SACRAMENTO -- There is bad blood between the Kings and Clippers. There has been for multiple seasons and it’s not likely to get better anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a ton of mutual respect as well, and maybe even a few friendships behind the scenes.
DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin - they love to hate each other. It’s a war of words for 48 minutes and sometimes it’s more than that. But Cousins and big man DeAndre Jordan have developed a bond that goes beyond the jerseys on their backs.
“It’s always something, I’m kind of the mediator,” Jordan told CSN California prior to the Clippers taking shootaround at Golden 1 Center on Friday. “DeMarcus is a competitor, man. So is Chris, so is Blake, so am I. None of us wants to lose once the ball tips up.”
Paul has struggled with a hamstring injury, but returned to play in the Clippers 108-96 win over the Kings on Friday night. Griffin is out for a while with a knee injury, but his frontcourt mate is always ready for a heavy dose of the big fella.
“That’s my guy,” Jordan said. “He’s a hell of a player, I love playing against DeMarcus, I know every time it’s going to be a challenge on both ends of the floor.”
Jordan finished ahead of Cousins at the center position in voting for the All-NBA first team, pushing the Kings big man to the second team. He always looks forward to battling against another one of the best bigs in the game.
“He’s so talented, man,” Jordan said of Cousins. “He’s so talented. He’s a really good basketball player. One of the top bigs in our game. It’s always a challenge and a great time whenever we face off.”
Jordan spent time this summer playing alongside Cousins with Team USA and had nothing but glowing things to say about the two-time All-Star.
“I think he’s a really great teammate,” Jordan said. “Honestly, he’s super competitive and he loves the game of basketball. It was cool playing with him this summer.”
The feeling is mutual. Cousins and Jordan share an agent, which has helped them develop an even tighter bond. Cousins said that the two have spent time off the court together, including dinner at Jordan’s home with his family.
“He’s a fun loving guy,” Cousins told CSN California following the loss to the Clippers. “He’s a great energy to be around. He always has a positive vibe to him, you just enjoy being around people like that. I think the feeling is mutual.”
The two weren’t friends once the action started on Friday evening. Cousins tried to draw Jordan away from the basket and attempted to beat him off the dribble. He battled Jordan in the post and tried to pick up fouls on the defensive-minded big.
Cousins finished the night with 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and three steals, but it was Jordan’s team that came out on top.
The Clippers star center hit the glass and patiently waited for Paul to set him up for alley-oop dunks. He finished the night with 20 points and nine rebounds in the win.
The contrast in style between the two bigs is huge, but according to Cousins, they have a lot in common off the floor.
“We’re basically two goofballs,” Cousins said. “We like to joke around, we like to have fun - me and DJ are very similar in those aspects.”
When it comes to gametime, they are ready to put their friendship aside and go to battle. While they are stylistically different, they both play a physical game.
Basically, it’s two giants pounding on each other from start to finish.
“Hell yeah, that’s a big ass dude, man,” Jordan said with a smile when asked if he’s sore after playing against Cousins. “I hope that he would say he’s sore after playing against me too.”
At the end of the day, it’s just a basketball game. There is a ton of respect between the two centers. Once the final score is posted, they have the ability to take a deep breath and get back to being friends.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to win a basketball game,” Jordan said. “After that, we’re dapping each other and having a good time talking trash and laughing. But those 48 minutes, we’re trying to win a basketball game - it’s all about the competition.”
The Clippers hold a 2-0 advantage in the season series with Sacramento. The two bigs will have to wait until March to face off again and then they’ll finish the season against one another on April 12.