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DeMarcus Cousins Starts Rough, and the Kings Fall

DeMarcus Cousins had all sorts of trouble on offense early in this game against the Raptors, going 0-10 with four turnovers in the first half. But things turned around on that end -- he shot 5-8 in the second half and finished with 16 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, his fourth double-double in four Vegas Summer League games.

This is how big men and point guards are graded on a different scale than wings. It's the secondary stat. If Kevin Martin, for example, shoots 5-18 in a game, that's a bad game. Cousins can salvage it with 12 rebounds; Chris Paul could salvage it with 12 assists. This isn't necessarily fair -- assists should be judged in the context of efficient offense, and rebounds split between the context of efficient offense and defense. Cousins, with eight defensive rebounds, captured an estimated 31 percent of all his defensive rebound opportunities, a Dalembert-good level. His main match-up, Joey Dorsey, scored just 5 points on 1-6 shooting. But Cousins also had six turnovers, the terrible shooting clips, and just two assists.

For Cousins, you can't judge a game just looking at 16-12, or 5-18, or 2-6. It all matters. And this was a mediocre performance.

And it, in the end, probably helped the team.

Rebounding is such a big deal, and it's something the Kings have struggled to do for so long. Things finally improved toward the end of the season last year, and with Samuel Dalembert and Cousins (and the distinct lack of weak-rebounding Spencer Hawes), things will be much, much better this year. Only then will I really understand how to grade Cousins on a game-to-game level, when I see a baseline performance from him regularly. Based on his baseline Summer League performance to date, Friday's game was a bad one. We'll see if that type of thinking holds up.

Other notes:

* I do not envy Donald Sloan. It's remarkable how ineffective he has been. If Cousins' star quotient (translated through FGA levels) has damaged anyone, it's been Sloan, who just can't get anything going on the floor. The Kings are going to have trouble going into training camp with Sloan as the perfunctory back-up point guard. Of course, that position's in an odd spot anyway, given there are two point guards on the roster, but one will be the starter at two-guard, in all likelihood.

* In terms of the other guards on the team, I think Ryan Thompson stands the best chance of getting a regular season nod, followed by Sylven Landesberg, Tyrese Rice and Devan Downey. If Sloan hadn't already signed a contract, I'd put him behind Downey, regrettably. Nothing against the kid -- I really hope he breaks out in the weekend games -- but he just hasn't done a thing since the first game.

* I do not understand the anti-Omri Casspi sentiment this week -- 12 points on .551 True Shooting in less than 25 minutes a game, with 4.3 rebounds a game. Donte Greene has shot better thanks to his threes (.578 True Shooting), but Greene hasn't done the one thing he needed to do better this week: rebound. He has 11 all week. (Cousins, meanwhile, is averaging more than 11 a game.) The truth is that both Omri and Donte have things they still need to work on, but both has had a fine Summer League ... especially compared to last year.

* That said, we are no closer to having a favorite in Team Donte vs. Team Omri than we were a week ago. It looks like it may come down to training camp and preseason.

* Hassan Whiteside has had a pretty good week. The stats aren't amazing (except for the 2.8 blocks a game), and he certainly hasn't been dominant at any point since the block party early in the week. But he works pretty nicely next to Cousins. Barring injury, he's not going to be able to supplant Dalembert, Cousins, Carl Landry or Jason Thompson in the rotation much. But he's not nearly as raw as I once assumed.