Following a tumultuous start to the season, DeMarcus Cousins has lived up to the expectations placed on a franchise player.
Cousins ranks tied for third with 21 double-doubles this season and is one of just eight players averaging double digit totals in both points and rebounds per game.
All the second-year player out of Kentucky needed was a coaching change.
New Year’s Day was nothing to celebrate for Cousins, as he was not allowed to travel with his Kings teammates to their game in New Orleans.
Earlier in the year he was suspended for a game after getting in an altercation with teammate Donte Greene for not passing the ball to Cousins for the final shot. He was also fined $5,000 for arguing with the team trainer.
Five days later, with a 1-5 record, Sacramento instead fired Westphal in a large part because of his inability to avoid clashes with Cousins and his 51-120 record with the team in two plus seasons.
While he played for Westphal, Cousins averaged 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds over the first six games of the season.
Under Keith Smart, Cousins became the franchise center the team anticipated when selecting him with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
When the ball is not in his hands, Cousins is constantly pursuing the ball and has come down with a league best 153 offensive rebounds this season.
Ten times this season, Cousins has grabbed more than 15 rebounds and on six occasions he has seven or more offensive rebounds.
What makes him so intriguing is he is producing at an elite level and still has plenty of areas to improve.
For a 6-foot-11 post player, his 43.7 shooting percentage from the field is extremely poor. Outside of the restricted area, but still int he paint, he is connecting on just 32 percent of his attempts.
Although he has a decent mid-range shot, Cousins has just made 54-of-129 attempts.
For the second consecutive season, he leads the league in personal fouls his eight technical fouls is tied with Dwight Howard for the third most in the NBA.
Once is he is able to limit his fouls, Cousins will be able to play more, and not as cautions, than the 29.5 minutes per game he is averaging.
One of his biggest detriments is also what makes Cousins a special player, he plays hard on every possession.
During the Rising Stars Challenge last Friday, most of the participants were jogging up the floor, only accelerating when turning the game into a dunk contest.
He dominated the low post early in the game, scoring 11 of the first 19 points for Team Chuck and while constantly jostling for position with Greg Monroe under the basket, the two nearly came to blows.
While some players were more concerned with putting on a show, Cousins finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds while never losing his signature intensity.
The Kings are hoping Cousins can be the cornerstone for the franchise as they move into their new arena.
Following years of speculation, the team has reached an agreement to remain in Sacramento, building a new arena downtown and leaving the outdated Power Balance Pavilion.
The Kings have the second worst record in the Western Conference and are heading for the draft lottery for the sixth consecutive season.
Tyreke Evans, the 2009 Rookie of the Year, and Cousins provide the team with some optimism as the franchise undergoes preparations for its new stadium.
In his first game back from the All-Star break, Cousins led the Kings to a 103-96 victory over Utah, scoring 22 points with 18 rebounds, eight coming on the offensive end.
Following his rookie season, there were questions about his conditioning, but with his ability to dominate the offensive glass, they have been squashed.
If Cousins keeps playing at the same level, the Kings will be preparing for an extended playoff run instead of the draft lottery.