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.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.