You would never know it by his scowls and glares, but Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is happiest on the court.
Never was it more obvious than on Thursday afternoon.
Cousins was at his playful best during his third annual DeMarcus Cousins Elite Skills Basketball Camp at Sacramento High School. Those who know Cousins best say he’s had an affinity for youth dating to his high school days in Alabama.
So it was no surprise to see Cousins helping with drills, joking with the kids and encouraging them. All 165 kids attended the three-day camp for free and were treated to free vision screening and glasses, if needed, through VSP Vision’s mobile clinic.
“It was me just connecting with the area,” Cousins said of his work at Sac High, where he has donated $27,915.05 toward the purchase of new LED scoreboards in the school’s gym. “I came from a similar area, so I know how it is to come up this type of way. Just giving these kids an opportunity and help broaden their horizons.”
Cousins has kept a low profile following the Kings’ drama-filled season, determined to “get far away.”
Cousins’ season ended 10 days early because of a sore right foot. He said he has not started his intense offseason workouts, but moved around well while interacting with campers. Late in the season, he walked like an old man while dealing with various ailments.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Cousins, who will turn 25 on Aug. 13. “My mind is in a good place. I’m just staying away, laying low, resting my mind and body.”
Cousins was selected to his first All-Star Game this season and was named second-team All-NBA. But the Kings went 29-53, just a one-game improvement from the previous two seasons.
“I feel I’ve still got a long way to go,” Cousins said. “I’m still not satisfied, not even close.”
Cousins was delighted that Denver hired Michael Malone as its coach. Against the players’ wishes, the Kings fired Malone last December over “philosophical differences.”
Cousins was one of Malone’s biggest supporters.
“I was extremely happy,” Cousins said. “I think he’s one of the better coaches in the league. He’s a great man, I learned a lot from him, and I’m just happy he’s getting an opportunity to do what he loves. Like I said, you can’t keep a good man down.”
Cousins said the NBA Finals were “very entertaining,” but admitted he was upset that another Northern California team became a champion after struggling for years.
“I hate that the Warriors won, but I also congratulate them,” Cousins said. “We all know that’s a rival team. Happy for Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson), well deserved.”
Cousins was a teammate of Curry and Thompson on Team USA in the FIBA World Championships in Spain last summer. Cousins said he enjoyed playing on the team and plans to participate in the Team USA minicamp and Blue vs. White exhibition game in Las Vegas in August.
“Every year, it’s basically new tryouts,” Cousins said. “My next goal is to make the 2016 Olympic team. I’ve got that on my radar as well.”
Much of the talk around the NBA Finals was about how teams can win championships with smaller lineups. The Warriors trailed the best-of-seven series 2-1 before benching 7-foot center Andrew Bogut and starting 6-6 guard Andre Iguodala, who eventually won the Finals MVP award.
Cousins said such thinking has changed the game since he entered the league five years ago.
“It’s changing a lot,” Cousins said. “When I was coming up, it was almost regular. You still played through the big man, and now the game is kind of changing, and small ball is taking over. Us bigs need to step up a little bit and change things around.”
Cousins looks forward to helping change things around in Sacramento, too. Watching his friends Thompson and Curry play against another friend, LeBron James, in the Finals was a reminder that he’s never made the playoffs.
“Everybody wants a championship,” Cousins said. “It’s hard to be sitting at home watching.”
For a video of DeMarcus Cousins at his basketball camp, go to http://sacb.ee/3wzx