Well, who’s laughing now? Yeah, still everybody.
It was the Kings who got the post-Demarcus Cousins era off to a positive start on Thursday night with a 116-100 win over the Nuggets. One win over a mediocre opponent does not mean much, but there were a couple of noteworthy performances from the victory.
Buddy Hield, the apple of Kings owner Vivek Ranadive’s eye, who will surely be taking on a bigger role in Sacramento after seeing inconsistent minutes in New Orleans, had 16 points and six rebounds in 26 minutes. The breakout performance of the night came from Cousins’ former understudy, Willie Cauley-Stein.
Cauley-Stein is a super athletic big man who up to this point in his NBA career has yet to show any other discernible skills. That changed on Thursday night when he went for a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds. Is there potential for the former Kentucky star and No. 6 pick in the 2015 Draft out of Cousins’ shadow?
“There’s not that thought in the back of your head, like ‘oh dang, he’s going to take me out if I make a mistake,’ because at this point he’s going to have to put me back in,” Cauley-Stein said.
“I was able to play free.”
The Kings took the mantle of NBA laughingstock from the Knicks on Sunday night when they traded Cousins and Omri Casspi to the Pelicans for Hield, Tyreke Evans and a first- and second-round draft pick. The Kings handled the situation like amateurs and every time GM Vlade Divac talks, he makes it worse (“we had a better offer two days ago”).
Cousins’ Pelicans run, however, did not get off to an ideal start. Cousins went for 27 points and 14 rebounds, while fellow star forward Anthony Davis had 29 and nine, but the score — a 129-99 thrashing by the Rockets — resembles too many of the ones Cousins suffered in Sacramento. Casspi, meanwhile, broke his thumb in the loss and is out four-to-six weeks.
“Our games complement one another and being together I think is going to make both of our jobs easier,” Cousins said shortly before his first Pelicans practice. “We can wreak havoc on this league. Will it happen overnight? Probably not, but our potential is scary.”
Agreed, but let the Kings enjoy this night, the night they were ahead in the DeMarcus Cousins trade.
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