DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins embracing his second chance with USA Basketball

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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.

Monty Williams is back coaching with Team USA, ready to get back on NBA sidelines

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18:  Draymond Green #14 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team drives against assistant coach Monty Williams of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 18, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.

Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.

Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.

“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.

Ben Simmons says he plans to work on shooting, handles, getting stronger before camp

Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons cheers from the bunch during the first half of the team's NBA summer league basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Thursday, July 14, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Associated Press
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The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.

Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.

He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.

New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.

Report: Warriors sign JaVale McGee to make-good training camp contract

JaVale McGee
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JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.

He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.

But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.

I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.

Russell Westbrook laughs off question about Kevin Durant

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant #35 discuss play during the first half against the Los Angeles ClipperLos Angeles Kingsat Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.

But not right now. He remains silent.

This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.

https://platform.vine.co/static/scripts/embed.js

In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.