Even before they joined forces on the court for a practice or preseason game this fall, DeMarcus Cousins had literally made a visible impact on fellow New Orleans All-Star big Anthony Davis. On the sixth Media Day of his NBA career, Davis showed up for the first time donning a headband, something Davis said was inspired by Cousins, who commonly wears one.
“I inspired him?” Cousins asked, when told of the reason for his teammate’s new gear, which Davis has continued to sport in practices this week. “That’s little bro, man.”
While they’ve begun sharing fashion tastes, a goal for the 27-year-old Cousins and the 24-year-old Davis in training camp is to continue figuring out how to share the floor on offense. It’s something that wasn’t immediately second nature for them in the 17 games the duo played together last season.
“We’re figuring out the high-low game a lot more,” Cousins said of a multi-dimensional combo that averaged 55.0 points in 2016-17. “We’re picking our spots – who’s the guy to pop, who’s the guy to roll. Last year there would be times where we would kind of run into each other, or be on top of each other a little bit. It’s definitely a lot smoother in this training camp. We’ve still got work to do, we’re still growing in that aspect of the game, but it’s coming along great.”
The pair had less than two months of game action together last season between the mid-February trade and early April, part of why Cousins is excited about the chance to explore more of what he can accomplish with Davis. After seven years in Sacramento that resulted in zero playoff trips – the best the Kings did during Cousins’ tenure was 33-49 in his final full season – he recognizes the advantage of being surrounded by an elite scorer.
“Everybody wants to be ‘The Man.’ But just being ‘The Man’ by yourself is not going to help you win games in this league,” Cousins said. “The league is way too talented, way too competitive. Just having the talent of AD on my side, it definitely helps the burden, and I know he feels the same way.”
“DeMarcus is a guy who can give me a chance to take a couple plays off (offensively),” agreed Davis, who fired 30-plus shots in five separate games last season prior to Cousins’ arrival, including each of the first two games. Over the course of 2016-17, the Pelicans were 5-12 when Davis had to attempt 25-plus shots from the field.
Although there have been several teams who’ve used a “Twin Towers” concept in recent NBA history, perhaps none of the previous groupings featured two 6-foot-11 bigs skilled enough to drain perimeter shots, while also fleet-footed enough to beat defenders off the dribble. Cousins thinks “Fire and Ice” – the nickname he inadvertently coined for he and Davis in February – has a chance to break new ground in the sport. While other teams are downsizing, the Pelicans are going completely against the grain.
“I do believe we’ve got a chance to basically change the style of play in the league,” Cousins said. “I think we’ve got a unique setup going here, something that hasn’t been seen in a while. AD and I having the skill set we have, that’s definitely a first-time thing. We’ve got a great chance of changing things around.”
The duo got a head start on Year 2 of their partnership this summer, spending an extended amount of time working out together, as well as organizing voluntary workouts in Lexington that were attended by most of the Pelicans’ roster.
Davis: “The biggest thing for me (this offseason) was trying to figure out how me and DeMarcus can make this thing work. Last year, it was kind of tough. I think there was a lot of pressure on Jrue (Holiday), too, to figure out how to get us the ball, while still being the Jrue we needed him to be. I think we had a couple good minicamps and got a lot of things accomplished.”
On Media Day, Davis noted that there is palpable urgency for the Pelicans to make their rare All-Star tandem work. Not only is Cousins trying to make his NBA postseason debut, but New Orleans will attempt to get back to late-April basketball for the first time since 2015.
“We’ve got one year to figure it out. We know that,” Davis said, before referring to contract statuses of teammates. “(Rajon) Rondo is one year, Cousins is basically one year. DeMarcus came to me this summer and said he has to win. He’s never been to the playoffs; he just wants to get there. He’s buying in and doing things he doesn’t usually do in the summertime, lost a lot of weight. He’s all in. We’re just trying to win for him.
“If we win for him,” Davis continued, while breaking into a wide smile, “it can lead to some great things.”