• Now that star center DeMarcus Cousins is gone to New Orleans, Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein promises he’ll step forth into the spotlight and push his team toward the West’s eighth and final playoff spot. He delivered his first time out with a 29-point, 10-rebound performance off the bench in Thursday’s 116-100 home victory over Denver.
“That’s my mission the next 25 games,” he told reporters after Cousins and Omri Casspi were traded away. “You might see a different spark from me. Playing 10, 15 minutes, I didn’t have a lot of say in what we do. Now we just lost two verbal leaders. Somebody else has to step up and be a verbal leader, so why not me?”
• Magic Johnson returned to the NBA and the Lakers last week to run the show after GM Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss were fired.
Former Lakers star and TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal suggested on Thursday’s doubleheader telecast that Johnson will bring back superstar free agents as well as glory again to L.A. But broadcast partner Charles Barkley isn’t convinced, even if Johnson could bring, for example, Russell Westbrook and Paul George back home.
“They’re both hell of a players, but [Oklahoma City] didn’t win with Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant,” Barkley said. “All these guys want to play with each other. It’s a different league now.”
• Cousins when asked at his introductory news conference in New Orleans just how competitive the often penalized star is: “About 17 technicals’ worth.”