Fear DeMarcus Cousins, for he is a beast

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Thumbnail image for cousins_no1.jpgHow did this guy fall to No. 5 again?

One Summer League game is a meaninglessly small sample size. But it was big enough to make you realize this — DeMarcus Cousins could be a beast in the NBA. He is a big man in a world of big men, but he has touch and feel.

Cousins finished with 14 points and 10 boards, showed great footwork, was strong on the block, worked hard on defense most of the time, had good moves and even a face-up game not seen at Kentucky this year.

“I was very nervous in the beginning, I really didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know how I would manage through the game,” Cousins said. “But it came pretty easy.”

He didn’t look nervous, he looked like a guy having fun. Talking trash to Edgar Sosa. Getting out and running. Making the right play — he got doubled on the block early and he make the right pass out of the double to the shooter multiple times. He’s a gifted passer, and the fact he was a big man who passed out of the block at Summer League alone made him stand out.

At a couple times, he was having too much fun.

“He forced it a couple times, he tried to dribble it up the court, but, give it to your point guard DeMarcus and get your big butt down on the box,” said Sacramento Summer League coach Mario Elie.

Cousins even tried to show off his mid-range game for Elie. And he’s not the outside shooter Elie was (who is?) but he hit shots doing it. Cousins’ jumper release is a little low and the follow through needs to be better (or exist) but if he’s close now he could be good enough to really make you respect him outside the paint.

“I’ve had (and outside shot), but coach Cal didn’t need me to do that at UK, now I just go do what I do,” Cousins said.

It was easy to picture the Sacramento offense next season: Tyreke Evans coming off the high Cousins pick. It’s going to be brutal to stop. Evans can get into the lane with anyone, but show out hard to take that away and Cousins is rolling hard (or popping out off a flat screen).

Sacramento is going to be a lot of fun this year.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.