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George Karl wants more “Boogie” out of DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins, nicknamed “Boogie” for his dribbling skills, puts on a display against Knicks’ guard Pablo Prigioni in December.
DeMarcus Cousins, nicknamed “Boogie” for his dribbling skills, puts on a display against Knicks’ guard Pablo Prigioni in December. hamezcua@sacbee.com

At 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds, you don’t have a nickname like Boogie unless you have a little flash to your game.

It was former NBA guard Rod Strickland, while he was working at the University of Kentucky, who dubbed DeMarcus Cousins “Boogie” after seeing the center show off dribbling skills that would make smaller players jealous.

But that doesn’t mean Cousins has gotten to be Boogie in the NBA. That could change under new Kings coach George Karl, who plans to unleash Cousins in ways that take advantage of all he can do on the basketball court.

Karl’s offense is a lot like the one Cousins played for at Kentucky under coach John Calipari. Karl believes that will help Cousins as he gives his All-Star center more responsibility.

“I don’t think Cal gave him the ball as much as I’m going to give him the ball,” Karl said. “He’s going to be the playmaker in the offense a little bit more than he was at Kentucky. I think he understands the structure, the basics.”

Karl is intrigued by the possibilities of running the offense through Cousins, too. When Karl was hired, he said Cousins might be the Kings’ best passer.

“I think when we play best is when Cuz gets five or six assists,” Karl said. “If he’s a good playmaker, then he becomes almost impossible to cover.”

Cousins said the offense is “very similar” to what he played at Kentucky. The changes have been in the positions he’s in on the floor.

“I’m definitely more of a facilitator now,” Cousins said. “It’s a different look for me; it’s an adjustment. But I think through it all it helps us as a team getting better.”

Cousins is averaging 23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds and three assists in eight games playing for Karl.

Cousins brings the ball up more after rebounds under Karl with the freedom to set up teammates or attack the rim.

Karl believes Cousins is as dominant a post player as there is in the league, but he also sees Cousins as a player who can dominate and attack when facing the basket.

Cousins’ versatility gives defenders a lot to think about.

“I think (a defender’s) job is a lot easier,” Cousins said. “They don’t have to come down and pound on me each possession. I like the way our offense is now, it makes everyone else more involved and a better player.”

Trusting Cousins with the ball more might spice up the offense, but it doesn’t come without risk.

Cousins already leads the NBA with 4.3 turnovers per game (tied with LeBron James). One of Karl’s first challenges to Cousins was for him to cut down his turnovers.

“I think he’s got to trust the pass and trust his teammates a little more when the crowd gets around him,” Karl said. “I think he’s just so good at getting his shot off in the crowd, maybe as good as anyone in basketball.”

Turnovers have been a team-wide epidemic all season and a big reason the Kings have struggled to win.

“We might just start coming down with nothing but dribble-handoffs,” Cousins said. “Can’t preach it enough, we’ve got to take care of the ball.”

Karl has bemoaned some of the “silly” passes the Kings attempt that lead to turnovers, Cousins included. The veteran coach said fixing the turnovers is simple.

“If the game says pass it, we should pass it, and if the game says shoot it, we should shoot it,” Karl said. “It’s not that complicated.”

Those are decisions that could be facilitated more by Cousins the rest of the season.

Sounds like more boogie from Cousins is on the way.

Follow The Bee’s Jason Jones on Twitter @mr_jasonjones and read more about the team at www.sacbee.com/kings.

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