I checked out Summer League practice on Friday. Jason Jones has been to them all, so check out his reactions.
At Friday's practice, one thing stood out to me.
DeMarcus Cousins is not playing around.
He owned the paint during the five-on-five drills and scrimmages. A lot of great rebounders do their work with positioning and hands. Guys like Kevin Love, Jon Brockman and even Carlos Boozer move laterally and fight for rebounds which essentially become loose balls once they fall below the rim. Cousins can do that, and came up with plenty of rebounds in what were effectively scrums, especially during a five-on-five drill in which a coach fired up an errant shot and the 10 players fought for possession.
But he can also sky for rebounds few other NBA big men can get.
The dude's size is remarkable -- he takes up so much space in the paint. And when he gets off his feet quickly, he can get some Dwight Howard rebounds. No, he isn't dunking on a 12-foot rim. And he's not getting to the ball first every time it's ripe for the picking up high. But a few of the skying rebounds where breathtaking in that the Kings haven't had someone to get those rebounds in a decade.
Boogie has work to do on all facets of his game. I'm not convinced he'll be very efficient as a rookie -- NBA defenders will throw at him things he's never seen. The book of Big Man Dark Arts is long, and Cousins has a lot of learning to do. His play off the dribble is alternately spectacular and iffy. He can pass (even off the dribble), perhaps as well as Spencer Hawes. He can also run into trouble, or miss open teammates. On defense, he's more solid overall than Hassan Whiteside, who had to be told repeatedly by Donte Greene where to be. But he's also susceptible to getting beat by guards, and he's not the quickest sprinter getting back in transition.
But in the paint, this kid is an absolutely beast. I've convinced he'll lead rookies in rebounding (with Blake Griffin the primary rival), and he should be able to average a point for every two minutes without being featured a huge amount, thanks to his offensive rebounding and sheer size and agility. In a few years? The sky ain't even a limit.
Of course, this was Boogie's first NBA practice. But based on his record of excellence and what I saw out there, we have the real deal.
Other notes from the practice:
* Sylven Landesburg didn't shoot well in the first practice. Dionte Christmas looked a bit better. Either way, neither wanted to wait for the team van to take them over to Natomas' ubiquitous fast food stations, so there were two potential NBA players walking down Gateway Park Boulevard in 90-degree weather, looking for a meal. The NBA life, it's so glamorous.
* Donald Sloan looked to set up his teammates repeatedly; he rarely shot during the scrimmages in this practice, despite being a high-scoring two-guard in college. Of course, when playing with Cousins, Whiteside, Greene and Omri Casspi, he ought to be passing the ball.
* Whiteside had a few spectacular blocks, and from what Jones reports it looks like he did the same Saturday. (He also had a mammoth putback dunk during a scrimmage Friday. Mammoth.) But his development will come when he learns how to set screens, use discretion on offense, box out, defend the pick-and-roll, and watch his man off the ball on defense. He has tools and talent. But there's a lot of work to be done.
* Whiteside is also hilarious. After the sparse media contingent thanked him for his time in post-practice interviews, Whiteside replied, "Thank you, media."
* As Jones notes, Greene does look taller. He was also quite vocal, calling out assignments, telling Whiteside where to go, and encouraging his young teammates. He also made some bad passes, and at least one bad decision on a dribble-drive. But we've all seen the talent, and Donte is really motivated to win the starting spot. He'll have to get it done on defense, and I have high hopes for that.
* Casspi looks a little stronger; he's been working out with Joe Abunassar in Vegas since June 1. He said he's been lifting four days a week, and scrimmaging with guys like Rudy Gay. He worked well with Greene, and received some nice passes from Cousins. As he's a better rebounder and potentially a better defender than Greene, he'll be an interesting contender for that starting spot.
* Mario Elie exudes confidence. He's also a nice guy, and he doesn't mince words talking about his players. He's very high on Cousins, understand Whiteside's limitations, and really set the stage for a Greene-Casspi showdown through the preseason. He likes Sloan and Landesberg a lot, too.