SACRAMENTO AP) — Kings coach George Karl insists things are good with All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
The two men met in Las Vegas over the summer to clear the air after being at odds almost from the moment Karl took over the Kings job late last season. There were reports that Karl had tried to trade Cousins shortly after being hired, and Sacramento’s hot-tempered big man wasn’t pleased.
That’s all in the past now according to both, though each also sounded cautiously optimistic while discussing the issue during the Kings’ media day on Monday.
“I think it’s solid, it’s good and ready to play,” said Karl when asked about his relationship with Cousins. “That’s where I’m at with it. If I had to grade my guys giving me a summer, Cuz gave me an A-plus summer. I see a different player, I see a different substance of character in this guy.
“But you know it’s not a light switch. It’s going to take some time. There’s going to be some problems. And as a coaching staff that’s what we’ve got to be ready for. My assistants have to be ready to mentor and direct him. I’ve got to be ready for challenging and also celebrating the most talented player in the league.”
The fifth-overall pick in 2010, Cousins is coming off the best season of his young career. The 6-foot-11, 270-pound center tallied career-bests in points (24.1), rebounds (12.7), assists (3.6) and blocked shots (1.76) despite missing 13 games.
Cousins and the rest of the Kings also had to deal with the revolving door of head coaches. Mike Malone went 11-13 and was replaced by assistant Tyrone Corbin, who stuck around for 28 games before Karl was brought aboard in February to coach the final 30 games.
Cousins favored Malone and wasn’t happy with the changes. Early on rumors surfaced that he and Karl were clashing, and it continued to be a story in the offseason.
Whatever happened then is not an issue now, says Cousins.
“That’s my man,” Cousins said when asked if he and Karl were in a better spot with one another.
Told that Karl described their relationship as solid, Cousins had a slightly different take.
“We came to a head and we talked our differences out like men,” Cousins said. “At the end of the day it’s about winning games. That’s one thing me and him can agree on. We want to win. That’s our goal. That’s all that really matters.”
Of more importance to the Kings is getting their revamped roster in sync. Sacramento opens training camp at the University of San Diego on Tuesday.
First-year general manager Vlade Divac made sweeping changes in the offseason, keeping only five key contributors from Sacramento’s 2014 team - Cousins, forwards Rudy Gay and Omri Casspi and guards Darren Collison and Ben McLemore.
The Kings signed veteran point guard Rajon Rondo to a $9.5 million, one-year contract to run the offense and added forwards Marco Belinelli, Caron Butler and Quincy Acy along with center Kosta Koufos.
“I’m definitely ready to get on the floor and get things rolling for this team,” Cousins said. “We made a lot of changes but I think it’s for the better. We have a lot of talent in front of us this year and we’ve got a chance to make some noise.”