Kendrick E. Johnson
The Sacramento Kings (25-35) are slowly but surely making a push for their first playoff berth in a decade.
After starting off the season with a horrendous 1-7 record, the Kings have quietly turned things around, playing near .500 ball since mid-November posting a 23-25 record. A big reason for the positive change has been the consistent All-Star type play from their franchise center DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins. Although he’s encouraged by the Kings recent consistent play, Cousins knows there’s a long road to travel if his Kings are going to break Sacramento’s playoff drought.
“It’s good for us that we are turning it around and we’re on the right path,” Cousins said after a double-overtime loss to the Dallas Mavericks. “We still got a lot of want to be on the team, we still make a lot of mistakes on the floor, but we are on the right path and I’ve been working towards getting us to be that team we want to be.”
Individually, “Boogie” has improved his all-around play by adding a perimeter game to complement his polished post game; which led to him being named to his second consecutive All-Star team. Despite the criticism, he received outside of the organization for bringing an aggressive attitude to the court, Cousins, unlike in years past, has teammates referring to him as a leader.
This is something which bodes well for the Kings in the future if they continue to build around Cousins as they move into the new Golden 1 Center next season.
A perfect example of how much Cousins has matured was on display recently against the San Antonio Spurs.
After struggling through the first half by going 0-of-10 from the field while only scoring one point. Instead of being frustrated due to a sluggish performance, Cousins buckled down to go 8 of 13 from the field to score 21 of his game-high 22 points, to put the Kings in position for a big home victory. Although Cousins needs to continue maturing, his outstanding play this season has stood out to one future Hall of Famer.
“He might be the best big man in the league right now. Just adding the shooting to it now, he was always a beast on the low block because he’s so heavy, he can go over both shoulders,” Mavericks Future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki said after Cousins’ thrilling performance. “He’s good off the dribble both ways. He’s got a great knack of getting fouled in there and getting to the line. Now he added the pick-and-pop and those trailer 3s. He’s as tough to guard as there is in this league.”
After being in the Association for six years, Cousins definitely appreciated the high praise from someone as great as Nowitzki. With the Kings being labeled as perennial losers, Cousins’ ultimate focus is based around team success over any individual accolades.
In the Kings last 10-games, Cousins is averaging 26.9 points and 11.2 rebounds a game while scoring 28 points or more in four of their last six games. Although the Kings only sport a (3-3) record in this span, they are currently on a three-game winning streak and only 3.5 games behind the Utah Jazz for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“I need the playoffs. That’s the only thing on my mind is getting to the playoffs,” Cousins said.
When pressed if getting to the playoffs would be the biggest accomplishment of his career, the All-Star center said, “Absolutely.” Without skipping a beat, Cousins would add his take on feeling pressure to deliver a playoff spot.“I feel pressure from myself. Nobody’s expectations are high than my own.”