Pel­i­cans think big with Davis, Cousins

Front-court duo can play any way the game dic­tates — ad­van­tage New Or­leans

Toronto Star - - SPORTS - DOUG SMITH SPORTS RE­PORTER

NBA teams spend hun­dreds of hours and count­less thou­sands of dol­lars try­ing to un­earth the de­sired big man of the era, some­one who can shoot and han­dle the ball, ef­fec­tive out­side and in the post, a tena­cious re­bounder and some­one com­fort­able ev­ery­where on the court.

The New Or­leans Pel­i­cans are sav­ing them­selves a lot of money and time these days be­cause they’ve al­ready got two of them, an em­bar­rass­ment of big-man riches.

In An­thony Davis and DeMar­cus Cousins, the Pel­i­cans have two of the pre­mier multi-faceted bigs in the game and they are fi­nally fig­ur­ing out how to mesh their im­pres­sive tal­ents.

Cousins and Davis, who have the Pel­i­cans at 6-5 after Thurs­day night’s 122-118 loss to the Rap­tors, had com­bined for an av­er­age of 57.3 points and 26.4 re­bounds per game be­fore to­tal­ing 38 at the ACC. They shoot from out­side and ham­mer the boards. They han­dle the ball and share it. They are the envy of many a team.

“They have a lot of sim­i­lar skills, so that helps the sit­u­a­tion be­cause both of them are ca­pa­ble of play­ing on the in­side or the out­side,” Pel­i­cans coach Alvin Gen­try said Thurs­day morn­ing. “Be­cause of that, we can al­ter­nate what they’re try­ing to do. Paired to­gether, I don’t think they have a weak­ness.

“Both of them are very good re­bound­ers, very smart play­ers. Both of them are will­ing passers. I think they can make it eas­ier for ev­ery­one else on the floor.”

It’s taken a while for the two to fig­ure it out. They didn’t have a smooth tran­si­tion at the end of last sea­son, when New Or­leans ac­quired Cousins from the Sacra­mento Kings, and there were doubts they would ever re­ally fig­ure it out. But they have been out­stand­ing to­gether for most of this sea­son, with New Or­leans car­ry­ing a four-game win­ning streak into the ACC.

“Just watch­ing them play, go­ing over film, you see both guys can bring down the ball, han­dle the ball, shoot threes. Some­times they even set screen-and-rolls for each other. DeMar­cus throw­ing An­thony lobs,” Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan said. “So it’s def­i­nitely one of those duos that’s dom­i­nant at both po­si­tions that you’ve never re­ally seen be­fore.”

Cousins, at six-foot-11, is the big­ger long-dis­tance shoot­ing threat of the two, av­er­ag­ing 7.5 three-point at­tempts per game. But he’s also av­er­ag­ing 13.6 re­bounds and shoot­ing 55 per cent from two-point range.

“I think our tal­ent is dif­fer­ent than a lot of bigs — there’s so many ways we can dom­i­nate a game,” Cousins said after the Pel­i­cans beat the Pacers on Tues­day. “And I think we’re just scratch­ing the sur­face right now. We can get so much better.”

How far Cousins and Davis can carry the Pel­i­cans re­mains to be seen, and the early-sea­son sam­ple size is small. New Or­leans hasn’t made the play­offs in four sea­sons, the in­jury­plagued Davis av­er­ages al­most 20 games missed per sea­son be­cause he’s hurt, and New Or­leans is in the deep and tal­ented West­ern Con­fer­ence. But what­ever hap­pens, they know they are on the cut­ting edge.

“You get to do a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing — shoot the ball, drib­ble, pass, get screens set for you — so it’s fun to play in this era,” the six-foot-10 Davis said. “The game has def­i­nitely evolved. And it’s fun for me es­pe­cially be­cause I used to play this way in high school as a guard, so it’s a lit­tle rem­i­nis­cent for me and it’s fun.

“To see some of these guys do the things they do. Some do it better than guards. It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for me to play in this era, es­pe­cially along­side an­other guy who can do the same thing.”

An­thony Davis and DeMar­cus Cousins com­bined to av­er­age 57.3 points and 26.4 re­bounds per game be­fore fac­ing the Rap­tors.

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