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DeMarcus Cousins staying positive despite Kings’ slide in playoff picture

Even though the Kings’ once-promising playoff hopes have faded the last two weeks, DeMarcus Cousins is preaching the power of positive thinking.

The NBA All-Star Game was a chance for Cousins to spend the weekend away from the negativity surrounding the team. Cousins had 11 points, four rebounds and one assist in 11 minutes as the Western Conference All-Stars defeated the East 196-173 on Sunday night at Air Canada Centre.

Cousins had a chance to recharge and pick the brains of other elite players before returning to Sacramento and attempting to lead the Kings back into the postseason picture.

“Just stay positive,” he said. “There’s been a lot of rumors circulating around, whatever the case may be, but the biggest thing is staying positive and focusing on the playoffs.”

The Kings entered the All-Star break in a 2-8 slump and fell from eighth to 10th place in the West, where the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz passed Sacramento.

Because of the Kings’ ongoing problems on defense, rumors swirled that coach George Karl was about to be fired. Cousins believes the Kings can turn things around because he has faith in his teammates.

“Throughout all of this, the one thing that’s been good through the whole situation is the guys in the locker room have stayed together,” he said. “There hasn’t been any separation. We feel like through any kind of failure this year it’s always been positive. With that, I know we still have a great chance of making something happen this year.”

Cousins’ ability to stay upbeat will be important if the Kings are to make up their 4 1/2 -game gap for eighth place. He’s accepted being the Kings’ leader, so how the team fares in its final 29 games largely depends on him.

“It’s hard. I can’t lie, but you’ve got to do it,” Cousins said. “You’ve got to find a way.”

Cousins hasn’t always talked so much about having a positive attitude. He said his mindset has evolved over his six seasons.

“My biggest thing is patience,” he said. “I’ve learned how to be patient over these years … . Just learning you can have things exactly how you want it and staying positive.”

Overall, Cousins enjoyed Toronto, but he could have done without talking about coaching changes.

During his first All-Star appearance last year, Cousins encountered plenty of discussion about the hiring of George Karl, who took over after the All-Star break. This year, Cousins faced questions about Karl’s job status and his thoughts on the coach amid the Kings’ unrest.

So instead of talking about being an All-Star, Cousins was asked to describe Karl’s coaching style.

“Watch one of our games and you can answer that,” he said.

Asked what it’s like playing for Karl, Cousins said, “He’s a pretty open-minded coach. He allows his players to play. I think any player would like that.”

Cousins also was asked whether players should have a say in front office decisions. That’s a sore point for Cousins, who enjoyed playing for and respected Michael Malone but saw the coach fired against his wishes. Cousins then was blamed for the Kings not hiring Karl sooner because he and his agents reportedly opposed the move.

Cousins has no interest in playing general manager. He’ll leave that to Vlade Divac.

“I prefer to be in a perfect situation, but that’ll never happen,” Cousins said.

That wasn’t a shot at Sacramento, as Cousins explained what his perfect situation would be.

“Everybody’s happy, but that’ll never happen because nothing in life is ever perfect,” he said.

For Cousins, a playoff berth would be close to perfection. He’ll need to be at his best to give the Kings a legitimate chance.

“I’m looking to make this jump,” he said. “Take this team to the next level and push this team to the playoffs.”

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

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