It is the one weakness for Team USA — after Tyson Chandler there are no other true centers on the USA Basketball roster due to injuries. In The USA’s first game, against the Dominican Republic, coach Mike Krzyzewski tried Kevin Love, LeBron James and seemingly everyone but Chris Paul at the five spot. The Dominicans could do nothing about it.
Brazil is a different story.
Team USA takes on Brazil Monday night in our nation’s capital and this is a team that can attack the United States with size — they have the Wizards’ Nene, they have the Cavaliers’ Anderson Varejao, they have the Spurs’ Tiago Splitter and a generally larger team.
They also have a point guard in Marcelo Huertas who can handle the USA’s pressure defense better and is fantastic at picking apart defenses with the pick-and-roll (if the first option doesn’t work out they will re-set screens all night long). He did that at the World Championships in Turkey two years ago as Brazil gave the USA its toughest game of that tournament.
Every time Coach K is asked about the USA and size concerns he comes back with the same response — “they have to match up with us, too.” Which is true, there is nobody on the planet that stops LeBron James at the four. Kevin Durant is a matchup nightmare as well, and Deron Williams is a physical defender who can give Huertas some trouble at the point.
But Brazil is going to be a real test because of their size, the could hurt Team USA on the boards. In the second half of the Dominican Republic rout Krzyzewski went with a Chandler at the five, Love at the four lineup that was more traditional. Expect to see that tonight.
But exhibition games are about learning — expect to see Coach K to throw LeBron, Durant and others against the Brazilian front line because now is when you want to see what works. Now, when the games don’t count, is when to experiment.
If you just wanted to see the USA put on a dunk fest and entertain, you should have watched the Dominican Republic game. If you want to see a real test for Team USA, tune in Monday night.
DeMarcus Cousins says Mavericks’ rumored interest flatters him, but he loves Kings
The Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in DeMarcus Cousins took its most direct public turn before the season, when Dallas signed Cousins’ brother, Jaleel Cousins. Jaleel is now on the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate, and I bet he will remain there as DeMarcus approaches 2018 free agency.
So, DeMarcus Cousins, what do you think about the Mavericks’ long-rumored interest in acquiring you?
“It’s flattering,” Cousins told me, with a laugh, after the Kings’ Wednesday shootaround at AAC. Then, turning serious, he added of the Mavericks, “I respect them.”
“But,” I said, “I’ve also heard that you like it in Sacramento.”
“No,” Cousins corrected, “I love Sacramento.”
Cousins is getting good at this, toeing the line between appreciating another team’s interest and expressing his satisfaction with the Kings.
And give Cousins credit. He keeps producing at a star level for a team that hasn’t provided him with the proper support. Sacramento again appears headed toward the lottery, even as Cousins averages 29-10.
Questions remain, though: How much of Cousins’ attitude is him trying to make the best of an inescapable situation, and will expanded options in the summer of 2018 test his loyalty?
LeBron James dunks, struts past camerapeople and toward crowd, spooks fan (video)
NEW YORK (AP) — Derrick Rose is missing the New York Knicks’ game against Cleveland because of lower back pain.
Rose left the Knicks’ victory over Miami on Tuesday in the third quarter with back spasms. Coach Jeff Hornacek says Rose still felt sore on Wednesday when he came in and met with team doctors, so they sent him for an MRI exam to make sure there was no structural damage.
Rose is averaging 16.7 points and this is the first game he’s missed this season.