Programming note:Kings-Suns coverage gets underway tonight at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, having energy to burn after playing only 20 minutes in Wednesday night’s loss to the Warriors, became the world’s tallest waiter in the team’s lockerroom. If he wasn’t retrieving an energy drink for a columnist, he was offering a forkful of mashed potatoes to a cameraman and inviting reporters to help themselves to the rest of the team’s postgame soul-food buffet.
“Want some?” he asked me, motioning to his plate. “It’s goooood.”
When I thanked him but declined, he turned to teammate and fellow Kentucky Wildcat alumnus Patrick Patterson.
“Can I fix you a plate?” Cousins asked him.
“Would you be so kind?” Patterson said.
Cousins: “Need a fork?”
Patterson: “You already know.”
A 6’11”, 270-pound man-child requesting and fulfilling orders with shouts – affable ones, but shouts nonetheless -- across a lockerroom after a last-second loss doesn’t go unnoticed. And maybe that’s the point.
Before he became a one-man room service, reporters crowded around him and asked about his scant playing time and the biting loss after beating the Warriors in their first two meetings, games in which Cousins was a one-man wrecking crew – 23 points and 15 rebounds in 94-92 win in November, 24 points and seven rebounds in a 131-127 overtime win in December.
In Wednesday night’s 87-83 loss? Five points, four rebounds.
The Warriors’ big man, Andrew Bogut, was still working his way back from ankle surgery in the first meeting and missed the second one, but power forward David Lee guarded Cousins Wednesday night.
Cousins did his best to answer the questions in a way that suggested he wasn’t affected by the loss or his lack of playing time in it. I was later told he intended his catering effort as a way of showing he could’ve provided more in the game if given a chance, although it’s hard to blame coach Keith Smart for sitting him down. Cousins did not appear to be paying attention during timeouts and, while not much of a rim protector on the best of days (he’s averaging .7 blocked shots a game), he was so woefully late on defensive rotations that at one point Lee gathered a pass, paused in shock to find himself so open, dribbled twice and dunked uncontested.
Patterson is a 6’9” power forward acquired from the Houston Rockets at the trade deadline for, primarily, the Kings’ lottery pick, power forward Thomas Robinson. He and Cousins are both in their third NBA season. Cousins was the fifth pick, Patterson was the 14th, two of five Wildcats that went in the first round of the 2010 NBA draft. Despite all that talent, which included No. 1 pick John Wall, Kentucky failed to go beyond the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament.
Cousins is 22, seemingly going on 15. Patterson is 23 and comes off as having the maturity of someone in his 30s. His game has steadily evolved and whatever has been asked of him, he’s tried to adopt. In Houston this season it was adding a three-point shot to open driving lanes for James Harden and Jeremy Lin. After attempting five three-pointers his first two seasons – all misses – he averaged two a game in Houston this season and shot a respectable 36.5 percent.
He was “frustrated, let-down and disappointed” when he first learned he had been traded by the playoff-hunting Rockets to the lottery-bound, possibly-moving-to-Seattle Kings, but has since embraced the challenge of being a leader on a team that desperately needs one. No one said at the time that they had acquired him to provide a calming influence on Cousins.
“They’ve since brought it to my attention that ‘one of the reasons we have you here is for DeMarcus,” he said. “I’m not sure how he feels about his situation here. I haven’t talked to him about that yet. But at Kentucky, he felt he had a group around him that felt a little homey. I’m going to treat him like a little brother, like I did at Kentucky.”
He then glanced over at Cousins preparing a to-go container for him. “If he’s making plates,” Patterson said, “we’re headed in the right direction.”