Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — In his lone season at Kentucky, DeMarcus Cousins was part of a team that won 35 games and lost just 3.
Less than halfway into his rookie season in the NBA, his Sacramento Kings club has won just 9 games while losing 28.
“It’s been a tough process,” the 6-foot-11 Cousins said after putting up 16 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks in the Kings’ 93-83 win Friday over the Knicks at MSG.
“I don’t want to say I’m getting used to it because nobody wants to get used to losing. I’m kind of taking a positive take to it. I mean, I know we’re growing as a team, we’re a young team, we’re full of potential. Let’s just get better every game and that’s what we’re doing.”
Prior to last summer’s NBA Draft, Cousins was knocked for his immaturity and unpredictability. He still angers and annoys some fans when he rolls his eyes and complains on foul calls.
“He would admit himself that he has quite a bit of maturing to do,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “But it’s basically born out of passion. He cares so much and if some play goes against him, he has a short fuse. And he’s got to learn how to add more poise to his game and he’s doing a better job of that all the time.’
The No. 5 pick in the Draft, Cousins is averaging 12.8 points and 7.7 rebounds on the season. Over his last 10 games, he’s averaged 16.5 points and 8.7 boards. He hasn’t fouled out in his last 13 games.
“He’s progressing great,” Westphal said of Cousins. “He’s going to have some games where he doesn’t shoot the ball well, like [Friday] he had a few turnovers and missed some easy shots and was impatient sometimes. But that’s all part of the learning process.
“He’s a fearless competitor. He always wants to be in the game, and he’s always battling.”
Other than his former teammate John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick, none of the players selected ahead of Cousins are contributing as much as the former Kentucky big man.
Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick, is averaging 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds with Philadelphia.
No. 3 pick Derrick Favors averages 6.7 points and 5.0 rebounds with the Nets.
And Wesley Johnson, the No. 4 pick by Minnesota, averages 9.1 points and 2.9 rebounds.
Cousins said he talks to Wall and former teammate Eric Bledsoe of the Clippers on a regular basis.
“We really just talk about ourselves individually,” Cousins said of Wall. “He’ll tell me what I need to work on and I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, you need to do this.’ We really just say what we think we need to do when we see each other play. Same thing with Eric.”
One thing Cousins needs to work on is balance.
“A lot of my shots, I’m off balance,” he said.
“He’s just got to learn a little bit of patience and get on better balance sometimes,” Westphal added. “Sometimes he hurries.”
As he’s made the transition from college to the NBA, Cousins has been impressed by the quality of talent in the pros. He’s especially awed by Blake Griffin, Bledsoe’s teammate with the Clippers.
“Everybody who’s got that name, they’re legit,” Cousins said. “There’s no fakes in this league. There’s no fakes.”
As for his former college team, Cousins admits he hasn’t had much of a chance to see the Wildcats, who now feature a new group of potential one-and-done stars in Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.