--- The Sacramento Kings returned to the practice court on Tuesday afternoon with a complete squad. Omri Casspi played the entire session, as did James Anderson who has been nursing a sore hamstring. All 13 players are expected to be in uniform and able-bodied on Wednesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.
In a surprise move, DeMarcus Cousins made a rare appearance in the media chair. The 25-year-old center is almost always available during post game, but seldom does he make his way over to the cameras and microphones during practice sessions.
The small group of local media peppered the All-Star big, mainly about his current hot streak and the team’s preparation for the big week ahead.
“I’ve never been in this situation before,” Cousins said about the Kings playoff chatter. “I’m excited to see what happens. In my heart I believe that we’re going to be in the playoffs this season. So I’ll just keep fighting.”
Sacramento fans have been here before with this team. With winnable games in front of them, the Kings laid eggs on multiple occasions. Those losses may come back to haunt the team later, but it’s time to focus on what is ahead of this team, not the past.
“I feel like it was the time a while ago,” Cousins said. “I feel like we had a stretch earlier in the year that we didn’t take advantage of. You sit back and think about some of those losses, we’re a team in the six spot right now. You just don’t want to continue to make some of those same mistakes you made earlier in the year. It’s really not a time where you can take two steps back. It’s two steps forward, four steps forward. We’ve got to just got to keep continuing to grow as a team.”
Cousins was clear that there is a cultural change happening with the franchise. For the first time in his five-plus seasons in the NBA, his team is in the thick of the playoff conversation in January. The club is hopeful to push through and break the franchise’s nine season playoff drought.
“It’s definitely a better feeling,” Cousins said. “It’s a better vibe. It’s the best vibe I’ve seen since I’ve been in Sacramento.”
In the month of January, Cousins is averaging 32.4 points and 13 rebounds per game and the Kings are 3-2 over that stretch. On the season, Cousins is averaging a career-high 25.6 points and he is a double-double machine. He currently ranks ninth in All-Star voting amongst Western Conference forwards, but his stats scream star.
“I’m not really focused on that part,” Cousins said. “I mean, I’ve done the high scoring or whatever the case may be. I’m just trying to win games. My goal this year is playoffs. That’s something I haven’t done. That’s what’s on my mind.”
Sacramento remains just two games out of the eight spot in the Western Conference, despite their 15-22 record. It’s been a struggle to find consistency and injuries to key players haven’t helped. But here they sit, so close they can almost taste it.
“We weren’t supposed to just get it training camp I didn’t believe,” Cousins added. “Everybody wishes it would have happened earlier, we wish we could have some of those losses back from earlier in the season. But these are the cards we were dealt. This is the hole we dug for ourselves and we’ve got to get ourselves out of it.”
This is a big week for the Kings. After a three day layoff to rest and hit the practice floor, they face the Pelicans, Jazz, Clippers and Lakers over the next seven days. A healthy and focused Cousins could be the difference for a hungry team in search of playoff glory.