Kings rookie DeMarcus Cousins showcased both his silky outside shooting touch on spot-up jump shots and inside power with an array of rim-rocking slam dunks on his way to leading the Rookies past the Sophomores 148-140 in Friday night’s Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam at All-Star Weekend.
Although Cousins was edged out of the Rookie Challenge MVP award by Washington Wizards guard John Wall, who finished with a contest-record 22 assists, the Kings center notched game-highs of 33 points (23 in the second half) and 14 rebounds as the first-year squad knocked off the second-year team for the second straight year.
“(It was a) great experience,” said Cousins. “I (tried) to come out and represent for Sacramento. I hope I satisfied the fans tonight, and I had a great time.”
Kings guard Tyreke Evans, who missed the game with a foot injury (plantar fasciitis, left foot), was impressed with his Sacramento teammate’s stellar performance.
“He played (well) — he got into the paint, rebounded and made good moves,” said Evans, who brought the Rookie Challenge MVP award to Northern California a year ago. “I think (Cousins and Wall) should have shared co-MVP.”
Earlier in the day, Kings.com spoke with several All-Stars and NBA analysts, who unanimously agreed the Kings young nucleus has a bright future.
“When I think of DeMarcus Cousins, I think of the future,” said Boston Celtics 14-time All-Star Kevin Garnett. “I thought he was just a pound, power kind of guy, (but) he’s put some agility in his game.”
Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson was similarly impressed by Cousins’ all-around talent, as well as Evans’ immediate NBA impact.
“I think Evans has been tremendous for this league — a great young player who can really put the basketball in the hole,” said Johnson. “I think he has a great future.
“I love (Cousins’) game – great footwork. I think he loves the game and plays with great intensity.”
ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons expressed similar high praise for the Kings young tandem.
“He’s just awesome,” The Sports Guy said of Cousins. “I think he’s going to be great.
“I think (Evans) is an unbelievable athlete, especially in the open floor. He has one of the top five first steps in the League.”
ESPN’s J.A. Adande, meanwhile, praised Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie on consecutive Draft selections and raved about Cousins’ focus and instinctive feel for the game.
“I like (Cousins’) hands, his sense of the game” Adande said. “He’s a good passer, has a lot of court awareness and really goes after the ball. Those are things that aren’t necessarily teachable, and I think he has those innate qualities.”
Cousins once again showcased his entire repertoire underneath L.A.’s bright lights, putting on a spectacular show for the young fans. At the same time, the Kings rookie has also quickly garnered the respect and admiration of All-Star peers and analysts alike.