Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said today he is "excited" about being one of the 18 players selected to play in the Feb. 24 Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star Weekend.
"It's going to be a fun event, there's going to be a lot of people there," Cousins said. "Playing with the other 'Rising Stars,' it'll be a lot of fun."
Cousins, who is averaging 15.3 points and 11.5 rebounds this season, played in last year's Rookie-Sophomore game and finished second behind Wizards guard John Wall for MVP honors.
* Head coach Keith Smart said he would start tonight's game with Cousins, the Kings' 6-foot-11 center, guarding Kevin Durant, the Thunder's lanky small forward and explosive scorer -- then quickly explained he was kidding.
"We'll guard (Durant) with the perimeter players that we have," Smart said. "This guy's a talented player so he's seen every defense you throw at him. We've got to make sure he doesn't have a monster game, but sometimes you try to do so much with one guy that you open up the door for four or five other guys to have great games."
Cousins, though, wasn't so sure he wouldn't be up to the challenge. He said he guarded Durant a few times this summer when both were playing in a Washington D.C. summer league.
"It would be a tough job," Cousins said. "But I believe I could."
* Smart said guard Isaiah Thomas' shooting hand feels "much better," and that the swelling has gone down from the small chip fracture that Thomas sustained on the third knuckle of the hand Monday night in New Orleans.
Thomas played the following night in Minnesota and had no points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in 18 minutes.
"That first (night) there was going to be a swollen hand," Smart said. "But I think the swelling has gone down drastically over the last two days so it's much better.
"He's a little more understanding of receiving a pass now as opposed to the first night, because it's probably still a little tender."
* "Linsanity" is catching on across the league, as New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin -- who went to high school in Palo Alto and college at Harvard -- has led the Knicks to three consecutive wins while averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists in those games.
Undrafted out of college, Lin spent last season in the Golden State Warriors organization -- Smart's lone season as the Warriors' head coach -- before being released in the offseason. Lin appeared in 29 games for the Warriors.
This was Smart this morning on Lin:
"The young man, all he did last year was work. Worked, went down to the D-League and played. Worked, went down to the D-League and played, and listened to the coaches trying to teach him. Understand, he wanted to play and everybody wanted him to play.
"But he didn't know space on the floor, where to go. Watching some of their games, because we're getting ready to get on a trip to go out to New York, you see that he's getting it. He knows where to go. How deep does he drive, what pass needs to be made? These are all things the staff, myself, tried to teach last year and he finally has put it all together.
"When he got cut this year by Golden State, I had a conversation with him. And I was happy when he got picked up. The guy has just worked, and I'm happy for a guy like that because he's done everything that you put in front of him, and now he's taken it upon his own to carry that. The way he's playing is not a surprise because, one thing he did, he played hard and he was an aggressive personality to the basket. Those things carry over pretty quickly to the NBA."
-- Matt Kawahara