- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 23, 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. — During Wednesday night’s game between the Sacramento and Washington, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins threw a laser of a cross-court pass — right to Wizards guard John Wall.

For a moment, it was as if the pair forgot that they were no longer teammates at Kentucky. But despite playing for different teams on opposite coasts, their on-court chemistry and off-court friendship is as strong as ever.

“We talk just about every other day, if not every day,” Wall said. “We just wish each other [to] keep getting better, and doing the best they can.”

Wall and Cousins will be reunited for the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night in Orlando, when All-Star Weekend kicks off. Both are members of Team Chuck.

Among their common experiences as NBA sophomores was losing their first coach. The Wizards fired Flip Saunders on Jan. 24, and the Kings dismissed Paul Westphal on Jan. 5. Although Wall’s relationship with Saunders was arguably better than Cousins’ was with Westphal, Wall still called it difficult for a young player to adjust to.

“We both went through tough times losing a coach,” Wall said, “but you just got to mature.

“That’s a part of the business side of the NBA. [You] just keep working on your game and try to help your team win.”

The two also played together in several summer-league games, and while both plan to steer clear of collusion controversy by saying it publicly, it seems obvious that they wouldn’t mind being NBA teammates.

“It’s always great to play with him,” Wall said, recalling last year’s rookie game when he, Cousins and former Kentucky teammate Eric Bledsoe (Los Angeles Clippers) were reunited.

“Last year it was me, him and Eric again. We kind of gave the ball to each other, forgot everybody else,” Wall said with a smile, and only partially joking. The rookies won 148-140, and Wall walked away with the MVP trophy for his 22-assist performance, a record for the event.

The relationship the three forged in college has helped them get through the daily challenges the NBA places on young players, Wall acknowledged.

“It makes it easier,” Wall said of having Cousins and Bledsoe to talk to.

“Eric’s been hurt most of the year. He didn’t lose a coach, but we still all talk and see what each other’s doing. You can tell when you look at each others’ face when something ain’t going right. We ask each other, we joke about it. Somebody will say they’re not mad, they’re not upset, but we know the real side to the story.”

Wall praises Cousins’ game with a hint of wistfulness.

“It’s great to have a person like that who you can pass it to who can finish either way, making jump shots or being a presence on the block,” Wall said. “He’s a load on the low post, so its tough to guard him, and he can pass at the same time.

“It’s going to be fun just to have a great weekend with each other, take a break from the season and have fun for a couple of days.”

After Wednesday’s game, a 115-107 Kings win, Cousins chatted with Wall briefly.

“We’ve been friends since high school,” Cousins said. “We do [enjoy playing together]. I mean, it’s going to be fun playing with him again this weekend.

“He’s like a brother to me.”

• Carla Peay can be reached at cpeay@washingtontimes.com.

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