There was no cartoon bubble above DeMarcus Cousins' head Thursday to indicate what he truly meant to say -- as opposed to what he actually said -- but there is no question the New Orleans Pelicans' newly minted center is anticipating the chance to play for the first time against his old team, the Sacramento Kings, on Friday night at the Smoothie King Center.
"It's just another chance to come out, play hard and try to get a win," Cousins said, smiling, after several questions about what it will be like to play against the Kings, who traded him to New Orleans in a blockbuster deal during the All-Star break.
Cousins, who was chosen fifth overall by the Kings in the 2010 NBA draft, eventually came closer to the truth, saying he would enjoy reuniting with his former teammates and coaching staff. In his 6 1/2 seasons in Sacramento, Cousins established himself as one of the league's premier centers -- as well as a lightning rod on the court for his emotional style of play.
"I haven't seen them since before the (All-Star) break. It'll be a good chance to see those guys and laugh a little bit. But seriously, it's another chance for us to come out and get better. That's how I'm approaching the game." Kings guard Garrett Temple said he expects fireworks.
"If I was in (Cousins') shoes, I'd come out trying to take it to us," Temple said after the Kings' loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.
New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said no matter how much Cousins tries to downplay the initial reunion, he knows his emotions will be off the chart, trying to prove something to the team that traded him away. "I think guys are kidding themselves when they say it's just another game. It's never just another game," Gentry said. "It's just like coaches, when you get fired by a team and you play them, you want to beat that team. It's not like when you play anyone else. It's human nature."
The game has some meaning to the Pelicans (32-43). They are five games out of the eighth playoff seed in the Western Conference and probably would have to win their final seven games to have any chance of leap-frogging the Portland Trail Blazers for the final postseason spot.
The Pelicans, who are 9-9 since the Cousins trade, have two more home games remaining -- including their home finale Tuesday against the Nuggets -- before finishing the season with four consecutive road games.
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