DeMarcus Cousins has always been confident in his abilities. Even before becoming an All-Star last season, he couldn’t be convinced there was a center in the NBA better than him.
That bravado is now coupled with a maturity that any labels about his dominance will only be solidified if the Kings become a winning team, which has been the knock on Cousins by his biggest critics.
Still, it can be funny when someone asks Cousins if he is the best big man in the NBA, as was the case after Wednesday’s 112-93 win over the the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
“That’s not even a question,” Cousins said.
However, what Cousins added – after scoring 36 points to go with 16 rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block – is that he and the Kings have a long way to go before they can be satisfied.
“It’s not even about that,” Cousins continued. “I feel like I can still improve in so many ways. I feel I can improve on the defensive end. I’m still making a lot of mistakes. I feel I can be a lot more vocal on the defensive end. I feel like I can make the pass more than I have.
“Still a lot of areas in my game I need to improve on right now. It’s not about that, it’s about playing the right way and helping this team get to the next level.”
The next level is the playoffs, which are still within reach for Sacramento (18-23) at midseason. The win was the Kings’ third in a row, all on the road.
With Wednesday’s win over the Lakers (9-35), the Kings moved into eighth in the Western Conference, where they need to be to make the playoffs. Cousins, however, said the Kings should not be satisfied with simply holding playoff position in January.
It seems as if Cousins has taken the goal of improving the Kings personally in January. He entered Wednesday averaging 31.1 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.9 steals this month. He’s scored at least 30 pitons in seven of his last nine games.
The Kings are 6-3 in January.
“I’m just trying to make a push,” Cousins said. “I’m just trying to play my part. Whatever it’s going to take to get this team over the hump.”
Cousins was flirting with shooting a career low this season, but he was shooting 48.9 percent in January prior to Wednesday and has been more efficient with his shots, including shooting 13 of 22 against the Lakers.
“DeMarcus has shown at a high, high level that he’s an All-Star,” said Kings coach George Karl. “Is there a better center playing basketball in the NBA right now? I don’t think there is. He’s helped us at both ends of the court.”
Karl believes Cousins deserves to return to the All-Star Game next month in Toronto.
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“I don’t know anybody playing at this level in the NBA right now,” Karl said. “I hope the NBA recognizes it and gives him the opportunity to play in Toronto.”
Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 17 assists for Sacramento, his 11th game this season with at least 15 assists. Willie Cauley-Stein added 12 points and 10 rebounds, the first career double double for the rookie.
Rudy Gay had 16 points and matched his career high with six blocks. It was also the Kings’ sixth consecutive win over the Lakers, the longest streak in the Sacramento era.
Brandon Bass led the Lakers with 18 points. Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams each had 15 points.