NEW ORLEANS — When New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis broke Wilt Chamberlain’s 55-year All-Star Game scoring record Sunday night with 52 points in the West’s 192-182 no-defense-allowed victory over the East, he was smiling so broadly he said he would keep the MVP trophy in his home rather than give it to his mother for safe keeping.
Then a few hours later, Davis and the Pelicans bagged a far bigger, big-game trophy — 6-10, 270-pound center DeMarcus Cousins from the Sacramento Kings, one of the NBA’s most talented big men — in a blockbuster deal.
No one could have imagined the fortunes of the 23-34 Pelicans changing so dramatically.
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“Once I found out we got him, I was just up all night, thinking about how far we can go and what we can do on the court together,” Davis said, describing the sequence of events Sunday night when he won the All-Star MVP and found out the deal for Cousins was going through. “We were just texting back and forth about the team. We were both excited. I’m glad he’s here.”
The Pelicans get to unveil their new-look, frontcourt twin towers of Davis and Cousins on Thursday night against the Houston Rockets (40-18) at the Smoothie King Center.
Since news of the trade hit Sunday night, Pelicans fans have been gobbling up tickets.
“From what I hear from other people around the city, people are trying to buy tickets and the prices went up,” Davis said.
“I’m just as excited as you guys are,” said point guard Jrue Holiday, who has the primary job of getting the ball to Cousins and Davis in their comfort zones. “I’m ready for tomorrow to come.
“It really isn’t hard. Just get (Cousins) the ball and let him go to work,” Holiday said. “Pairing him with AD should be really fun to watch. It’s endless opportunity and possibility. I’m just excited to see what goes on tomorrow. It’s going to be tough for people. You have to pick your poison. If you want to double DeMarcus, AD’s open. If you want to double AD, DeMarcus is open.”
In the whirlwind deal, the Kings sent Cousins and swingman Omri Casspi to the Pelicans in exchange for rookie guard Buddy Hield, guard Tyreke Evans, guard Langston Galloway, the Pelicans’ first-round pick in 2017 and a future second-round pick.
In his first press conference with the Pelicans on Wednesday, Cousins said he was thrilled about teaming with Davis and also mindful he will have to do a better job of controlling his temper. Cousins picked up an NBA-high 17 technical fouls this season and has been suspended one game because of his transgressions.
“I’m excited, man,” Cousins said. “Regardless of what’s being said or what’s out there, I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a special thing. I’m ready to go.
“I’m the ultimate competitor. It’s the smallest things, even being in the gym first. I’m all about competing, and I want to compete at the highest level.”
Davis and Cousins are the only two players in the NBA to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds over the past four seasons. No team has had two players with those averages since the 1997-98 San Antonio Spurs (Tim Duncan and David Robinson).
“I haven’t had another guy, besides Jrue, who’s been one of the premier guys in the league,” Davis said. “(Cousins is) that guy. Now when you’re having a bad night, you’re not putting as much pressure on yourself. It’s going to be scary to see, when all three of us are rolling in one game.”
The Rockets come into the game healthy. Guard Pat Beverly will be available after straining his groin last week.
Houston coach Mike D’Antoni told the Houston Chronicle that the All-Star break provided a good rest for everyone.
“It’s good,” D’Antoni said. “You get recharged. Guys are ready to roll. We have 24 games left. We need to make a nice run down the stretch. We have to do better. I think we’ve fallen off a bit of late. We have to get back our juices and embrace who we are.”