NBA Basketball

Same old story for Cousins as Pelicans face Kings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- DeMarcus Cousins appears far slimmer than the last time he set foot on the court at Golden 1 Center. But beyond that, almost everything else will look the same for the New Orleans Pelicans' center when he returns to face the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.

He's scoring: At 31 points a game, the three-time All-Star is off to the best four-game start of his eight-year career. He's averaging 6.8 more points than fellow front-court All-Star Anthony Davis.

Cousins is also rebounding: His 12 rebounds per game are not quite on the level of Davis (13.3), but they are only slightly behind the 12.4 he averaged a season ago, a total that was the second-best of his career.

Oh, and he's still losing.

The Pelicans have lost three of their first four, just as Cousins did as a King in four of his six seasons there. None of Cousins' six-plus seasons in Sacramento produced more than 33 victories, and his 36-point, 13-rebound night for New Orleans in a 103-93 loss at Portland on Tuesday looked awfully similar to many of his nights in Sacramento.

A win for Cousins in his first trip back to Sacramento -- an event big enough to garner national television coverage from TNT -- is no slam dunk, either. Davis tweaked his left knee five minutes into the first quarter against Portland and did not play in the final three quarters. An MRI exam on the knee came back negative, but he is questionable for Thursday's game.

The third-year player who, like Cousins, attended Kentucky, averaged 31.7 points and 17.3 rebounds in New Orleans' first three games.

The Kings saw similar big games from Cousins, who averaged 21.1 points and 7.8 rebounds in 491 games. But not once did Sacramento reach the playoffs, and the formula wore out for both him and his former team.

He shared that sentiment in an interview with ESPN.com's Marc Spears on Wednesday.

"My representatives, they told me I shouldn't stay," Cousins said of refusing "an opportunity to leave" when the team hired George Karl in 2015 to coach the team. "But, you know, I guess being stubborn or loyal, I wanted to make things work. How you going to be loyal to something that ain't loyal to any player that's ever played the game? I was a fool."

Sacramento, which dropped a 117-115 decision at Phoenix on Tuesday, is 1-3 for the fifth time in seven seasons, but the vibe seems different these days.

Guard De'Aaron Fox, the fifth overall pick in the draft, has scored at least 14 points in three of his first four games and also has produced 20 assists with only eight turnovers while playing about 27 minutes a game.

Fellow rookie guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, a sharpshooter, scored 12 points in 25 minutes in his debut against Phoenix but missed his final eight shots.

"We have great communication on the floor; he's capable of doing so many things," Bogdanovic told reporters after the Phoenix loss. "He's so versatile, and we want to listen to each other, what we have to say. Communication is the most important thing when you want to build something great."

Buddy Hield has put up 12.3 points and 2.5 assists for the Kings but made only 6 of 15 shots and played only 17 minutes against Phoenix.

Updated October 26, 2017

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