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 told reporters after the New Orleans Pelicans’ 114-106 win. “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 bullied and overwhelmed his team in the win, showing the skill set that convinced the Kings to select him fifth overall in 2010. Although Cousins was never able to lead Sacramento to the postseason, he surely reminded them of the talent that made them believe he might do so one day, dropping in 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists in 44 minutes.
The performance was Cousins’ first 40-point, 20-rebound game and a needed one as his All-Star teammate, Anthony Davis, missed the 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.
Did the dramatic setting of his return to Sacramento, along with the weight he would carry without Davis, make him emotional?
“I tried to tune everything out, honestly,” Cousins told reporters after the game. “I was good after the jump ball. Before that, I just wanted to hurry up and get the process over.”
More important than Cousins’ triumphant return was the win that it produced, pushing the Pelicans to 2-3. New Orleans hasn’t started a season that well since 2014-15 — the last time the Pelicans made the playoffs.
NBA fans, executives and observers are fascinated to see if the Davis-Cousins pairing can work. They want to see if Cousins 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.”