By Rob Mahoney
January 24, 2014

DeMarcus Cousins isn't just improving on the court, but also in his ability to contribute to a positive team culture. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)DeMarcus Cousins isn't just improving on the court, but also in his ability to contribute to a positive team culture. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

• No piece of writing more thoroughly details the persona and circumstances of DeMarcus Cousins than this profile by Grantland's Jonathan Abrams. One tiny anecdote on Cousins' budding leadership from a sprawling piece:

[Kings head coach Mike] Malone often finishes addressing the team by asking if any players want to add anything. He then specifically asks Cousins if he wants to speak. In one of their best performances of the year, the Kings upset Miami in December, but Cousins used his monologue to criticize the team’s defense in the first quarter. “When he’s locked in on defense and when he’s executing the coverages and playing in a stance and not taking the easy way or the shortcut or the lazy option and actually defending the right way,” Malone said, “he’s a very good defensive player. And now he becomes even that much of a better player and more dominant player because now he’s on both ends of the floor. I think that kind of goes along with his ability to lead. It can’t just be about one end of the floor. It can’t just be one day you lead. It’s got to be every day you lead. It’s got to be both ends of the floor you have to play.”

• Worthwhile thoughts here on the Jazz and team building in general through this maxim wrapped in metaphor: "... sometimes the most efficient way to get to your destination requires standing still for a few minutes."

• When asked about Mike Woodson's switch-driven defensive system, Knicks guard J.R. Smith gave the perfect answer (via the New York Post): "That's not really my area of expertise."

• On a very related note: Seth Rosenthal of the Knicks blog Posting and Toasting asks fans a simple question that speaks volumes: "How do you watch the Knicks now?"

• Eddie Maisonet wanders well off the beaten path to mount a defense of Kendrick Perkins. If nothing else, it's valuable to note that Perkins shouldn't shoulder blame for the way he's used by Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

• There have been enough micro changes to the Heat for their iffy January performance to cause some concern, but also enough consistency in their big-picture indicators to feel as confident in their chances this year as last. Take from all that what you will, though rest assured that Miami's switch-flipping figures to be a frequent talking point between now and June.2

• From a team building perspective, what do the Pelicans need going forward?

Bucks GM John Hammond touched on a number of topics in this interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, including his framing and goals for a season that has gone off the rails:

We were forced into it. It wasn't the plan. Sometimes you are forced to change in midstream, so to speak. That's kind of what happened to us. We've put the young players out there. We're excited about their progress. The most important thing is they continue to improve now as the season progresses … I said before the season started that I hoped we would be a better team at the end of the season than we were at the beginning. We didn't know we were going to be in this position. But it still holds true. We want to continue to improve. We want to be a team that is going to play hard, play unselfishly. We want the people who support us and come to our games to see that we do have future pieces we can build with. Every time you take the floor, every player wants to win; every coach wants to win. I want to win. But at the end of the day, we want to make sure our guys are improving. If there is improvement from within, we'll win our fair share of games.

• Through a certain split, one can track a marked improvement in the way DeAndre Jordan is protecting the rim and preventing easy baskets.

• The rash of David Stern retrospectives has begun spectacularly, with terrific reads on the man, his league, and his legacy from Tom Ziller and Nathaniel Friedman.

• Pierre the Pelican is due for a makeover, and among the changes informally proposed by netw3rk: "Make New Pierre’s mouth not a blood-red horror beak with exposed tongue evoking a ravenous hunger for flesh."

• Jared Dubin offers an overdue appreciation for the NBA's most overlooked players: Those starters vital enough to contribute to wins but overshadowed by stars and reserves alike. Working as the fifth option in a starting lineup is hardly the most glamorous of basketball work, but the players Dubin singles out for praise -- Amir Johnson, George Hill, P.J. Tucker, etc. -- are incredibly worthy.

Josh Smith Pistons Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball looks into Smith's theory

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