At this time last year many were mourning the loss of Michael Jackson and Billy Mays as well as digesting the draft pick of Tyreke Evans. Before last year’s draft, many fans had their eyes on Ricky Rubio, who has yet to play a minute with an NBA team.
This year was different. Kings President of Basketball Operations had his eyes on the same player as most Kings fans. That man was Kentucky forward DeMarcus Cousins.
“I think in DeMarcus, we got an exceptional talent at the center position. He’s going to get us great size and skill in that post,” said Petrie. “He’s an outstanding passer, and we’re just really excited to add him into the frontcourt we have now with Samuel, Carl and Jason,”
At Kentucky, Cousins established himself as a top pick in the draft by scoring 15 points per game and close to 10 boards a game. Cousins was a first-team All-American and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year. Whiteside boasted strong statistics as well, averaging 13.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg and blocked an average of 5.4 blocks a contest.
With the Kings’ second round selection the Kings drafted Marshall center Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is a legitimate 7-footer who poses a presence down low to opposing centers because of his combination of size and athleticism. After the draft, both Petrie and Westphal talked about the new additions to the Sacramento Kings.
“With Hassan, we had him in here twice for workouts. Great athlete, still needs to learn how to play some and mature a little bit, but he shoots the ball very well, he has an incredible knack for blocking shots off the ball and he’s somebody that we’re really looking forward to working with.”
“We went from a team that really scrapped to hold our own on the boards, to a big team. I think that adding size has been very important when we look at the teams we have to compete against in the West,” said coach Westphal. “Portland and the Lakers in particular, and you can go down the list. We were giving up size every game, and we have got some answers to size now that we can try out with these guys. It’s really nice.”
On Saturday both rookies went on tour; first meeting Petrie , coach Westphal and Sacramento media at ARCO Arena to welcome them to their new home.
“This is the place I wanted to be,” said Cousins. “I am very happy to be here. I hope I can come in here and contribute to the team and help the team get some wins and toughness.”
The questions as to the red flags of Cousins were quickly answered by Petrie.
“We did a lot of background on DeMarcus. We had him out here for visits, we spent time with him, we interviewed him in Chicago and had a very lengthy interview there,” said Petrie. “We spent a lot of time talking with people that have been involved with him throughout his development as a young player, starting back in junior high school and high school. People that have no real particular axe to grind or anything to gain by what they say or they don’t say. I think the message that came back was very consistent.”
Next stop on tour was a trip to Roseville where the new players were greeted by a large group of ecstatic Kings Fans, and no the dry heat did not quiet down the crowd. The Sacramento Kings Dance Team, Kings Breakers and Slamson were also a part of the Kings Rookie Rally. Some fans were in University of Kentucky gear while others were already wearing the number 15 of DeMarcus Cousins.
At this time next year you may find a similar scene. The scene being that our most recent selection was a top rookie in his class and ultimately the Rookie of the Year. There is a lot more pressure riding on this season as expectations will be higher.
Las Vegas Summer League
In a few weeks, the teams younger players will be off to Vegas for the Las Vegas Summer League from July 9-18. Along with Cousins and Whiteside will be a few undrafted rookies. One rookie being Ryan Thompson, younger brother to Kings forward Jason Thompson who the Kings drafted with the 12th pick in 2008. Ryan is a 6-foot-6 guard who worked out with the Kings a few weeks ago.
Other additions to the Kings Summer League roster were Tennessee forward Wayne Chism and Virginia guard Sylven Landesberg. Jon Brockman, Donte Greene and Omri Casspi are also expected to join the team in Vegas for some early NBA action.