DeMarcus Cousins is on his way to making a habit of playing in the NBA’s annual showcase.
Cousins was named to his second consecutive All-Star Game as a reserve for the Western Conference team before the Kings’ 114-105 loss to New Orleans on Thursday. The All-Star Game is Feb. 14 in Toronto.
Cousins is the first King to make back-to-back All-Star teams since Peja Stojakovic in 2003 and 2004.
Cousins also will compete in the NBA’s Skills Challenge, usually an event for guards, as part of All-Star Saturday night. But Cousins has never felt limited to being a traditional big man and looks forward to showing off his versatility.
“I’m excited,” Cousins said. “I believe I’m the first big to try it. I’ve got to represent the bigs. I’m excited for the weekend, excited to be an All-Star again, excited to represent Sacramento.”
Cousins is widely considered the best big man in the NBA, and his addition to the team was more of a formality after he was an injury replacement last year.
Cousins entered Thursday third in the NBA in scoring at 27.3 points per game and fourth in rebounding (11.3). He is the only player in the NBA in the top five in both categories.
For the first time in Cousins’ career, the Kings are in playoff contention, and he has played his best basketball of the season this month.
Cousins averaged a league-leading 33.1 points through his first 13 games of January.
“You go back and check my comments two, three months ago and when I got here – no doubt he’s the best big man in the game,” said Kings guard Rajon Rondo. “Obviously the numbers speak for themselves.”
Before Cousins’ first All-Star Game, there was more talk about the Kings’ drama-filled 2014-15 season than his play.
George Karl was announced as the team’s new head coach two days before the All-Star Game in New York.
Karl was the third Kings coach that season. After Michael Malone was fired, a decision that was unpopular with players and fans, Tyrone Corbin was supposed to finish the season as coach, but bad play and grumbling from fans caused the Kings to pursue Karl. This season, the focus is on Cousins’ dominant play and the possibility of the Kings making the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.
“Not as many distractions,” Cousins said. “I’ll enjoy it with my family and friends.”
What Cousins did not enjoy was how Thursday’s game against injury-plagued New Orleans played out at Smoothie King Center.
The Kings fell behind 37-19 at the end of the first quarter, couldn’t recover and suffered their third consecutive loss.
“We came out a little flat, let Ryan Anderson scorch us in the first half,” Cousins said. “And his effort alone kind of put us away in the first half. Most of the game, we were fighting back from a hole too deep to dig out.”
Anderson (Oak Ridge High School) scored 30 of his career-high-tying 36 points in the first half.
Cousins had 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Ben McLemore led the team with 26 points.
Rondo had 17 points and 15 assists. It was his 14th straight game with at least 10 assists, tying Nate Archibald (1972) for most consecutive games with double-digit assists in franchise history.
Associate head coach Chad Iske filled in for Karl, who was ill.
The Pelicans were without three starters: All-Star forward Anthony Davis (concussion) and guards Tyreke Evans (knee) and Eric Gordon (finger).
By the numbers
Kings center DeMarcus Cousins’ key stats this season (through Wednesday):
- 37: Number of games
- 34.0: Average minutes
- 27.3: Points per game
- 11.3: Rebounds per game
- 2.8: Assists per game
NBA All-Star Game
- When: Sunday, Feb. 14, 5:30 p.m.
- Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
- TV: TNT
Kings All-Stars since the team moved to Sacramento in 1985:
- DeMarcus Cousins: 2015, 2016
- Vlade Divac: 2001
- Brad Miller: 2004
- Mitch Richmond: 1993, 1994-x, 1995 (MVP), 1996, 1997, 1998
- Peja Stojakovic: 2002, 2003, 2004
- Chris Webber: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003-y
x-starter; y-did not play due to injury
Kings’ next game
- When: Saturday, 5 p.m.
- Opponent: at Memphis
- TV/radio: CSNCA, 950, 1140