SACRAMENTO, California - Shaquille O'Neal met with the owner of the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night and offered to tutor former LeFlore High School standout DeMarcus Cousins.
"I'm going to make DeMarcus Cousins the best big man in the game," O'Neal told a Sacramento television station on Tuesday.
The Kings have undergone many changes since their NBA season ended with a 28-54 record. Vivek Ranadive is now the majority owner of the team, which sidestepped being moved to Seattle with plans for a new arena. Michael Malone, who had been an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, was hired as the Kings' head coach. Last week, Pete D'Alessandro, the vice president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets, was introduced as Sacramento's general manager.
All three men praised Cousins' basketball ability and called him a cornerstone of the franchise's rebuilding plans. However, Cousins has been silent on team matters, other than its location, during the offseason.
"It's great news for the city," he told the Courier-Journal in Louisville. "I'm glad that the Kings are still there, and the city deserves a team."
Cousins' agent, Dan Fegan, has instructed him not to comment on the Kings' management or ownership. Cousins will be in the last year of his four-year rookie contract in the 2013-14 season and becomes eligible for a contract extension on July 1. Fegan has said he wants the Kings to give their center a maximum deal, which would be $9 million a season or 25 percent of the team salary cap, whichever turns out to be greater. Anything short of that is likely to prompt a trade demand.
Cousins averaged 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in his 75 games last season, down from the 2011-12 campaign when he averaged 18.1 points and 11.0 rebounds in 62 games.
Cousins was assessed 17 technical fouls during the season, although two of them were rescinded by the league office, and he was ejected from four games. Cousins was suspended three times during the season.
O'Neal was a 15-time NBA All-Star center in a career that stretched from the 1992-93 season to the 2010-11 campaign. He averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game during his career. He was the NBA MVP for the 1999-2000 season and played on four NBA championship teams.
Cousins is one of 27 NBA players who have accepted invitations to attend USA Basketball's mini-camp on July 22-25 in Las Vegas. The mini-camp could be the first step toward Cousins representing the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"It would mean a lot if I had the opportunity to be part of the team," Cousins told the Sacramento Bee. "I'm going to go in and try to set my mark and try to make that team."