A Kentucky reunion in California
Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins furrowed his brow and offered a quizzical look when asked this week if he was looking forward to his first career matchup against John Wall.
"John, who?" Cousins asked, acting as if he had amnesia.
John Wall? The No. 1 overall pick? Your former teammate at Kentucky?
"I don't know who that is," Cousins said with a grin, before finally acknowledging that he might have heard of the guy.
Cousins knew that his friends Wall and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Eric Bledsoe were waiting for him outside the visitors' locker room at Staples Center. He had just lost to Bledsoe for the second time this season, and for the umpteenth time in his life, having never beaten him in high school in Alabama, either. "I could never beat him and I hate it," Cousins said about Bledsoe.
Cousins already knew what to expect when he walked out the door. "Trash talk will happen when I get outside," said Cousins, the fifth pick in last June's draft.
Cousins barely stepped out of the locker room before Wall pounced on him, mocking Cousins for walking around with a pink backpack that Kings rookies are required to use as a hazing ritual.
"I had to get on him a little bit," said a laughing Wall, acknowledging the ridiculous look for the burly 6-foot-11 big man.
And, for the next 30 minutes, the three players who had bonded in their one year together in Lexington caught up during an in-season reunion that was aided by the NBA schedule maker allowing Wall to watch his former teammates duel the night before he faced the Los Angeles Lakers. They joked around, shared some stories and gave each other a hard time over topics other than pink backpacks.
Wall said that when he's home in D.C., he records Kings and Clippers games to follow his friends and monitor their progression. He couldn't pass on a chance to see them in person, as the Clippers defeated the Kings, 98-91.
"I had to grab a ticket to see both of them play on the same court at the same time. We all reached our NBA dreams, it was great," said Wall, who sat in the front row, under the basket during the game.
For now, Wall's Wizards will seek to avoid going 0-12 on the road this season against Cousins's Kings, who have lost eight games in a row overall.
After dominating college basketball for most of their lone season together at Kentucky, this has been a difficult year for Cousins, Wall and Bledsoe. In leading Kentucky to the Elite Eight, the trio lost just three games and restored pride in a storied program. "It was fun to us. We had one of the best recruiting classes," Bledsoe, the 18th pick in the draft, said about their one year at Kentucky. "To come and bring back that tradition, coming and winning games for them, bringing back the life that Kentucky had, that was great."
But the adjustment has been much harder in the NBA. All three are starters for teams that appear destined for another lottery appearance. Already this season, the Wizards have 14 losses, the Kings have 15 and the Clippers have 17. "It's tough, but coming into this, we knew, if you get drafted pretty high, most teams had a downfall the year before," Wall said. "Main thing you do is try to help them out, but you can't do it by yourself. You know what I mean? It's a learning experience that we're going through, but I think we're dealing with it pretty well."
Cousins's frustrations have already led to him being fined and kicked out of a practice this season. Losing like never before has taught him to be more patient. "Patience is a big thing. Lean on your teammates, just keep believing," Cousins said. "It's tough, man. It's the NBA. It's a lot that goes on."
Cousins said that he has probably talked more with Bledsoe more than Wall about the difficult adjustment to the league. "Eric, we try to lift each other up. In the beginning it was him, later on it was me, later on, it was both of us," Cousins said. "I think me and Eric talk about it the most, me and him struggling the most. John's playing pretty good. John, [it's a] totally different conversation, we cracking jokes. I love them dudes. They my brothers."
Bledsoe said that when the three of them get together, it's impossible to keep them from laughing. At Kentucky, John Calipari could only get them to stop by making them run laps. "We connected just like that," Bledsoe said. "We hung around each other as soon as we got on campus, me, DeMarcus and John, we was all tight."
Wall and Cousins were college roommates and Bledsoe lived in the room next door, so they rarely were apart. "We was all brothers, having a good time," Wall said. "Every time you seen one of us, you seen the other two. You didn't see us by ourselves. If somebody was going to the gym, we was together, eating, anything, together."
Wall will face Cousins again on Jan. 11, but he won't go head-to-head with Bledsoe until March 12. He said the time they shared on Monday was similar to those times they spent joking on the plane or in practice. "It was like family all over again. Like two brothers from another mother," he said. "You seen us out there, for about 20, 30 minutes, just joking around, having a good time and bringing up old memories. As much time as you can to be around each other, we do it. We enjoying the season, hope that we all do well. Then in the summer time, we'll hook up again."
| December 8, 2010; 3:46 PM ET
Categories: John Wall
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