Warm welcome, dominant return for Cousins

NBA.com Global on Oct 27, 2017 03:21 PM
Warm welcome, dominant return for Cousins
Sacramento Kings fans Aubrianna Andersen, 7, and her father, Kenny, show their support for former King, DeMarcus Cousins, now with the New Orleans Pelicans before their NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Cousins scored 41 points in the first game he played in Sacramento since he was traded last season, to lead the Pelicans to a 114-106 win over the Kings. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

By Matt Petersen, NBA.com

When DeMarcus Cousins was introduced in Sacramento as a visiting player for the first time in his career on Thursday night, he got the reception of his dreams.

Standing ovation. Cheers. Love.

"It was beautiful man," Cousins said afterwards. "A lot of people that know me know I was nervous as hell. I'm thankful to have the years I had in this city. The city and the fans were great to me. I enjoyed my time here. At the end of the day, it's nothing but love."

The three-time All-Star sure had a funny way of showing it.

Cousins didn't just return to the arena where he made 20-point, 10-rebound performances a nightly occurrence. He demolished the Golden 1 Center with the dominant skill set that convinced the Kings to select him fifth overall in 2010. And though Cousins was never able to lead Sacramento to the postseason, he surely reminded them of the talent that made them believe he might one day do so. The 6-10 big man bullied, finessed and downright overwhelmed his former team en route to 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists in 44 minutes of play.

The performance marked the first such 40-point, 20-rebound performance of Cousins' stat-stuffed career. Part of that was no doubt due to the absence of Anthony Davis, who sat out Thursday's game with a left knee injury. That left Cousins lifting double-duty against the team he had tried to lift on his own back for the first six-and-a-half seasons of his career.

His efforts in that time were met with mixed reviews. There was no denying Cousins' generational gifts. There was also little debating that he was a difficult personality, one that Sacramento ultimately felt wasn't worth investing in for longer than it already had.

Did the dramatic setting of his return to Sac-town, along with the weight he would carry without Davis, make him emotional?

"I tried to tune everything out, honestly," Cousins said after his performance. "I was good after the jump ball. Before that, I just wanted to hurry up and get the process over."

It's safe to say the controversial big man accomplished his mission. His return to his NBA roots is over, leaving him free to look ahead to whatever his future with New Orleans holds. More important than Cousins' triumphant return was the win that it produced, pushing the Pelicans to 2-3. Incredibly, New Orleans hasn't started a season that well since the 2014-15 campaign -- the last time the Pelicans made the playoffs, a place Cousins has never been, and where Davis longs to return.

NBA fans, executives and observers are fascinated to see if the twin towers experiment in New Orleans can work. They want to see if Cousins, who sports a career record of 181-311, can be a key piece on a winning team.

They may only have this season to find out, as Cousins is an unrestricted free agent next summer. Odds are good at least one team will open up its wallet to the max to obtain (or keep) Cousins' immense talent, regardless of the lack of victories that have accompanied it.

For now, however, the polarizing big man seems at peace with the here and now, which included a historic night and a much-needed win for his current team.

"We're a team with no excuses," Cousins said. "We think we can battle with the best of them."

Back in his original NBA city, Cousins battled and produced like the best of NBA big men. Now, his sights are set on winning like one.

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