Find out DeMarcus Cousins’ prediction for the Rising Stars Challenge. Plus, players from Team Chuck and Team Shaq share their thoughts on the Kings big man and Friday night All-Star action.
On Friday morning, the League’s top first- and second-year stars split up on squads selected by NBA legends Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley and participated in their lone practice in preparation for the evening’s Rising Stars Challenge at Amway Center.
DeMarcus Cousins, suiting up for Team Chuck and decked out in special All-Star edition Kings-colored sneakers, could barely contain his excitement as he caught lob passes from his teammates to oohs and aahs from fans in attendance.
“It was a good practice – got a nice sweat going, got to communicate with some of the teammates, some of the other players as well,” said the Sacramento big man, adding he is close with many players on each squad from past events.
Cousins also shared a bold prediction for the night’s contest.
“Team Chuck will go home with a ‘W’ – that’s my prediction,” said No. 15. “Hopefully I can get (MVP).”
Cousins’ counterparts raved about the Sacramento center’s tremendous talent and multifaceted skill set, while anticipating a fun-filled and hotly-contested event.
“(DeMarcus) brings so much flair to the game – I was watching him the other night, and he threw it between somebody’s legs, so this is the perfect setting for him,” said Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving. “I think most people kind of underestimate how good he is and how good he can be. He’s going to be a great player in this league.”
Cousins’ former collegiate teammate and current Washington Wizards guard John Wall says he is thrilled to reunite on the court with one of his long-time friends.
“It’s great. It’s fun. It’s always good to play with somebody who’s like a brother to you, that you went to college with – (we’re) just enjoying ourselves,” said Wall.
Despite the flashy moves and highlight-reel-worthy dunks that typically accompany the exhibition contest, Cousins and Wall are focused on coming out victorious in what the Wizards’ No. 2 believes will be a riveting evening.
“It’s always good to play in front of these people – a lot of NBA guys who’ll be in the All-Star Game come out and watch you, your family and friends are here,” he said. “You just enjoy yourself and have a great time, but also know that you want to come out with a win, that’s the main thing.”
All-Star Blake Griffin acknowledges the Rising Stars Challenge is more renowned for high-scoring displays – rhetorically asking, “Is there defense in this game?” – but is nonetheless prepared for the tough task of defending Cousins.
“DeMarcus Cousins is very talented – you see him some games, and he looks unstoppable,” said Griffin. “Right now he’s learning, he’s young, and I think he’s got a very bright future.”
Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe joins his Team Shaq teammate in sharing eagerness for his matchup with the Kings fellow second-year big man.
“DeMarcus has improved a whole lot,” said Monroe. “He’s been putting up some ridiculous numbers – it’s been crazy.”
For Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Derrick Williams, getting a chance to know Cousins off the court has proven to be both an entertaining and eye-opening experience.
“That dude’s funny, man,” says the 2012 NBA Slam Dunk Contest participant. “He’s always happy … He just loves to have fun and he really backs it up with his game.”
Williams believes Cousins will be essential in helping thwart the Ricky Rubio-to-Griffin alley-oops, while also providing an immense lift on the offensive end.
“I think he has, what, the second-most double-doubles behind (Kevin) Love? He’s done a great job so far,” said the University of Arizona product. “He’s another big man who can score in the post, who can shoot, who can push the ball a little bit – he really does help the entire game.”
Indiana Pacers guard Paul George, who hopes the game will be a more “traditional” basketball contest, echoes Williams’ sentiment about Cousins and believes No. 15 is on the verge of becoming a perennial All-Star.
“DeMarcus will be in that Sunday game. He’s somebody who’ll be in this league for a long time,” said George. “You talk about the ability to do everything on the court, and the heart that he has for this game – he’s a phenomenal player.”
Catch the Rising Stars Challenge Friday at 6 p.m. PST, and be sure to use the hashtag #KingsAS12 to discuss the action with fellow Kings fans on Twitter.