DeMarcus Cousins discusses his drive to enter training camp in top physical condition, as well as his goals for the upcoming season. Plus, Coach Smart dishes on the team’s new-look offense.
DeMarcus Cousins this year entered Kings Training Camp in peak shape, which was immediately evident to his coaches and teammates.
“Right away, you notice his conditioning level,” says Head Coach Keith Smart, noting the big man is likely in the best shape of his young career. “Right away, you see where his body is, you see where his wind conditioning is and where he is as a basketball player to move forward.”
“Weight-wise, he looks different,” affirmed Tyreke Evans. “He looks like he’s in shape and ready.”
Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie has similarly been pleased with the 6-foot-11 center’s work ethic and commitment.
“He’s the best-prepared – at this point, anyway, at the start of the season,” says Petrie. “He’s doing a good job. He’s in good condition, and he’s just going to continue to get better.”
Cousins – whose personal goal is earning an All-Star berth in his third season – revealed tip-top conditioning was the driving force in his strict summer workouts. The Kentucky product disclosed he ran sprints daily and paid close attention to his caloric intake.
“I want to come in each season better than I was the last, so conditioning-wise, I wanted to be in even better shape,” said No. 15.
“I ate better, I watched how much I ate (and) tried not to eat late at night. I did a lot of running this offseason, so that’s where most of (the weight loss) came from.”
Already deft at running the floor and quick enough to blow past many NBA centers, Cousins, who also possesses a consistent midrange jumper, plans to continue punishing opposing defenders with a more polished inside-outside game.
“I worked on every part of my game – from posting up to outside (shooting),” he continued.
“My range will be out a little more, but basically (I’m bringing) the same game.”
With a stronger frame and a determined mindset, Smart anticipates Cousins will not only continue to put up impressive numbers in the scoring column, but also emerge as a greater defensive force.
“The kid is unbelievably skilled as an offensive player, but I want to tie that knot to where he becomes a good offensive player and (an adequately) good defensive player,” says the Kings leader.
“As I’ve shared with him, he should be in the hunt of an honorable mention (NBA All-Defensive Team) spot. And it’s not blocking shots – it’s being where you need to be, it’s being a difficult guy to score on … (and) giving the ultimate effort from a defensive-side.”
Cousins – who averaged 11.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks, in addition to a League-leading 50 charges-taken in 2011-12 – believes he’s underrated as a defender, but acknowledges he still has room to grow to reach an elite level.
“I feel like I’ve still got a lot of work to do,” he says. “But I don’t feel like I’m that far off.”
– Smart revealed the Kings will use a variation of the triangle offense this season, emphasizing ball movement to create easier shots while maximizing player craftiness and court vision.
“We’re using something that’s a little bit of the triangle offense, and trying to give our guys maximum space on the floor first,” he says.
“We’ll have a variation of some things – I want to go through some motion, we’ll use a couple other sets with motion so I can get the ball moving … We’ll still be a pick-and-roll team, we’ll still use the skill of our post in DeMarcus Cousins to force teams to come double us and make the game a little easier, but I’m also looking at offenses that can help us move the basketball where we don’t have to dribble so much.”
After building trust in each other on and off the court, the Kings have focused on learning the ins-and-outs of the offensive sets, believing they can utilize the fundamentals to their advantage.
“We’ve got that triangle offense in – (we’re) just trying to run it, get it down pat,” says Evans. “Once we get that down, I think we can be a good team because I like the movement in the offense.”
– Following Sunday’s practice, Isaiah Thomas and James Johnson engaged in a spirited shooting contest, during which a smiling No. 22 shouted numerous inspirational quotes, including, “Be the change you want to be in this world!” and “Adversity causes some men to break and others to break records – which one are you?”
Do you think DeMarcus Cousins will earn his first All-Star selection this season?