Cousins calls USA Select Team experience “political”

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bumpy time as a member of the USA Select Team this summer, playing against the London Olympians during training camp.

He got called out publicly by USA basketball president Jerry Colangelo for being too physical in scrimmages against the stars. I’ll add that I was in Vegas and Colangelo wasn’t the only one saying it. Kobe Bryant said that when Cousins keeps his head down and focuses on his game he is fine but when he lets his emotions get the best of him things go wrong.

Cousins wasn’t keeping his head down in an interview with Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated. Cousins was the full, unfiltered Cousins through the entire interview, including when Amick asked him if he enjoyed his time with Team USA.

“I didn’t enjoy it,” he said of the experience. “I went out there, and … I’m not going to say I didn’t learn anything from it, because I did. But it was just, in my mind, another political battle. I learned more about politics. I saw the work ethic of the so-called elite in the league, and I took some notes from that and took that back with me. But as far as the rest of it? No.

“Honestly, the scrimmages were one-sided the whole time. To even have a chance, you had to play hard as hell. We were out there getting our heads knocked off, and if they’re going to play physical, then I’m going to play physical back. I’m not out there trying to start fights — just trying to stand on my own. But I guess the ignorance of people is they take it as being immature.”

Of course the scrimmages were one-sided, did you see the Team USA lineup? LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul and you bring guys like Carmelo Anthony off the bench? The Select Team isn’t going to win those games, but they are going to put up the best fight the Olympians were going to face until the Spain game. But these are still your teammates, so you play within certain bounds of convention — nobody wants to see anybody hurt.

Anthony Davis ended up being put on the Olympic team, Cousins was not.

Cousins couldn’t adjust. His emotions got the best of him.

We’ll see how much he learned from that as we move ahead into the new season where he will be the heart of the Kings.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.