Is DeMarcus Cousins the big man Team USA can lean on?

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LAS VEGAS — Team USA is going to go small this summer.

In the final scrimmage on Monday they ran a lineup with Kevin Durant as the four and Anthony Davis as the center, and that likely will be your starters when the USA gets to Spain for the World Cup. On the other side of that same scrimmage Chandler Parsons played power forward with Paul Millsap getting a shot at center. Small ball.

But the USA needs some real size because Spain — the runner up to the USA the last two Olympics, and a team that starts Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol up front — is looming. The question is who will be that other big man?

In the limited action the media saw from Day 1 of Team USA training camp, DeMarcus Cousins looked like the next best big man.

The Sacramento center had a nice chemistry with Kyrie Irving on the pick-and-roll getting a couple buckets diving toward the rim. Cousins was making more plays on the defensive end where he blocked a Paul George jumper and shut down James Harden driving the lane. Team USA needs active bigs in their system and Cousins was that.

“I believe what (coach Mike Krzyzewski) wants from me is to be a physical specimen, be a defensive anchor, control the paint. Be a dominant force in there….” Cousins said, adding it’s an adjustment to jump into playing 5-on-5 at this level in the middle of summer. “Everything happened so fast out there I don’t know who made what pass, we’re just playing basketball.”

Of course, the question with Cousins has never been talent. It’s the mentality side — international basketball allows far more physicality than the NBA game and Cousins can pick up fouls and technicals out of frustration trying to deal with those calls (or lack of them). Team USA doesn’t have room for that.

While Cousins looked good Andre Drummond was making plays too and if he can keep his head about him while Cousins can’t the choice is easy.

Has Cousins matured enough to make the Team USA roster for Spain? If he has he’s the best man for the job. If not, Coach K will move on quickly.

As always with Cousins, it all comes back to his attitude and maturity. But so far he has looked like a guy Team USA can count on.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.