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DeMarcus Cousins reserves hug for Michael Malone

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is all smiles as he greets former Sacramento coach Michael Malone in Las Vegas.
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is all smiles as he greets former Sacramento coach Michael Malone in Las Vegas. hamezcua@sacbee.com

It was the kind of moment any fan would love to see.

With grins from ear to ear, a star player and his coach embraced.

For Kings fans, the problem with this scene was center DeMarcus Cousins was hugging former Sacramento coach Michael Malone.

Awkward moments? There was the potential for plenty, because what would this Kings offseason be without a few of them?

Sunday’s summer league game against the Denver Nuggets was the perfect mix of people and situations to keep the soap opera chatter going.

A visibly happy and relaxed Cousins watched the game courtside with Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac, general manager Mike Bratz and former Sacramento star Peja Stojakovic, who has been helping out the front office lately.

Meanwhile, Kings coach George Karl, whose feud with and desire to trade Cousins have been a part of the offseason rumor mill, sat on the opposite side of the court in the stands behind the Sacramento bench.

That’s not unusual, as most coaches watch their team from that vantage point. But in an offseason defined by issues between Cousins and Karl, it was telling that there was no interaction, in contrast to the obvious admiration and respect between Cousins and Malone.

Karl and Cousins haven’t spoken since the season, with Karl’s attempts to trade Cousins at the root of the rift.

While Cousins and Karl likely will never bond on the level Malone, now Denver’s coach, and Cousins did, there must be some defrosting of the relationship at some point.

Fostering a working relationship between Cousins and Karl remains paramount to Sacramento’s hopes of becoming a playoff team.

Although he declined interview requests, Cousins was in a good mood. He interacted with Divac and Bratz, and shared hugs and laughs with former Kings coaches Micah Nori, Dee Brown and Ryan Bowen, all of whom joined Malone in Denver after last season.

As for on-court story lines, the Kings picked Willie Cauley-Stein sixth in last month’s NBA draft.

Sacramento, which has sought a big-time point guard for some time, passed on Emmanuel Mudiay, who went to Denver with the next pick.

“He’s a solid player,” Cauley-Stein said of Mudiay. “Uses his body well. He’s a big guard; he’s got crazy vision. He’s a good player.”

Mudiay had 19 points and 10 assists in Denver’s 98-76 win at Cox Pavilion. Cauley-Stein had 15 points, one rebound and a blocked shot.

Cousins’ actions lately show he is in a good space. He has tweeted that he is “hype” about the upcoming season, and welcomed Cauley-Stein and free-agent additions Rajon Rondo and Marco Belinelli via Twitter.

And even with teams trying to acquire him, Cousins has never expressed a desire to leave.

The issue has been with Karl, and Divac has said he hopes it can be resolved. He says the roster is much improved and can contend for the playoffs.

The Kings have one more roster spot for a guaranteed contract because center Andrea Bargnani, who was nearing a deal with Sacramento, opted for Brooklyn.

The Kings are planning a media session after their summer league game against Golden State on Monday to introduce their free-agent additions. Most were expected in Sacramento on Sunday night to complete physicals and sign their contracts.

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Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones

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