LAS VEGAS — DeMarcus Cousins is a participant in a USA Basketball event for the second straight summer, but after how things turned out last year, it was by no means guaranteed that he would ever be asked back.
Cousins was a member of the USA Select team that was there for the Olympic team heading to London to practice against, and for whatever reason, the way things went down didn’t sit well with USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo.
“Show respect to players, and you get respect back,” Colangelo said at the time. “He needs to mature as a person, as a player if he’s going to have an outstanding NBA career. So before there’s discussion about him being part of our program, he has a lot of building to do. He has a lot of growing up to do.”
It’s not in Cousins’ nature to let criticism against him slide, a problem he continued to show even this past season when he was suspended for confronting an opponent’s broadcaster after a game during the regular season.
But he seemed to take a professional approach last year with Colangelo.
“I actually just had a conversation with (Colangelo),” Cousins said back then. “I asked him, ‘How was I being immature?’ He never really gave me an answer. I mean, I really wanted to know. I took offense to it. … It definitely bothered me.”
Cousins is back this year because despite his attitude issues, he has the talent to compte with the game’s best. And it seems as though the initial remarks weren’t that big of a deal in either party’s eyes.
“I mean, the whole thing was blown out of proportion,” Cousins said Monday at Team USA mini-camp in Las Vegas. “What was said between us wasn’t really as bad as it was [reported], but for [Colangelo] to set it aside and give me another chance, I’m very thankful for it.”
Colangelo echoed that sentiment when asked why he felt like Cousins deserved another invitation to be a part of USA Basketball.
“Well, primarily because there was a little bit of a misunderstanding that got out of hand with the media last year over what did transpire with him,” Colangelo said. “That was unfortunate. So in an attempt to bring it to a close, I said the book is closed. Let’s move on with our lives, and why not give him a second chance? Everyone is deserving of a second chance.”
It’s early in the proceedings, but after the first day of practices, Colangelo seemed pleased with the effort that Cousins displayed.
“He’s done fine,” Colandelo said of Cousins. “We haven’t even had our first discussion, we’re going to have that when we get back to the hotel tonight with all the players. But he came in with a great attitude. He’s worked real hard, he had a great day today at practice, but a lot of people did.”
Cousins is happy to be back, and in the brief portion of the scrimmaging the media was allowed to view, he did seem to be playing hard, even diving on the floor near the end of a game to try to gain possession for his team by saving the ball from going out of bounds.
But lest you think Cousins has lost that edge, he maintained it when asked who his competition is for the best big man at this week’s camp.
“Nobody,” he said.