NBA: Nuggets happy to have ex-Kings' DeMarcus Cousins for reunion | Inquirer Sports

NBA: Nuggets happy to have ex-Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins for reunion

/ 01:56 PM February 26, 2022
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DeMarcus Cousins #4 of the Denver Nuggets drives to the basket against Khem Birch #24 of the Toronto Raptors during the first half of their NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on February 12, 2022 in Toronto, Canada. Cole Burston/Getty Images/AFP

The Sacramento Kings were a problem for Denver last season. Sacramento swept the three games from the Nuggets despite finishing with 16 fewer wins and hurt Denver’s playoff positioning.

This season, Denver has exacted some revenge. The Nuggets have won the first two meetings between the teams, including a 128-110 victory at Sacramento on Thursday night. Less than 48 hours later the two teams meet again, this time in Denver on Saturday night.

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The Nuggets have won four straight and six of their last seven games to move a season-best nine games above even. They are currently sixth in the Western Conference, just ahead of Minnesota in the play-in bracket and behind Dallas for fifth place.

With just 23 games to go Denver has started to find consistency and some depth. The Nuggets signed DeMarcus Cousins for the remainder of the season, and he will serve as Nikola Jokic’s backup at center. Denver has lacked in that role all season and Cousins, who signed three 10-day contracts with the Nuggets this season, also adds a veteran voice in the locker room.

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Jokic Nuggets

Aaron Gordon #50 and Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets hug after their NBA game victory against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on February 12, 2022 in Toronto, Canada. Cole Burston/Getty Images/AFP

“His personality is really important,” said Denver coach Michael Malone, who coached Cousins in Sacramento and advocated for his signing after he was cut by Milwaukee earlier this season. “He is a voice. He’s a personality, and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. That can be refreshing at times because we have a locker room of great guys, but who are not always willing to police each other.”

Cousins has averaged 6.3 rebounds in just 13.1 minutes per game with the Nuggets and takes pressure off not only Jokic but Jeff Green and JaMychal Green, who have served as undersized centers in spots.

Cousins will likely be available to play his former team on Saturday night. He wasn’t able to lead the Kings to a playoff appearance in his six-plus seasons with them, but he’s not unique. Sacramento is on a 15-year postseason drought and it would take some heavy lifting to avoid a 16th.

The Kings have shaken up their leadership with the firing of coach Luke Walton earlier this season and having veteran Alvin Gentry take over as the interim head coach. They also made some moves at the trading deadline to revamp the roster.

Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley III and Tristan Thompson were shipped out and Domantas Sabonis, Donte DiVincenzo, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, Trey Lyles and Josh Jackson were acquired in the deals.

Sabonis held his own against Jokic on Thursday with 33 points, 14 rebounds and five assists.

De’Aaron Fox said the fresh bodies have been a boost to the team despite the current three-game skid.

“Just us being able to get that feel for each other and see the chemistry from to fruition, I think, is definitely huge,” Fox said. “Success isn’t always immediate with trades and signings and things like that, so it’s definitely something that we look towards the future, but we have the team that could definitely make some noise before the season ends.”

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