DeMarcus Cousins was ecstatic when he found out he was getting traded to the New Orleans Pelicans last season, but things didn’t end quite the way he hoped.
Cousins played in 17 games with the Pelicans, posting a 7-10 record along the way, and the team fell out of playoff contention down the stretch. He’ll return to New Orleans for the 2017-18 season in what will be the final year of his deal.
Cousins went to Johannesburg, South Africa this week along with Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry for the NBA Africa Game 2017, and Cousins spoke on Thursday via conference call about his goals going into training camp.
While dodging specifics, the three-time All-Star said his main focus over the summer was losing weight after falling out of shape late in the 2016-17 season.
“Every offseason I try to work on something to better my game,” Cousins said. “I really wanted to focus on my body this summer. I kind of let myself go in the second half of the season last year. I got in a place where I didn’t really want to be.”
Cousins averaged 24.4 points and 12.4 rebounds in his 17 games with the Pelicans last season, but he felt as if it was a struggle to continue playing at a high level under his new team’s up-tempo system.
He’s spent most of the summer working out with Pelicans star forward Anthony Davis in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and fans have noticed how different the Pelicans center looks in some of his recently released photos.
“That was my main focus–just coming in and getting in tip-top shape,” Cousins said. “I really wanted to transform my body to fit our offense. I felt that this would better myself and my team.”
Cousins said one of the main areas his weight loss has already positively affected his game is moving on the defensive end and switching on the perimeter.
With players like Davis and Jrue Holiday on the roster, the Pelicans built their identity on having players that could guard multiple positions and had the eighth-best defensive rating going into the All-Star break (104.6).
After Cousins’ arrival, New Orleans had to adjust some things on defense with their new-look roster and the team’s defensive rating dropped to 105.6 over the final 25 games of the season–13th in the NBA.
“Just being able to move easier,” Cousins said was the biggest effect of his weight loss. “Less stress on your joints and your knees and your feet. And also just being able to keep up with the pace at all times. The game has changed in this so-called ‘small-ball era.’
“I have to be able to move where I can guard almost every position. You can’t be a bulky big man anymore because it’s not just about banging in the post.”
Gentry added that he’s been impressed with the work Cousins has put in over the summer and his weight loss should make him a better fit with the team’s style of play on both sides.
“He and (Anthony Davis) have spent almost the whole summer working out together,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I think if anyone has seen DeMarcus on an Instagram post or anything like that, you can see how his body’s looking and what he’s done in transforming his body.
“We’re not going to be a walk-it-up, play-slow team. We’re going to be a team that continues to run and attack. The better shape he’s in, the better he’s going to be able to help us out.”
DeMarcus Cousins hoping weight loss will improve his game in 2017-18