Now in their third seasons in the league, Wall and Cousins have both joined teams in Washington and Sacramento, respectively, that have remained stuck in the lottery, which has been discouraging for both of them.
The way that they have responded to those difficult times has been much different, with Wall mostly avoiding expressing his frustration publicly and Cousins racking up suspensions and repeatedly getting disciplined for his outbursts with the Kings.
“It’s tough for us right now,” Wall said, “but it’s something that you have to deal with, as long as you don’t get used to losing so much and try to build on winning.”
This season has been challenging for Wall and Cousins for different reasons, but Wall said they have helped each other through some tough times. Wall was sidelined for nearly three months with a stress injury in his left knee as the Wizards got out to an NBA-worst 5-28 start.
“I didn’t really lean on him. He just kept checking on me, making sure I’m doing good,” Wall said of Cousins. “We check on each other as much as possible.”
Cousins has received three suspensions this season – the NBA suspended him two games for confronting San Antonio Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliot after a game, and another game for hitting Dallas guard O.J. Mayo below the belt; and the Kings gave him another one-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team after a halftime confrontation with Coach Keith Smart.
“I talked to him all the time. Just tell him to keep his head,” Wall said. “Sometimes, certain things don’t go his way. Sometimes you get suspended, sometimes you get bad fouls because you’re a physical player and you’re bigger than a lot of guys. Just keep playing through them. Whenever he’s on the court, he’s doing a great job when he’s not in foul trouble or suspended.”
The latest suspension with the Kings led to rumors that Cousins was on the trading block, a situation that General Manager Geoff Petrie later shot down with a public denial. USA Today reported in late December that the Wizards “would be considered ideal” for Cousins, who recently hired agent Dan Fegan, who also represents Wall.
But the Kings are dealing with greater concerns, with the team attracting attention from an ownership group in Seattle that could potentially move the team out of Sacramento.
And Cousins has probably made the Kings more reluctant to deal him with his stellar play since returning to the team. Cousins had his first career triple-double (12 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in his second game back against Boston and has averaged 21.8 points and 12.5 rebounds this month.
“I think he’s a talented big man, because he shoot the midrange. He can score in various ways and he can also pass the ball well,” Wall said. “And he’s going to play hard. And he’s a monster rebounder.”
Wall frequently watches games played by Cousins and his other former Kentucky teammate Eric Bledsoe, a backup with the Los Angeles Clippers, and had ample time to keep up with them when he out injured.
The timing of Wall’s return was great for the Wizards, since it allowed the team to go on its longest non-April winning streak in nearly five years. But it also worked out for Wall, because for he will finally get to face Cousins in Sacramento for the first time.
The Wizards didn’t travel to Sacramento last season and Wall sat out against the Kings his rookie season after developing soreness in the sole of his left foot. Cousins and Wall have split the other two meetings in Washington.
“It’s cool. It’s fun,” Wall said of playing against Cousins. “We brothers off the court, but on the court, it’s no friends. We try to beat each other up, foul each other, make sure nobody scores and make sure that our team get the win, so we can talk about it later.”
Wall is also eager to get a win to keep the team rolling on a stream of positive momentum. “I feel very strongly about this team and I wish we all could’ve been healthy from the beginning, because I think things could’ve been different,” Wall said. “But there is nothing we could do about it. It’s part of the game of basketball. Things happen. We’ve just got to keep working. And we’re just trying to keep this winning streak.”