Following a trade that was finalized while both were in Western Conference All-Star uniforms, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins spent a total of 17 games and 394 minutes on the floor together last season with New Orleans. It was sufficient time to demonstrate promising signs about the duo’s future, but not quite enough to fine-tune all of the details of a big-man pairing that’s increasingly rare in the contemporary NBA. As a result, Davis and Cousins decided to work out together extensively this summer, in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, to get a head start on Pelicans fall training camp.
“We’ve just tried to get in as much work as possible this summer,” Davis said from L.A. “We didn’t have that much time last season to work out with each other, because we didn’t have training camp or (many practices). So we wanted to take advantage of this opportunity, where we had time in the summer in the same city and can get in some work together, because we’ll be playing with each other a lot.
“It’s about trying to get used to each other. Of course we knew what each other can do from when we matched up against each other when he was in Sacramento, but it’s different now, learning where he likes to be and where I can get my shots from, or where he can get his shots. We didn’t want to waste training camp trying to figure that out. We’re going to both use this to be ready and try to improve the team.”
Davis – who’s hosting an Aug. 7-8 basketball camp at the University of New Orleans for kids ages 7-15 – says he’s learned more about Cousins’ repertoire of skills this summer. He’s been impressed by how motivated the three-time All-Star is to get better as a player, adding that Cousins has some kind of surprise in store for 2017-18.
“He has a lot more in his game than people say,” Davis said. “He can shoot the ball very well. He’s doing some stuff that is going to be great for us this year – I don’t want to give it away, but he’s working out and doing a lot of great things. I think everybody knows that he lost a ton of weight. He’s trying to do whatever he can to improve the team. He knows it starts with himself off the floor, but of course on the floor as well.
“We’ve both been working on a lot of stuff to improve our games. I never had a chance to work out with him before this summer, or see him work out. It’s been great watching how hard he goes.”
Davis also complimented fellow New Orleans frontcourt player Cheick Diallo for his play in summer league; Davis and Cousins both spent time watching the Pelicans play in Las Vegas. Diallo earned second-team all-league honors after averaging 18.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in five summer games, shooting 56.2 percent from the field.
“He played very well. He shot the ball well and did some moves (he’s added),” Davis said of the 20-year-old. “Cheick likes to work. He’s a hard worker and it showed in summer league. Hopefully it earns him some minutes during the course of the season. I like where his head was at and the way he played. I like the way he worked. It’s a bright future for him if he keeps doing the things he does. In a short amount of time, he’s gotten extremely better at his game. He’s still trying to learn the game and figure out to how to play the game, but just from what we do see right now, he’s definitely improved since he’s been here with us.”
Speaking of improving, Davis believes the addition of Rajon Rondo immediately made the Pelicans a better team. Cousins was instrumental for New Orleans in acquiring the 11-year veteran point guard, having been a Kings teammate of Rondo’s in 2015-16.
“He played with him in Sac, and he definitely knows him very well, as well as from Kentucky,” Davis said of Cousins and Rondo also sharing the same college. “He definitely was a key part in getting Rondo. We’re just happy we got him. It goes back to DeMarcus just trying to help the team in whatever way possible. Helping us to go get Rondo was one of those things.”