There was a rare buzz surrounding the New Orleans Pelicans practice on Friday afternoon.
The media throng was nearly quadrupled in size from a typical gathering, greeting Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, who made franchise history by being the first pair of New Orleans teammates to start simultaneously in the All-Star Game.
It’s a small taste of what’s to come in Los Angeles on Feb. 18, when the international media frenzy descends on the Staples Center.
While both Davis and Cousins have made All-Star appearances a routine event, each recognized the importance of their distinction as teammates, and Cousins expressed gratitude for being voted as a starter by the players, media and fans for the first time in his career.
“It’s cool to be there with a familiar face,” Cousins said. “I think this is big for the entire city, the organization and just our team, with moving forward. It kind of shows what this combo has the potential to have. I’m excited.”
Cousins even admitted he was a bit surprised by the selection.
“The media don’t like me,” he said while laughing.
Well, whether they’re liked or disliked, the three different groups respected Davis and Cousins’ production enough to name them among the 10 most coveted slots in the league. Davis is averaging 26.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, while Cousins is posting 25.3 points and 12.7 rebounds per game.
They’ll have an opportunity to build on those stats Saturday night at 6 p.m., when the Pelicans host the Memphis Grizzlies inside the Smoothie King Center.
Their dual selection proved, even in today’s smaller, shooting-centric, accelerated NBA, the pair didn’t have to sacrifice individual accolades to co-exist on the same roster.
Their numbers have vacillated back-and-forth, typically trading off big games as defenses shift their focus to stop one or the other. But, in the end, each is still considered one of the league’s most dominant big men and now have the All-Star distinction to prove it.
“The biggest question was, ‘Was it going to work?’ ” Davis said. “I think we just proved that it is and it can work. But it’s a testament to our hard work. We like each other. We feel like we complement each other. Having those two All-Star spots taken up by me and him is just huge for us and the organization.”
Cousins claimed he came to New Orleans unconcerned about individual accolades. The center had already made All-Star teams and reached All-NBA honors despite suffering through six losing seasons with the Sacramento Kings.
“I’ve done everything except win,” Cousins said.
He wanted a chance to reach the playoffs by teaming up with Davis. It turns out he can get both.
“We just figured we were just going to play and whatever happens, happens,” Davis said. “There have been nights when I’ve had a big game and he didn’t and then nights where he had a big game and I didn’t. Then some where we both had big nights.
“You just go out and play, knowing some games you might have to sacrifice.”
However, Davis and Cousins still don’t know if they’ll be playing together or on separate sides. The NBA flipped the All-Star Game format this season, scrapping the traditional East and West squads for a fantasy draft of sorts. Two two teams will be chosen by team captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry after the reserves are selected by the league’s coaches on Tuesday.
Davis said he expected him and Cousins would get placed on different teams, but neither expressed any concern about which team they’ll be put on, or what round they’ll be selected in.
“I honestly don’t even understand the format,” Cousins said. “I’m just showing up. I don’t know who I’m playing with.”