhibit some showmanship in that setting.
“You know that coming into it,” Cousins said. “I just went out there and had fun; that’s all it was really about. Do a little trash talking; did some trash talking with Melo. I had a lot of fun.”
Cousins had a game within the game to keep things interesting in an exhibition where defense is an afterthought and flash is a must. Before the game, Cousins and Tim Duncan made a friendly wager as to who would grab the most rebounds. Duncan edged Cousins 9-7.
As media availability wrapped up, Duncan made sure to let Cousins know he lost by telling him, “All quarters, all quarters.”
“Coach (Steve) Kerr took me out at the end and helped Timmy out, but it’s all good,” Cousins said. “I owe him $1.50 in all quarters.”
Late in the game, Paul found Cousins in the post for some easy scoring chances. Cousins said Paul, with whom he has feuded in the past, urged him to get to the rim so he could find him.
“We wanted to win this game,” Cousins said. “We got a little bonus after this.”
Cousins said he’d take a couple of days off before returning to Sacramento. There are 30 games left, and he’ll be playing for his third coach this season, George Karl.
Even amid the fun and excitement in New York, Cousins said he couldn’t put the Kings’ season out of his mind. Sacramento lost 13 of 15 entering the All-Star break.
“Honestly, it’s been on my mind this whole weekend,” Cousins said of the Kings’ situation. “This was a good break from reality, but at the same time, I would lie to say it hasn’t been on my mind.”
Now that “All-Star” can go before his name, Cousins would like to keep it that way. The key to doing that is to help the Kings find a winning formula.
“My main focus is getting this team on the right path,” Cousins said. “Do that part, and everything else will come with it.”