DeMarcus Cousins can feel the difference.
Everyone else can see it.
A lighter, leaner and quicker version of the New Orleans Pelicans’ All-Star center has emerged after a summer of dieting and training. The benefits have already revealed themselves in training camp inside the Ochsner Sports Performance Center.
Cousins hasn’t specified an exact number of pounds lost, but he told reporters he dropped a significant amount of weight this offseason, thanks in part to hiring a personal chef and overcoming a lingering foot injury.
“Of course I feel lighter on my feet,” Cousins said. “I’m moving a lot better than I was last season. So, yeah, it is a difference.”
It has allowed the Pelicans to play small, despite being big.
Coach Alvin Gentry described the combination of Cousins and All-NBA forward Anthony Davis as a throwback to the 1980s and 1990s, when big men ruled the league and games were won in the post.
However, the Pelicans aren’t following the throwback blueprint precisely.
New Orleans doesn’t plan to play slowly by throwing into the low block and relying on back-to-the-basket isolation.
Instead, Cousins’ new slim figure and Davis’ versatile skills allowed the Pelicans to play at a frenetic pace through two days of training camp.
“But I don’t think you can be a good offense in the league unless you’re a transition team anymore, and we want to make sure we are maximizing our possessions,” newly hired assistant coach Chris Finch said earlier this summer. “We want to lead the league or be in the top five in pace and doing so means we are generating extra possessions.”
Ian Clark spent the past two seasons with the small-ball experts in Golden State and admitted he didn’t know what to expect when he joined the Pelicans as a backup point guard this season.
But Clark claimed even with the skyscraping roster in place, the principles from his time with the defending-champion Warriors are largely in place.
Clark said Davis and Cousins are running the length of the floor, trying to create early in the shot clock and exerting ball movement to tip defenses off balance.
“Obviously you see it in Anthony, but playing with Cuz (Cousins) these past few weeks, you see he can push the ball, with the ball, or run out to the wing and get down to get to his spots,” Clark said. “It can be really good.”
Beyond the increased movement, Cousins said 17 games and a handful of offseason workouts alongside Davis have dramatically improved the duo’s chemistry.
The pair met multiple times on the West Coast this year in an attempt to learn more about each other’s games, finding favorite spots on the floor and figuring out where to best deliver passes.
Through just two practices, it already began to pay dividends.
“We are figuring out the high-low game a lot more,” Cousins said. “We are picking our spots and knowing who is the guy to pop and who is the guy to roll. Last year, there would be times where we could kind of run into each other or be on top of each other, but it’s definitely a lot smoother in this training camp. So we still have work to do are growing in that aspect of the game, but it’s coming along great.”
Statistically, there isn’t a more productive NBA frontcourt combination than Cousins (27 points, 11 rebounds per game) and Davis (28 points, 11.8 rebounds), who both became superstars without one another.
But if the duo can add a dose of fast-break efficiency, thanks to a newfound ability to run the floor, it could turn from dangerous for opponents to lethal.
“(Cousins) is moving, he’s running and his shot selection has been really good,” Gentry said. “I think he’s going to have a great year. Obviously the chemistry between he and AD has been really good, and that’s pretty obvious right there.”