BIRMINGHAM – From participating in a Basketball Without Borders trip halfway around the world, to hosting a free basketball camp much closer to home, it’s been a busy summer for DeMarcus Cousins, who also found time to get into what he recently told New Orleans teammate Anthony Davis is “the best shape of my life.” During a break at his camp Tuesday in his home state of Alabama, Cousins sounded energized about the upcoming Pelicans season, echoing Davis’ enthusiastic comments about the team’s 2017-18 upside.
“We’ve got an opportunity to do something special. I just wanted to take full advantage of it,” Cousins said of his focus on getting ready for next season. “Part of transforming my body was to be able to come in and fit the system and be the best DeMarcus I can be in this system. It’s been a long, hard process, but I definitely think it’s worth it. I feel great. I’m excited for this season. A lot my teammates are (also). A lot of guys are working harder than they’ve ever done in their career. I think everybody is feeling that same energy. It can be a special season.”
New Orleans’ biggest free-agent splash was the signing of point guard Rajon Rondo, a teammate of Cousins in Sacramento during the 2015-16 season. After getting an up-close view of the difference Rondo’s pass-first, savvy approach can make for a club, Cousins is thrilled to be reunited with the now 11-year NBA veteran.
“His impact on the team is going to be incredible. I think he’s going to bring out the best in everybody on our team,” Cousins said. “That’s one thing I appreciated about him on my former team. He helped me grow so much as a player, just in a single season. I think he can take (Davis) to another level, which is even scarier. Scary to think about.
“(Rondo’s) IQ, his understanding of the game, he’s a coach on the floor at all times. He takes a lot of slack off the coaches, because he’s a coach on the floor. He’ll probably know the playbook just as much as the guys that are teaching us. He’s a great addition and he’s going to really help us get to the level we want to be.”
Rondo will be paired in the New Orleans starting backcourt with Jrue Holiday, who agreed to return to the Pelicans on Day 1 of free agency. Cousins joked that he used some intimidation while convincing Holiday to make that decision.
“I sent a couple of threatening text messages, but I did what I had to do and we got the job done,” a smiling Cousins said. “I’m extremely excited to have Jrue back. He’s a big part of our team. Talking about doing special, we wouldn’t be able to do it without Jrue. He knows that. We all know that.”
In addition to becoming a Rondo teammate again, Cousins is rejoining fellow Kentucky product Darius Miller, who signed with the Pelicans after three stellar seasons in Germany. Cousins praised Miller and recent free-agent pickup Ian Clark, who won a championship ring with Golden State this spring and appeared in two straight NBA Finals.
“He’s oozing with talent,” Cousins said of Miller. “I think he’s a perfect signing for our team and is going to come in ready to play whenever his name is called. He’s going to bring it every night. It could be a back-to-back-to-back and I know he’s going to bring it. I’m excited to have him on our team.
“Bringing in a guy like Ian, a champion who has played at the highest level, he has youth on his side, but he also has experience. He can come in and impact a game in the smallest way, but in the biggest way at the same time. I think he’s also a perfect piece to this puzzle. We’ve got a chance to do something special.”