METAIRIE, La. (AP) — DeMarcus Cousins says his prayers have been answered, although not necessarily in the way he expected.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ newest All-Star maintained on Wednesday that he liked Sacramento and initially wasn’t happy about being traded Sunday night, but added he’d become frustrated waiting through six-plus losing seasons for the Kings to add more elite players.
“I would go home, just stressed out, pulling my hair out, you know, praying, praying, praying: Just send me some help.”
Cousins is the one who wound up being sent away, but to a team where he joins fellow 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.
“Our games complement one another and being together I think is going to make both of our jobs easier,” Cousins said shortly before his first Pelicans practice. “We can wreak havoc on this league. Will it happen overnight? Probably not, but our potential is scary.”
Davis and Cousins debut as Pelicans teammates at home Thursday night against Houston — a game Davis has been eagerly awaiting since learning of the trade on Sunday night. The deal excited him to the point he had trouble sleeping and texted Cousins around 3 a.m. Monday. Cousins’ was up, too, an texted back.
“I was up all night just thinking about how far we could go and what we could do on the court together,” Davis said. “We’re both excited for the rest of the season, then next year.”
Cousins is averaging 27.8 points and 10.6 rebounds this season and can become a free agent in 2018 unless the Pelicans can sign him to an extension commensurate to All-Star pay.
Cousins said he’s not prepared to discuss his contract situation now, but stressed, “I’m all in. I’ll make the best of this opportunity and see what the future holds.”
Davis is averaging 27.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game this season and is coming off his fourth straight All-Star game. On Sunday night, he scored an All-Star game record 52 points and was named MVP.
Without using the term “Big Three,” general manager Dell Demps insinuated that he sees the two former Kentucky big men and point guard Jrue Holiday — a former Eastern Conference All-Star — in such a light.
“We just felt that those three guys, putting them together, it’s exciting just to think about the possibilities,” Demps said.
Holiday, who has struggled with injuries since being acquired in 2013, has been healthy this season and is averaging 16.3 points and 7.5 assists.
The key with Cousins is how he manages his notoriously combustible on-court disposition. Asked to describe how intense of a competitor he is, Cousins grinned and said, “about 17 technicals worth,” referring to his league-leading technical foul total. His 16th technical foul resulted in a one-game suspension as would his 18th, 20th and every two technical after that for the duration of the season.
In describing how he and Davis would complement one another, Cousins said, “You’ve got a little fire; you’ve got a little ice.”
Demps laughed and added, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Still, Cousins said he was not averse to trying harder to reign in his emotions — a little.
“Being in the position I’m in right now, I’m going to have to turn it down a little bit, to find that balance,” Cousins said. “I have to remain myself. That’s the way I play. That’s what makes me the player that I am, but I do have to find that fine line.”
Davis said he knows Cousins is emotional and will be ready to step between him and officials or others to try to keep Cousins calm when tensions rise.
“I’m not afraid of him — at all,” Davis said. “When you want to win, you’ve got to be comfortable telling whoever what they need to hear.”
The Pelicans’ can’t afford any suspensions. The Cousins deal also brought New Orleans forward Omri Casspi in exchange guards Tryeke Evans, Buddy Hield, and Langston Galloway, along with first- and second-round draft picks this summer. The Pelicans need the move to pay immediate dividends. They are 2 games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot with 25 games left.
“I’m extremely, extremely excited about the possibilities,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “It does take time. We’re going to try to make it work quickly. That may not be the case but we don’t have a whole lot of margin of error right now.”