Has Cousins turned a corner under Smart?

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Has Cousins turned a corner under Smart?

What a difference a coach makes. Let's go back to January 1, when then Kings head coach Paul Westphal commented about his (at the time) troubled young center, DeMarcus Cousins."When a player continually, aggressively, lets it be known that he is unwillingunable to embrace traveling in the same direction as his team, it cannot be ignored indefinitely. DeMarcus Cousins has demanded to be traded."Cousins said this to Fox Sports Florida yesterday, re-stating what he had said after Westphal's New Year's day comments:
"I did not ask for a trade. That's what he said, and that's what the story got put out. I just had to take that one on the chin. There wasn't much I could really say. I don't really understand what his motives were, but that's what he said."
The Kings essentially sided with the talented 21-year-old Cousins in his battle with Westphal and fired the head coach on Jan. 5 after he posted a 51-120 record in two-plus seasons with Sacramento.Enter Kings assistant and former Warriors head coach Keith Smart, who was handed the reigns of what looked like a bad job -- a losing team, disgruntled star player, and the cloud of a potential Kings move hanging over Sacramento.
Cousins on his new head coach:
"It's been incredible. I've learned a lot. I've become a better player just from him taking over some things, and I enjoy playing in the system. Everything is great. Everything has been positive."Eveything except the wins and losses, of course. The Kings are struggling with a 10-22 record and are in the middle of a six-game losing streak.Cousins and Smart however, are seemingly in the middle of a love-fest.In fact, Cousins told Fox Sports Florida that he has given Smart his keypad code to his gated community so his coach can come and visit him as he pleases. And according to the story, the two recently enjoyed Gumbo prepared by the player's family at Cousins' house.
The Gumbo dinners might be paying off, at least as Cousins' stat line is concerned.RELATED: DeMarcus Cousins game logs Stats Splits NewsIn 24 games under Smart, Cousins' numbers have improved from his playing-under-Westphal days. His points per game are up from 14.1 to 17.4; his rebounds are up from 8.7 to 11.8; field goal percentage is up from 42.7 to 46.1 since Keith Smart took over.The answers are in the events, and Cousins' elevated numbers have to be considered good news for Kings fans. But perhaps an even better sign is Cousins acknowledging that it's about wins in the NBA, not individual stats.
"They're impressive numbers. But, at the same time, we're not collecting wins."

Has DeMarcus Cousins turned a corner in his professional career and is Keith Smart
his catalyst for change? Or is this just a temporary correction in the career of a highly-talented but ultimately a "me-first" player as has been widely reported?

The answers will be in the events.

You can link to the full Fox Sports story on DeMarcus Cousins here

Geoff James is a writer and web producer for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

Instant Replay: Second quarter kills Kings in loss to T'Wolves

Instant Replay: Second quarter kills Kings in loss to T'Wolves

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- Adjusting to life without DeMarcus Cousins is proving more difficult than the Kings thought. For the second straight game, Sacramento struggled to score the ball, falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves by a final of 102-88 Monday night at Golden 1 Center.

Karl-Anthony Towns continued his strong play. The second-year big is quickly becoming one of the best bigs in the game and at age 21, the sky's the limit. Towns dropped in 29 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked three shots as the Timberwolves improved to 24-36 on the season.

Andrew Wiggins had a big night as well. He got off to a slow start, but once he started playing the passing lanes it opened up everything for Minnesota. The talented 22-year-old finished the night with 27 points on 10-for-22 shooting and added four steals.

Ricky Rubio chipped in nine points and dished out 11 assists. Nemanja Bjelica added 10 points and 12 rebounds in the win.

Kosta Koufos overpowered the Timberwolves in the post. The Kings starting center scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.

Ben McLemore drew the tough assignment of guarding Wiggins and held his own early. But once the high-flying wing got going, McLemore had no answer. On the offensive end, he finished the night with 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting.

Willie Cauley-Stein scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists. Ty Lawson went for 11 points and nine assists, while Tyreke Evans picked it up late, scoring 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Wiggins and Towns put on a show. Give these two a couple of seasons and they might be the best duo in the game.

TURNING POINT:
The Kings looked completely lost in the second quarter and the Timberwolves ran them off the floor. After a competitive first 12 minutes of action, Minnesota outscored Sacramento 40-19 in the quarter to take a 60-44 lead into the intermission. Game over.

INJURY UPDATE:
Arron Afflalo missed his third straight game with a sore hamstring. Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson sat again with varying degrees of hamstring issues. Temple is out for another few games with a left hamstring tear and rookie Richardson is out 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring thickness tear, but hopes to return before the season is finished. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings continue their homestand Wednesday when the Brooklyn Nets swing by Golden 1 Center.

 

1-on-1 with Cauley-Stein: Finally having a good time in Sacramento

1-on-1 with Cauley-Stein: Finally having a good time in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO -- Anointing Willie Cauley-Stein as the savior of the Sacramento Kings is a mistake. One player cannot replace the incredible impact on the floor of the departed DeMarcus Cousins. Placing that type of pressure on a young player can do more damage than good.

The second-year big man came out hot in the team’s first game without Cousins, scoring a career-high 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He backed that up by struggling against the Charlotte Hornets, posting just two points and two rebounds as Steve Clifford had his club clog the middle and take away the pick-and-roll.

Cauley-Stein is neither the superstar that sunk the Denver Nuggets, nor the player that struggled against the Hornets. He is somewhere in between and the Kentucky product has plenty of time to carve out his own path.

It will take a team effort to replace Cousins and even then, Sacramento will have to add more pieces in the offseason. For now, Cauley-Stein will get an opportunity to earn his paycheck. There are plenty of minutes of the 23-year-old 7-footer who sat down with CSN California this week to discuss his increased role with the Kings.

JH: What has this experience been for you, not only getting 35 minutes, but getting 22 shots attempts, How big is this opportunity for you?

WCS: It’s brand new, but it’s what you want, you know. It’s a situation you want to come to. Now it’s just all about believing - believing it’s consistent. Staying in an assassin's mind frame of just, come in, do your dirt and get out and hopefully you can compete enough to get the win. I can’t stress enough about how I’ve just got to be locked in, because I want that, I want this, I want this opportunity, I want to capitalize on it. (I want to) start getting some clout in the league.

JH: You’ve been known as a defensive-minded player your entire college career. How do you change people's mind and make them see that you can be something different?

WCS: You know, you never will, you never will. People want to see you how they want you. And I went a few years now trying to change people’s perception of what they think you should be. It’s what you want to be. I no longer care about what my critics say. How are they going to tell me what my game is and what I work on and what I don’t work on? You’ve just got to believe in your work, believe in your path. At this point, I’m really in-tune to what I’m trying to do.

JH: Does it help you that you’re surrounded by young players, as well as veterans? With these young players, you’re on the same path and the veterans are there to support you.

WCS: It’s great because, you know, being a young guy and getting to play with guys that you’re in a platoon with and you grind with everyday - it’s special, because you see each others work get put on the big stage. It’s cool to see the success start to happen, because it’s bad when you’re grinding, you’re grinding, you’re grinding and nothing’s happening and you’re just grinding. And then you finally get that break and then it’s like those three months you were going through while you were grinding, it’s like they don’t even exist in your head anymore and it’s wild once you get just a lick of success.

JH: I’ve seen you in the past not aggressively attacking the glass. And now we see you hammering these putbacks. Everything at the rim is aggressive and forceful. When did the light switch get hit for you? Now you’re just attacking.

WCS: That’s just what they ask me to do. Before, I had a backburner role. So playing 15 minutes, you’ve got to really good to get double-digit boards, especially when your scouter is saying - “don’t let him get boards, the only thing in this game he is going to do is get boards.” That’s just the way it was set up for us to do and now the scouting report has just gotten so much bigger, it’s like, you can’t take away all my strengths and that’s where it becomes big.

JH: Again, you came into the league as a defensive player, but you’ve had some struggles there as well. Do you think that’s going to come to you now that the aggression is there, you’re in the mix, you’re getting longer stretches to read people and know their tendencies?

WCS: For sure, definitely by just being aggressive, it’s going to come. At this point, a lot of our success is going to depend on how I’m playing. So if I stay at least consistent on defense like that, then there’s no problems if you’re not giving up anything. I’m blessed, I can do that.

JH: Are you having a good time?

WCS: (smiling) Finally, yeah, yeah I am.

JH: Does that have to do with the opportunity or does it have to do with the change in culture and the change in atmosphere around here?

WCS: It’s the change in everything and getting to be a part of it - a big part of it. It’s cool just to feel that love and that support from our upper management and the rest of our team, so that’s special, which is also going to fuel me on the floor. It’s a double-win.