DeMarcus Cousins Will Be Counted on With Samuel Dalembert Ailing
No one was predicting an end to the Lakers' reign, or touting their big men as equal to the likes of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, but there was a sense that they could finally compete down low in this league that has fast become the land of the long. The Kings ranked 29th and 25th, respectively, in opponent's points in the paint for the last two seasons, with the since-traded Spencer Hawes and his flat-footed friends almost always leaving the lane as open as their frustrated coach's mouth.
The 2010-11 enthusiasm didn't end with Dalembert and Cousins, as the Kings drafted the nation's leading shot blocker, 7-foot Hassan Whiteside, out of Marshall in the second round and looked forward to enjoying his cup-contesting ways as well. By their own comparison, the pieces new and old had the Kings believing they could be the next version of the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder after winning just 42 games combined in the last two seasons.
"Here We Rise," their marketing slogan went.
But the Kings learned on Wednesday that a strained left abductor muscle that has had Dalembert out since the start of training camp will keep him out another four to six weeks. It's an inauspicious start, to say the least, considering part of Dalembert's appeal when the Kings acquired him from Philadelphia in June was his durability (he has played in all 82 games the last four seasons).
What's more, Whiteside has yet to debut and isn't expected to do so for quite some time as he recovers from a strained left patellar tendon. These new-look Kings may well rise by season's end, but they're falling like flies now.
"We thought we had a couple shot blockers, and both of them went down; that's pretty tough," Kings coach Paul Westphal told FanHouse. "You figured (between Dalembert and Cousins) you had 48 minutes of center out there. And it's hard to realistically expect more than 24 or 25 minutes from (Cousins) on a regular basis. That's a strain on your frontline when it's like that."
Cousins was expected to start his career coming off the bench, while the Kings would likely have started Dalembert at center and Carl Landry at power forward. And while Cousins has been playing and acclimating well so far, the Dalembert injury has the exact effect that those closest to him were hoping to avoid: it raises expectations sooner rather than later.
He was already the center of the organization's marketing efforts, with Cousins billboards and posters the size of King Kong plastered all over town. Now it's not just off-the-floor hype, as the Kings could be looking at a rough start to their season if Cousins can't stay out of foul trouble and contribute more than was originally intended. While his conditioning has been an issue in the past, Westphal said he's far more concerned with Cousins' relationship with the officials than his rapport with the scale.
"I think there will be nights when he can do that (play 30-plus), but it's just not something you can put in the bank and say, 'Well, we've got 36 minutes from DeMarcus tonight,' " Westphal said. "You might have 15 minutes if he's in foul trouble."
Cousins -- who was taken fifth overall in the June draft out of Kentucky -- took the news in stride.
"We're missing a big key part with Sam, (because) he's a leader on the floor, a big-time defender, and with him being out it's going to be tough," Cousins said after the Kings' preseason win against Golden State on Tuesday night. "But it's also going to be a learning experience for me ... If I have to play more minutes than I have to play more minutes. I don't have a problem with that. I'm just going to do my job and play my role."
As for Whiteside, Westphal lamented the fact that he could have developed sooner than expected if he was able to take advantage of the available minutes that Dalembert's absence has created.
"We figured to have a numbers crunch (in the frontcourt, where Carl Landry and Jason Thompson are also key members of the rotation) and never planned on him being somebody who would get heavy minutes this year," Westphal said. "(But) maybe he would've kicked the door down for some playing time. This is a big setback that he doesn't get a chance to get these minutes now that they're there. It's too bad. This would've been the perfect opportunity for him to grow some."
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