LAS VEGAS – In preparation for a summer with Team USA, a summer that will allow him to taste winning in the inverse to his experience with the Sacramento Kings, DeMarcus Cousins decided to spend his offseason in Las Vegas, where he began partaking in a pastime that would be amusing to anyone paying attention on the night of the NBA draft – hot sculpting yoga.
Cousins has quickly taken to the intense workout, which he participated in prior to Tuesday’s practice at Mendenhall Center on the campus of UNLV and describes as a combination of yoga and pilates “in a hot-ass room.” The stretching and strength exercises are so demanding that Cousins said lifting the five-pound weights can feel like they’re 100 pounds. “It’s incredible. You feel strong. You feel good. You’re detoxing everyday. It’s just been great.”
But two weeks ago, hot sculpting yoga class simply sounded like a lame alibi for a tweet that came out shortly after the perpetually confounding Sacramento Kings, equipped with the eighth pick in the NBA draft, traded down to draft Greek center Georgios Papagiannis. Cousins tweeted, “Lord give me the strength,” and has explained to anyone who will listen that it was in reference to his yoga class. Though he has been adamant about his defense, Cousins was told that not many people are going to believe he was sweating difficult body contortions and not the latest questionable decision by his franchise.
“I really was,” Cousins told The Vertical about attending class on the night of the draft. “I really was. I’ll admit it was bad timing.”
Whether or not the explanation was sincere, the timing of the tweet certainly was bad but no worse than a Kings team in desperate need of help across the board – and especially at point guard and small forward – electing to select two 7-footers in the first round when its best player happens to be a two-time All-Star center. And, the primary reason many interpreted his reaction as a shot at Kings management is because Cousins’ frustration in that situation would’ve been understandable.
Cousins would just like to receive the benefit of the doubt more often, a courtesy that likely won’t be extended until he can start washing over a reputation for tantrums and grumpiness with more on-court success. After Monday’s first U.S. men’s national team practice, Cousins was asked about the Kings’ moves on draft night and admitted that he was confused, then deferred to general manager Vlade Divac. “I do my job,” Cousins said. “I don’t really understand what’s going on. I just control what I control. I let them do their job.”
Despite expressing his support for the team’s additions of more defensive-minded veterans in Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple and Anthony Tolliver, and also describing first-round pick Skal Labissiere as “very impressive” during summer league, Cousins was disappointed with the backlash to his overall comments about doing “my job.”
“I’m trying to figure out what I said wrong. Of course, they’ve twisted it into something negative, in some type of way,” Cousins told The Vertical. “I’m clueless. It’s to the point now, where I don’t want to say anything about any situation. Then I’ll be the bad guy about that as well. Anything I do. Anything I do, it’s … it’s whatever, man.”
Team USA is a much-needed reprieve from the madness of a franchise that has the NBA’s second-longest active postseason drought at 10 years. Cousins, a six-year veteran, is the only member of the 12-man roster to never appear in the playoffs and appears stuck with a rudderless organization. The Kings keep hitting the reset button on their plans – with a turnstile of coaches and front-office executives – while collecting ill-fitting complementary pieces around Cousins. They failed in a shortsighted attempt to make a playoff run last season, when they added point guard Rajon Rondo and other veterans. Cousins wanted Rondo – whom he calls “a big brother” – to return but Sacramento recognized the failings of that pairing and let the former All-Star point guard leave to sign a two-year deal with the Chicago Bulls instead.
“Rondo really made my job a lot easier, offensively,” Cousins told The Vertical. “It’ll be a different look. But I’m confident in [backup point guard] Darren Collison. We’ve done it before. I mean, it’ll be different. It’ll be another change, something I’ll have to adjust to for another season. I’m going to stay positive through it. Try to find the best in it.”
The Kings have no imminent plans to move their most talented player, especially as they prepare to enter a new arena next season. Cousins would also prefer to remain in Sacramento if the team could just find a vision that works. Until then, Cousins will reluctantly continue to accept the blame for the shortcomings of the team as its most visible face. He admits to contributing to some of the drama – particularly a strained relationship with former coach George Karl – but is eager for the soap opera to end so that he doesn’t have to constantly feel persecuted.
Cousins believes misconceptions about his attitude and passion for the game were responsible for his omission from the All-NBA first team this season, despite averaging a career-high 26.9 points along with 11.5 rebounds.
“I don’t even know what an expert is any more,” Cousins told The Vertical about the all-NBA votes. “I mean, I had some guys, didn’t even vote for me, and that’s absurd. It’s a joke. It really is. It’s a popularity contest. It’s the guys who like them, it’s the guys they like, the guys they get to see on a nightly basis. I still don’t feel I get the respect I deserve. But I’m going to keep grinding. I’m going to stick with it.”
Winning a gold medal with Team USA at the 2014 World Cup helped elevate Cousins’ career and change some negative perceptions about him, but he’s not sure what influence an Olympic gold could have on how people view him. “It’ll have its positives. But … I don’t know,” Cousins told The Vertical. “I feel I’ve become a better player from this experience. I get to play for my entire country. You’d be a fool to ever pass that up. I’m extremely honored. I’m a prideful guy. I plan on representing well. I’m just excited about the whole thing.”
At the very least, Cousins can already take credit for one positive this summer – helping draw more attention to hot sculpting yoga. “They should pay me for that [expletive],” Cousins told The Vertical with a laugh.
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