Ever since becoming head honcho at the University of Kentucky in 2009, John Calipari has produced high-level NBA talent like it’s something that’s assembled in a factory and then sent through the conveyor belt for final examination and some possible fine-tuning.
The list of now-NBA name’s hailing from UK during the Calipari era could probably field a championship competitive squad in the Association, with the likes of John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nerlens Noel and Julius Randle all suiting up for Calipari at one point or another.
Two of the most talented players to sport the revered ‘Kentucky Blue’ during Calipari’s time on the sideline include big men Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, both of whom erupted for huge performances on Sunday, which unfortunately happened to be a loss for the former, but a victory for the latter.
Against the New York Knicks in a Sunday matinee, Davis returned from a hip contusion, and was pitted against prized rookie power forward Kristaps Porzingis, who seemed to relish the opportunity to duel with whom many consider to be the league’s best four-man.
Davis bested Porzingis and just about everyone the Knicks threw at him, showcasing the versatility that makes him such a darling at his position.
Face-up jumpers? Check. Taking his man off the dribble and lofting up a soft-touched runner? No sweat for AD. Running the floor like a gazelle to be the recipient of a beautiful lead pass leading to a dunk? All commonalities in the basketball life of Anthony Davis.
But of course with Davis it’s not just bravado on the offensive end, but the defensive side of the ball as well. Davis patrolled the paint, altered shots (the NBA really needs to incorporate a stat for shots altered btw,) and made Porzingis and everyone else who was donning a Knick uniform think twice about strolling into the painted when he was the one governing it.
My favorite part of this performance however comes at the 1:40 mark, where the Pelicans use Davis as a screening decoy, then proceed to run him off two back-screens from Luke Babbit and Ryan Anderson to free him for a three. That’s your 6’10 power forward being utilized in guard-like action. Yuck (in a good way!)
Davis finished the 95-87 loss with 36 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, and it was good to see him out there playing dominant basketball after starting off the season slowly. Davis and the Pelicans are currently sitting at 1-9, as they try to find their way as they continue to deal with a rash of injuries to key rotation players.
On Sunday night it was DeMarcus Cousins’ turn to play bully-basketball, as his 36 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and three assists led the Kings to a 107-101 win over the Toronto Raptors, their third straight victory since their reported implosion last week.
What impressed me the most about this outing from Cousins wasn’t his agile maneuvering in the paint, or him sinking his newly-found three-point shot with ease. It’s the way he rallied the troops in the games waning moments and led them both on offense and defense.
Cousins’ offensive gifts are something fans have marveled at for years, but his lack of effort and attention to detail on the defensive end left fans irate, especially when winnable games hung in the balance. Down the stretch of this one, Cousins and the Kings were not plagued by inefficiencies on that end, but rather powered by good execution and hard play.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing Sacramento falter in scenarios such as these, but they didn’t let the ten-point deficit with 6:45 left discourage them. Cousins shouldered the load, hitting Toronto’s frontline with everything in his arsenal, one that’s got some major defense destructing tools might I add.
Cousins hit a layup with 25 seconds left to push the Kings’ lead to three, then he snuffed out a DeMar DeRozan drive on the ensuing possession, making the shot a tough one for the two-guard and ensuring Sacramento their third straight win.
It’s always fun to watch these two bigs do their things, and although their methods of attack may differ, their individual results do not, and that’s what make them two of the most feared at their respective positions today.