DeMarcus Cousins is going to the All-Star game, after all.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver selected the Sacramento Kings center to replace injured Lakers star Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference All-Star team Friday.
Silver’s choice leaves Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard as the game’s biggest snub. Lillard could still be picked if another player drops out before the Feb. 15 game at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who is leading the West, will decide who replaces Bryant in the starting lineup. Kerr will choose from a roster that includes Houston’s James Harden and Golden State’s Klay Thompson.
Cousins is headed to the All-Star game for the first time in his five-year career. He becomes Sacramento’s first All-Star since Brad Miller and Peja Stojakovic in 2004.
“I’m extremely excited to play in my first All-Star game,” Cousins said. “I appreciate the recognition and want to also thank my teammates and the fans for their support throughout the season. Representing the Kings and the city of Sacramento is a great honor.”
Last season, Cousins was passed over as an injury replacement — also for Bryant. New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis was chosen instead. Cousins had better traditional statistics, while Davis’ defensive numbers and efficiency ratings ranked higher. It also didn’t hurt that New Orleans hosted the event.
Portland already had an All-Star this time in forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who was picked by the coaches as a reserve. Sacramento would’ve had no representation at All-Star weekend if Cousins hadn’t been selected. That may have helped his campaign over Lillard, who made the All-Star team last season.
“Everyone in the Kings organization is thrilled for DeMarcus and happy that his diligence and commitment to becoming the best player he can be has been recognized,” Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro said.
Cousins entered Friday night’s contest at Cleveland fifth in the NBA in scoring (23.8 points) and third in rebounding (12.3) per game, both career highs. He also was averaging career-bests of 3.2 assists and 1.6 blocks.
The biggest thing hurting Cousins’ cause — besides the competition — was his team’s worsening record.
After starting 9-5 this season, the Kings (16-28) have collapsed since Cousins came down with viral meningitis in late November. They went 2-8 during his sick leave — which coincided with Michael Malone’s stunning firing as coach — and have failed to pick up the pieces under short-term replacement Tyrone Corbin.
Lillard began Friday averaging 21.8 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds. The Northwest Division-leading Blazers (32-14) were tied for the third-best record in the difficult Western Conference.