So the team now sits at 5-4 on the season. Above .500, yes, but just a little over a week ago they were 5-1 and riding high off a win on the road against the Phoenix Suns.
But the team is obviously better this season and one of the main reasons is a more mature and composed DeMarcus Cousins that appears to be both aligned in thinking with his head coach and happy with the direction of the franchise.
We all know the incidents Cousins has had in the past that left many concerned about what he would become in the NBA. The most stark example of this was the physical altercation with former teammate Donte Greene in February 2011 - Cousins' rookie season. It was then that the Kings had a chance to beat a very good team in the surging Oklahoma City Thunder. The 99-97 loss was dealt on the offensive end when Greene inbounded the ball to Tyreke Evans, instead of Cousins who wanted the ball in the post. Evans missed a three-pointer and game over. Cousins then got into it with Greene in the locker room, allegedly. He also repeatedly said he was fouled on the rebound attempt off the Evans miss.
That was then, this is now.
On Thursday in the final play against the Grizzlies, Jason Thompson didn't switch on defense and got completely lost, which was part of the reason Courtney Lee had a clear path to the basket and hit the game-winning layup. Cousins, who is now in his fifth year, could have lashed out at Thompson for this. He could have directly or indirectly called Thompson or any of his other teammates out in the media after the game. He could have blamed the refs.
Instead we got this, per Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee.
"It had nothing with the tip-in (by Lee), it had nothing to do with the missed free throws...It had nothing to do with that last-minute segment. It had nothing to do with that. It had everything to do with the second, third and fourth quarter...We gave them life, we gave them momentum...We had adversity, we broke down, we broke plays."
He uses the word "we" a lot there, which includes himself. And he is right, that loss wasn't because of one play.
Head coach Michael Malone also gave a similar "no-excuses" response about how the Kings lost to Memphis on Thursday. It has seemed, in fact, that most of what Cousins and his coach are saying these days align. After the Kings' last home win over the Denver Nuggets, for example, both Malone and Cousins said the team couldn't get comfortable when they have big leads. Given how they lost to the Dallas Mavericks and the Grizzlies, that is still very much a work in progress, but the good news for Kings fans is Boogie and his coach are on the same page.
So what's different in the locker room this year with his teammates?
Recently, the big man said there is a lot less selfishness. If he would have stopped that comment there it could have been construed as a shot at any of his former teammates, but he followed it up quickly by including himself as one the culprits of selfishness in previous seasons.
"A lot of selfishness is gone I could even say it with myself, I'm not worried about if I'm touching the ball or not," Cousins told Sactown Royalty. "So it's a lot more team-oriented and at the end of the day, it's about winning a game, so that's the biggest thing that's changed in this locker room."
After Donte Greene did not get him the ball and the alleged fight ensued back in 2011, many wrote Cousins off as a "head case." Some said he would be kicked out of the NBA eventually and end up playing in China. But we are seeing a different Boogie this season (albeit the Kings are above .500). He is averaging 22 points, 11 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals per game and appears to see the light at the end of the tunnel under the new ownership group and clearly understands his role in the front office's plan for the future.
He does, however, still need to stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble, and he did pick up his first technical of the season on Thursday.
But the Kings' franchise player is a long way removed from trying to rip a teammate's head off, literally, after a tough loss and is learning to become the leader they so desperately need him to be.