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.
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.
What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?
A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.
The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.
League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.
Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.
But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.
Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?
He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.
Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.
Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.
But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.
Maryland guard Melo Trimble declared for last year’s NBA draft but withdrew.
This time, he’s not turning back.
Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun:
Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.
Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.
“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.
Trimble’s scouting report hasn’t changed much in the last year. He’s a scoring guard whose size (6-foot-3) will require him to play point guard in the next level, but he hasn’t shown the necessary distributing skills.
The biggest difference: He’s now 22, not 21.
Trimble had a superb college career, but at this point, his range is second round to undrafted.
DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.
Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.
Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.
Justin Verrier of ESPN:
Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.
Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.
Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.
That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.
Evan Daniels of Scout:
Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.
Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.
Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.
Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.
There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.
But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.