DeMarcus Cousins played only 2 minutes and 27 seconds in the NBA All-Star game Sunday night, but still he looked weary as he addressed reporters following the game.
That’s because even as he jumped up and down, pumping his right fist in the air to celebrate Kevin Durant’s alley-oop lob to Russell Westbrook, rumors were swirling about trade talks and Cousins’ future.
Later, as he finished his postgame news conference, Cousins clapped a fist into his other hand and offered a wry smile.
“Never a break, man!” he said.
The Western Conference All-Stars beat the Eastern Conference, 192-182, at Smoothie King Center, with New Orleans Pelicans center Anthony Davis scoring an All-Star game-record 52 points and Oklahoma City guard Westbrook adding 41.
Then, less than an hour after the game ended, ESPN and Yahoo Sports reported the Sacramento Kings had reached an agreement to trade Cousins to the Pelicans, and that the Lakers had been involved in talks with the Kings but were unwilling to part with rookie Brandon Ingram.
Ingram, the second overall pick in the 2016 draft, participated in All-Star weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge. He is a player the Lakers believe will develop into an All-Star as he gets stronger and bigger.
On Feb. 6, Lakers Coach Luke Walton made Ingram the team’s starting small forward, replacing veteran Luol Deng in the lineup. It was a sign the Lakers felt Ingram was ready for a bigger role, and also a nod to their own future, of which they think Ingram will be a big part.
While this deal didn’t materialize, the Lakers have been actively exploring trade options, even as they navigate a confusing time in their front office.
Lakers advisor Magic Johnson, who has said publicly that he wants to be in charge of the organization’s basketball operations, plans to meet this week with Jim Buss, the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations, and General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
“Quite frankly compared to the last three or four years, we have a lot of talent on this roster that I think a lot of people have interest in — varying levels of interest,” Kupchak said last week. “I would think there’s more meaningful discussion this year than there has been the last two or three years.
“[But also] I really like this group. They get along really well together. The guys that are here as mentors and leaders are doing a great job. The young players are showing growth.”
Johnson was honored during the All-Star game as an NBA legend along with Allen Iverson, Willis Reed, Bob Pettit, George Gervin, Julius Erving and Bill Russell.
They took the floor minutes after the weeklong narrative about Golden State’s Durant and his former teammate Westbrook reached its conclusion.
During pregame warmups, the former teammates slapped hands. Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who was coaching the West team, put Durant, Westbrook and Houston guard James Harden, three former Thunder players, on the court together. Durant threw a lob to Westbrook, who dunked the ball, and the West bench erupted.
“Oh my God, what just happened?” said a voice on the bench, possibly that of Warriors guard Steph Curry.
An unknown assailant threw water on Durant — also likely Curry, who was holding a cup of water a few seconds before.
“I never tattletale on myself or whoever it was,” Curry said. “After all the talk this week, not even this week, this year, about them two. At the end of the day it was about celebrating the game of basketball.
“That was a fun moment, them connecting on the alley-oop. At the end of the day, talking about basketball.”
Both Durant and Westbrook downplayed the moment.
“He threw a lob,” Westbrook said. “That’s all that happened.”
“It was a good play,” Durant said. “Good catch. Good finish.”
At the time it seemed like the story of the night, but that changed dramatically, to Cousins’ chagrin.
“It’s disappointing that I had to go through another All-Star [game] with some type of situation with the Kings instead of it being about my All-Star experience,” Cousins said before he knew a trade was agreed upon. “. . . I was happy coming in but the last couple of days, the last couple of minutes something had to happen.”
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