Cousins benched in fourth quarter over 'coach's decision' in Pelicans win

Cousins benched in fourth quarter over 'coach's decision' in Pelicans win

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Anthony Davis didn't seem fazed that fellow All-Star DeMarcus Cousins was sitting on the bench during crunch time.

Instead, he just took over.

Davis scored 46 points and grabbed 21 rebounds Saturday night, leading the New Orleans Pelicans to a 125-122 victory in overtime against the Charlotte Hornets. He had 15 points in the fourth quarter and nine more in overtime, including a three-point play on an offensive rebound to put the Pelicans ahead for good with 1:11 left in the extra period.

The Pelicans won despite Cousins not returning to the court after picking up his fifth foul with 9 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Cousins declined interviews after the game.

"It's Coach's decision," Davis said. "All that matters is that we won. All that other stuff, it doesn't matter. No one cares about that. We're just trying to get wins. Whatever it takes."

When asked about pairing Cousins with Davis on the floor, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said: "What we need is time to make it work."

New Orleans had hoped to make up ground in the Western Conference standings, but came in just 2-6 since acquiring Cousins in a blockbuster All-Star weekend trade with the Sacramento Kings.

Cousins seemed frustrated most of the night grappling with scrappy Hornets center Cody Zeller, who dunked over Cousins on a fastbreak after Cousins turned the ball over in the front court on a bad pass.

Cousins picked up his third foul with 4 1/2 minutes to go in the second quarter, forcing him to the bench. He got his fifth when he appeared to lose his cool early in the fourth quarter when he blatantly threw his elbow at Zeller and was called for an offensive foul.

With Cousins out, Davis went on a tear.

He made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished 18 of 31 from the field, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc.

"The movement that he had and the spacing he created I thought was the way he got most of his shots," Gentry said of Davis. "He was very good creating and going quickly and not giving them an opportunity to double him. When he does that and he gets into space and he's feeling good about his shot and what he's doing, he's very difficult to guard."

After a turnover by Charlotte's Nic Batum and a missed 3-pointer, Davis drove the lane and made a floater to put the Pelicans up by 5 with 20 seconds left in overtime. Batum scored on a layup to cut the lead to 123-120, but Holiday added two free throws and it appeared the game was over.

But after a layup by Marco Belinelli, Holiday was called for traveling in the backcourt with 1.8 seconds left giving the Hornets a chance to send the game into double overtime. However, Walker's long 3-point attempt was off the mark at the buzzer.

The Hornets had a chance to win at the end of regulation after Davis missed a baseline jumper with 8 seconds left.

TIP INS

Pelicans: Jordan Crawford had 19 points and Holiday added 15 points and 13 assists. ... Davis started despite injuring his wrist in Wednesday night's 94-87 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Hornets: Attempted 46 3-point shots, making just 13.

ZELLER: COUSINS A TOUGH COVER

Zeller had nothing but positive things to say about Cousins after the game.

"He's such a talented player that you just try to make it tough on him, try to take away all of his easy ones, keep him off the free throw line, the offensive glass," said Zeller, who limited Cousins to 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

WILLIAMS BIG NIGHT

The Pelicans' win offset an impressive night from Marvin Williams, who had a season-high 27 points to go along with 10 rebounds for Charlotte. Kemba Walker had 24 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds and Batum also scored 24 points.

"He's been huge for us all season, especially how he organizes us on defense and stuff that fans that don't necessarily notice," Zeller said.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: Return home to host Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Hornets: Play at home Monday night against the Chicago Bulls, a team they are chasing for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Calipari sees Labissiere's progress during rookie season: 'I give Sac credit'

Calipari sees Labissiere's progress during rookie season: 'I give Sac credit'

Nothing has come easy for Skal Labissiere. He survived the earthquakes in Haiti. He moved to the United States speaking only only French and Haitian Creole as a young teenager. And his lone season at Kentucky he went from a top five prospect to a player that nearly fell out of the first round.

The knock on Labissiere coming out of Kentucky was that he didn’t like contact. Maybe it went farther than that, but there was no question that when he left for the NBA, he didn’t exactly walk away on the best of terms with head coach John Calipari.

When the Kings took on the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center in the final week of the regular season, Calipari sat in the stands watching a small group of his former players. During the telecast, NBC Sports California’s Kayte Christensen caught up with the legendary coach and he couldn’t stop gushing about his Wildcats alums, specifically the play of Labissiere.

“I look at Skal and the progress - I give Sac credit,” Calipari told Christensen. “These guys are working with him. He’s playing more confident. They’re putting him in positions he can have success. I didn’t do as good a job as they did.”

Labissiere went off for 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting against Los Angeles. He added three rebounds and two blocks, but the Kings stumbled down the stretch, allowing the Lakers to come away with the 98-94 victory.

In his freshman season at Kentucky, Labissiere scored more than 19 points just once, a 26 point outburst in his second game of the year against NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology). His highwater mark in his rookie season for the Kings was a 32-point, 11-rebound performance against the Phoenix Suns on March 15.

“He’s getting stronger, he’s growing, you can see him maturing physically, which was a big part of it,” Calipari said. “He had a good season with us, but, I used him wrong. Now I see him now, it’s amazing he’ll speak for me after I’m watching him play like this.”

The 21-year-old power forward has a smile that lights up a room. He even uses it as a defense mechanism when things get uncomfortable. Speaking about his time in Kentucky seems uncomfortable for the 6-foot-11 forward.

“Coach Cal, he does a really good job of getting guys ready for the next level,” Labissiere told NBC Sports California. “I appreciate him.”

Labissiere is looking ahead, not backwards. He is a an incredible talent and he is thankful for the job that Dave Joerger and his staff have done with him during his first season in the NBA.

“Coach Joerger, every since I was drafted here, he’s always believed in me,” Labissiere said. “He’s always putting me in the right positions, making me work on different things that normally I didn’t do in college. He’s making me do different things and believing in me. I love playing for him.”

Kentucky has produced some of the best big men in the game, including DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. It’s a hotbed for talent, but specifically for centers and power forwards that take their game to the next level in the pros.

Labissiere would love to be included in that list, but he isn’t trying to be someone he’s not. His focus is on improving and helping his team win games.

“I don’t know, I’m just working for myself, doing what I’m supposed to do,” Labissiere said. “If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m just going to keep doing my thing.”

The Kings have big plans for Labissiere and the rest of their young core this summer. Labissiere will likely join the team’s three other 2016 first round picks in Las Vegas for Summer League in July. Another two or three rookies from the 2017 NBA Draft will likely join them as Sacramento attempts to build some early chemistry amongst.

Following Summer League, Labissiere is scheduled to travel to Haiti where he will hold a basketball camp in his home country. It’s the first time he’s been back to Haiti since moving to the US following the earthquake in 2010.

Labissiere wasn’t the only Kentucky product on display for Sacramento against the Lakers. Willie Cauley-Stein spent three seasons under Calipari before going sixth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Cauley-Stein put up solid numbers in front of his former coach, finishing the game against the Lakers with 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in just 23 minutes of action.

“Willie is doing what he does,” Calipari said. “He’s flying up and down that floor, he’s blocking shots. He seems to have some freedoms to do some of the stuff he does well.”

Cauley-Stein is a completely different player two season removed from his time at Kentucky. He finished strong down the stretch for Sacramento, showing a newfound confidence in his scoring ability.

“It’s a great feeling, I don’t think he’s watched me play like that since I left,” Cauley-Stein said. “It was cool to get a chance to see him and show him things I’ve worked on and I’ve gotten better. It was really satisfying, [him] telling me I got better, so I know I’m [going] in the right direction.”

It’s clear that Labissiere and Cauley-Stein had a very different experience at Kentucky. The end result might work out just fine for the Sacramento Kings. The duo played alongside one another for plenty of games down the stretch as the team’s starting frontcourt. It’s a look Kings fans might get used to seeing going forward.

 

Source: Kings hire Perry as Executive VP of Basketball Operations

Source: Kings hire Perry as Executive VP of Basketball Operations

SACRAMENTO -- The changes keep coming in Sacramento. NBC Sports California has confirmed that the Kings have hired former Orlando Magic executive, Scott Perry, to fill the role of Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

Perry will report directly to Vlade Divac, who will retain final say in player personnel decisions.

Perry spent the last five seasons in Orlando as Vice President of Basketball Operations and Assistant General Manager. He was let go from the Magic last week following the dismissal of General Manager Rob Hennigan.

Perry, 53, began his career as an executive with the Detroit Pistons where he held the position of Director of Player Personnel from 2000-2007. He briefly left the Pistons, joining the Seattle Supersonics organization as an Assistant General Manager of the team for the 2007-08 season, before spending another four years as Detroit’s Vice President of Basketball Operations from 2008-2012.

Highly regarded around the league, Perry adds another experienced basketball mind to the Kings front office.

During his postseason media availability last week, Vlade Divac spoke openly about his willingness to accept additional help.

“We’re open always to improve - the team, the front office, everything is open for improvement,” Divac said. “I’m very happy and confident in what we have right now, but like I said, we should be open if something can you better.”

With the addition of Luke Bornn on Wednesday to head up the team’s analytics department, and Perry on Friday, the Kings appear to be building a stronger infrastructure as they move into a full youth movement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical was first with the information.