DeMarcus Cousins returned to Sacramento as the King-slayer

Ball Don't Lie

DeMarcus Cousins received a standing ovation on Thursday night when he was introduced as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans for the first time before a raucous Sacramento Kings home crowd. Cousins returned the love by teeing off on the Kings in the Pelicans’ 114-106 win, which also doubled as an inadvertent testimonial to a wasted era in Kings history.

Cousins, who can be a polarizing figure in NBA superstar debates, showed just how good he can be when motivated. He personally slayed the Kings, pouring in 41 points, pulling down 23 rebounds and dishing six assists, and scoring the Pelicans’ final nine points to seal the victory.

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After the Kings leapt out to a 25-6 lead, it appeared Thursday’s game would be a vindication of the Kings’ decision to trade Cousins during the 2017 NBA All-Star Game for a package headlined by 2016 lottery pick Buddy Hield. Instead, Cousins reminded us all that he’s a top-10 superstar … sometimes.

Cousins said this wasn’t a “revenge game,” but he appeared to channel the “no mercy” attitude John Wall espoused earlier this week by punishing Sacramento with his once-in-a-generation performance.

Sacramento is in the midst of a youth movement, having decided to hit the reset button and rebuild after the Boogie era produced little more than six losing seasons and plenty of acrimony. Even so, Thusday’s game offered at least some suggestion that what the Kings lost by giving up on Cousins might not have been worth what they gained. In comparison, sophomores Hield and Skal Labissiere, and rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox, epitomized the NBA’s interpretation of Tyler Perry’s 80-20 rule.

Cousins gave the Kings 80 percent of what they needed to build a contender, but they bailed after things got rough and were seduced by an illusion that ultimately provided 20 percent of his talent and production. The Fox-Hield-Labissiere trio will have better days, but on Thursday night, they combined for only 37 points. Sacramento’s second-leading scorer was 36-year-old Zach Randolph, and the Kings, as presently constituted, don’t appear to have a homegrown star with Cousins’ ceiling.

Cousins was essentially the ex that Sacramento’s relative invited to a cookout, causing the Kings to spend the night wondering how they ruined the basketball bromance. Cousins delivered the type of all-around performance that compels sloppy, drunken, “let’s get back together” late-night Boogie calls.

Sacramento’s void in the low post was most evident when Cousins was inside the restricted area or sacrificing a poor soul in post-up opportunities, but he was a juggernaut at every level. Without fellow All-Star Anthony Davis, who sat out to rest an ailing left knee, Cousins was due for a high usage night, but his efficiency was extraordinary.

He knocked down 10 of his 12 free throws, and drained three of his five tries from beyond the arc. After grabbing defensive boards and loping coast to coast, Cousins displayed the agility of a swingman loping toward the rim.

Cousins’ supporting cast was obscured by his historic night, but they weren’t helpless observers, either. Pelicans guards Jrue Holiday and new addition Jameer Nelson were crucial components of their win.

After the game, Cousins described the emotions that came with his first career 40-point, 20-rebound performance (which was also only the 23rd such game since 1985, according to Let’s just say that he shows “love” in a strange way.

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