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DeMarcus Cousins, George Karl say their relationship is solid

Video: "Can we make the defensive commitment?" Coach George Karl

"Can we make the defensive commitment?" Sacramento Kings coach George Karl said that he feels the Kings are playoff contender if they make a defensive commitment during the NBA media day at Sleep Train Arena.
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"Can we make the defensive commitment?" Sacramento Kings coach George Karl said that he feels the Kings are playoff contender if they make a defensive commitment during the NBA media day at Sleep Train Arena.

DeMarcus Cousins’ annual reluctance to meet with reporters on Kings media day continued Monday at the team’s practice facility.

Cousins doesn’t enjoy having a dozen or so microphones and voice recorders in his face. While the All-Star center gladly would dodge those, he didn’t sidestep questions about his relationship with coach George Karl.

“That’s my man,” Cousins said.

The Kings take those good vibes to UC San Diego for training camp, which starts Tuesday.

After reports of discontent between Karl and Cousins dominated the offseason, a meeting last month in Las Vegas seems to have quieted the storm.

I feel like everybody’s on the same page.

Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, during Monday’s media day

With only five key contributors returning, the camp will focus on meshing the talent. The season opens Oct. 28 against the Los Angeles Clippers at Sleep Train Arena.

Cousins and Karl describe their relationship as “solid” and one that can continue to improve.

“When we met in Vegas, we came to a head and we talked our differences out like men,” Cousins said. “And at the end of the day, it’s about winning games. That’s one thing me and him can agree on – we want to win and that’s our goal and that’s all that really matters, winning.”

The Kings haven’t done much winning since 2006, when they last made the playoffs.

Oct. 28 Kings’ season opener vs. the Los Angeles Clippers at Sleep Train Arena

Though the roster is vastly different after general manager Vlade Divac’s first offseason in charge, Cousins already sees signs of cohesion not evident in his first five seasons with the Kings. Most of the team has been in Sacramento for voluntary workouts in preparation for training camp.

“I feel like everybody’s on the same page,” Cousins said.

That includes Cousins and Karl, whose disagreements became public and led to more than two months of rumors and speculation, even after Divac said both would return this season.

“I see a different player,” said Karl, who gave Cousins an “A-plus” for his offseason work. “I see a different substance of character in this guy right now.”

Though a season without discord is unrealistic, Cousins and Karl believe they can handle any issues and work toward more victories.

“But it’s not a light switch, and you don’t take it from here and go up to being excellent or great,” Karl said. “It’s going to take some time. There’s going to be some falls, and as a coaching staff, that’s what we’ve got to be ready for.

“My assistants have got to be ready to mentor and direct him. I’ve got to be ready to be challenging but also celebrating the most talented player on our team.”

I see a different player. I see a different substance of character in this guy right now.

Kings coach George Karl, on center DeMarcus Cousins

This season’s team appears to be the Kings’ most talented since Cousins was drafted fifth overall in 2010.

The point guard situation excites Karl. Newcomer Rajon Rondo joins Darren Collison, who is healthy again after missing the final 34 games last season because of a core muscle injury.

Divac also signed veterans Kosta Koufos, Caron Butler and Marco Belinelli and drafted big man Willie Cauley-Stein to supplement a core featuring Cousins and Rudy Gay.

The Kings believe they will be competitive again after languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference.

“We are a highly improved basketball team, roster-wise, from my standpoint,” Karl said. “We have more veterans. We have different types of players, different types of versatility. We have two point guards that can win a game. We’ve got better shooters around Cuz to give him better spacing.”

Karl admits there is one major, long-standing concern entering camp.

“If I have one worry sitting here right now,” he said, “it’s, are we going to be defensively committed?”

Sacramento Kings Center Willie Cauley-Stein talks to reporters at media day about his excitement for the start of the upcoming season. Video by Hector Amezcua, hamezcua@sacbee.com

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

Key dates for Kings

  • Tuesday: Training camp opens at UC San Diego
  • Saturday: Training camp concludes
  • Oct. 5: First exhibition game, at Portland, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 8: First exhibition home game, vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m.
  • Oct. 28: Season opener, vs. Los Angeles Clippers, Sleep Train Arena, 7 p.m.
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