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Posted at 3:46 PM ET, 12/ 8/2010

A Kentucky reunion in California

By Michael Lee

Me and my brothers. (AP Photo)


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.


We made it. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images)

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."

By Michael Lee  | December 8, 2010; 3:46 PM ET
Categories:  John Wall  
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Next: Open thread: Wizards (6-14) at Kings (4-15)

Comments

Gotta consolidate last night's supposed moral victory with a win tonight over a Kings team ripe for the picking. Get the win with plenty of Young and Booker, not too much Yi and Hinrich...the semblance of a workable rotation may start to take shape.

Posted by: divi3 | December 8, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Do you guys ever think Hinrich could be being showcased for a trade to a contender?
GM

IMO, a big reason he was acquired was so that Gil can be moved at the drop of a hat if a team comes calling. Despite Ted's pleasantries to the contrary, you gotta believe Gil will moved if possible. Wonder if watching Gil dominate the ball with Wall on the floor makes Flip/EG cringe?

Posted by: divi3 | December 8, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Imagine if those 3 guys and Patrick Patterson had stayed at Kentucky. They might have gone undefeated this season.

Of their respective clubs, I've been most surprised by Sacramento and the Clips. Both looked to me (going into the season) like stronger teams than Washington. The Kings had Tyreke Evans, Casspi, Carl Landry, and decent depth at center. But Evans has struggled with his shooting and his turnovers are up. The Clips were getting Griffin back plus they had Gordon, Baron Davis, and Kaman. By comparison, the Wiz roster seemed thin. And that's thinking Blatche would be healthy and more productive than he has been.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 8, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Of their respective clubs, I've been most surprised by Sacramento and the Clips. Both looked to me (going into the season) like stronger teams than Washington.

Last year Sacramento looked like a team going in the right direction, really long and athletic. Crazy long with Donte Greene playing some 2. This year they look like a team with Samuel Dalembert on the roster. But the Clippers are always suspect which makes the media's Groundhog Day love affair with their young core very silly.

Posted by: djnnnou | December 8, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

I agree with divi3. Go with Young, give him some of Hin-Brick's minutes. NY should get a minimum of 35 minutes per game. If Flip has any doubt about that, he should ask JWow. I'm sure JWow knows that these days a pass to NY is almost an automatic assist.

Posted by: shovetheplanet | December 8, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

"Our best trade asset is Blatche. He is an experienced ready to contribute now but still young & upcoming player. He is on a reasonable contract."

If the Wiz were going to try and trade Blatche, they should have done it during the off-season. Preferably before he signed that extension.

Posted by: Samson151

That would have been true if they had been thinking of trading him back then.

On the other hand, if they started thinking they needed to trade him after they saw how he's been playing since he signed the contract...

On a slight tangent, my major peeve with Ernie isn't with his draft choices or his trades, it's with the contracts he offers when he's re-signing players.

Posted by: Miks | December 8, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure JWow knows that these days a pass to NY is almost an automatic assist. Posted by: shovetheplanet

Wall knows a lot more than what you're giving him credit for. Only 3 of his 14 assists last night were on Young baskets.

Posted by: djnnnou | December 8, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

"That would have been true if they had been thinking of trading him back then.On the other hand, if they started thinking they needed to trade him after they saw how he's been playing since he signed the contract..."

That's the art, isn't it? Knowing when to fold 'em. Blatche looked pretty good to a lot of folks last season, during that run following the trades. He looked pretty good to a lot of folks after the draft, when he was working out, losing weight, and anticipating all those passes from John Wall. Then he got hurt, gained back a bunch of weight, and has generally underachieved. Britt Robson's point was that we should have seen this coming, based on his predilection for jump shots over inside play. But I remember how many folks around this blog were talking about him at one point as being the best young 4 in the NBA. Excoriating Flip for not playing the guy sooner. Now we're being treated to video of him scurrying out of the way of opponents on defense...

It's a tough business, predicting the future LOL.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 8, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

"Wall knows a lot more than what you're giving him credit for. Only 3 of his 14 assists last night were on Young baskets.
Posted by: djnnnou"

Very good point. Inspired me to check the play-by-play: looks like only one of Wall's assists in the 4th was to Nick. Two to Gil and three to Booker. Maybe we saw a tiny bit of the future when Trevor and Wall were on the court together.

Posted by: Samson151 | December 8, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

My unofficial count of the distance on Nick Young's made baskets:
19 ft
3 ft
49 ft
26 ft
16 ft
25 ft
26 ft
17 ft
27 ft
24 ft
24 ft

Not exactly layups, huh?

Posted by: Samson151 | December 8, 2010 8:13 PM | Report abuse

"Wall knows a lot more than what you're giving him credit for. Only 3 of his 14 assists last night were on Young baskets."

Good pickup on the number of assists to NY. But I don't really see it as inconsistent with my point. I wasn't suggesting that that's ALL that Wall knows or that NY is the only guy worth passing to. Just that smart guards such as Wall and Gilbert know to get the ball to the guy with the hot hand.

Posted by: shovetheplanet | December 8, 2010 8:17 PM | Report abuse

The big matchup is Evans vs Gil. Gil's big problem right now is finishing. He's gotten alot better at it when he goes for the layup but lately he hasnt been going for the layup, espically on breaks. He's a good passer on the break but now its so obvious that he's scared to jump so the defender just plays the other guy, Gil still tries to pass it because he's scared to jump, and it gets stolen.

The Gil-Evans matchup last year was good. Gil had like 33, which was more then Evans but Evans clearly outplayed him. He went at Gil every time. Gil's a better defender now but it could still be a little hard defensively. He can makeup for it by going right at him on the other end. He should win that matchup if he's right. They dont have that length & skill players like the Lakers do so he should attack more

Posted by: dlts2041 | December 8, 2010 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Isn't that cute, Gilbert, Walls and Blatche are all averaging 17 points a game with Young closing in at 13 points a game. I guess you can call them "Young and the Mini Three". It is sure a far cry from the "Big" three. Baby steps, just think baby steps.

Posted by: JohnWWW | December 8, 2010 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Is tonight gonna be the night where the Wiz lose their 12th in a row on the road and where most people on his blog get so giddy about the team's better effort when the outcome was hardly in question? And not to mention, it was against a team that's notorious for coasting against vastly inferior opponents during the regular season to only turn on the switch when it counts (yes, they are so good, they actually do that).
Yeah, let's all forget that this team is absolutely atrocious with no direction or leadership whatsoever and pin all our hopes on 2 grossly undersized role players that should have been drafted and would have probably been available in the second round.
Better yet, let's crown EG since. the team ONLY losing by 7 (and 11 straight on the road) to the defending champions who clearly play disinterested this time of the year. If that's not a loser's mentality, I don't know what is.
Some people definitely deserve to be fans of this franchise!

Posted by: Utilityman1 | December 8, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

SpearsNBAYahoo

Wiz G John Wall walked off court gingerly in Sac pregame with ankle concern after testing it briefly.

Posted by: dlts2041 | December 8, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

So Yi gets the start tonight....gotta think Flip will have a quick hook on him in favor of Booker if Yi doesnt play well. Gil and AT starting, nice to see the Hinrich/Gee era lasted all of 3 games.

Posted by: divi3 | December 8, 2010 9:39 PM | Report abuse

Utilityman1, BF78 and the like,
Now now now now now now now now now....what about the concept of rebuilding a team is so daunting to comprehend? My god....we have to make a cross country trip kids...it's over a 1000 miles....please stop asking if we are there yet.

Personally I am quite content right now just watching the development of John Wall and the rest of the kids. I would be giddy happy to see consistent effort each and every night but again this is a rebuild...20 some games into the first season...if this is so frustrating for you why not just pop on a Lakers cap and head over to their web page and discuss potential Western Conference finals matchups. Sheesh.

Posted by: The_Shadow_Knows | December 8, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Now now now now now now now now now....what about the concept of rebuilding a team is so daunting to comprehend? My god....we have to make a cross country trip kids...it's over a 1000 miles....please stop asking if we are there yet.

Personally I am quite content right now just watching the development of John Wall and the rest of the kids. I would be giddy happy to see consistent effort each and every night but again this is a rebuild...20 some games into the first season...if this is so frustrating for you why not just pop on a Lakers cap and head over to their web page and discuss potential Western Conference finals matchups. Sheesh.

Posted by: The_Shadow_Knows | December 8, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Shadow, I totally understand the concept of rebuilding but the process is certain to be doomed since it's spearheaded by the one that got us in this abysmal situation to begin with.
Rebuilding isn't only about changing players, drafting new players and signing young draft busts in hopes of resuscitating their careers. Rebuilding starts with a change in culture and it ranges from a change in players, coaches, executives to even team doctors and front office personnel.


Posted by: Utilityman1 | December 8, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

what a pathetic rebounding team. Yi and blatche are more worried about hanging around the three point line and seem afraid of contact. Magee needs a tough PF that covets rebounds and D and can cover for Magee's shot blocking. would much rather see Booker. Flip deserves to get fired if he continues to stick w/ these softees! Isn't it telling that every team shoots around 60% against us and kiil us inside. if the wiz would have just held their own on the boards last night it would have been a comfortable win. trade that sorry ass Blatche and Yi. no more marshmellos Ted. no more please

Posted by: jreed63 | December 8, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

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