Team USA Showcase

DeMarcus Cousins ‘visibly shaken’ by news Mason Plumlee may beat him out of spot on USA Basketball roster

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DeMarcus Cousins is in his third year participating in USA Basketball mini-camps during the summer, but he entered the program with somewhat of a credibility deficit.

Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski treat USA Basketball beyond seriously, and they demand an extreme level of commitment and character from the players they allow to eventually be named to one of the rosters.

Cousins has had a consistent series of what we’ll call behavioral issues ever since coming into the league, and he hasn’t really shown any signs that any of it is truly in his permanent past. There are still on-court incidents, and those that extend into the stands; none of that can happen in international competition, and it simply won’t be tolerated on Colangelo’s watch.

By all accounts, Cousins has been nothing but a hard worker at USA camp this year and last, but those in charge are going to want to see a long-term pattern of positive behavior to convince them that adding him to the roster is going to be the right decision.

Somewhat ironically, the way Cousins has performed from a pure basketball standpoint is what may keep him off of this summer’s team that will compete for the FIBA World Cup. And upon learning that he may be beaten out for a spot by Mason Plumlee, he predictably wasn’t at all pleased.

From Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee:

At this point, Cousins’ friend Andrew Rogers joins us and displays tweets from ESPN and other news outlets indicating that Colangelo and Krzyzewski favored Plumlee over Cousins. My sources suggested that the competition among Cousins, Drummond and Plumlee remained wide open and that Friday’s scrimmage and ensuing exhibitions would be crucial. Yet when he saw the tweets, Cousins appeared visibly shaken.

Q: Have you heard anything about your chances?

A: Nothing. They don’t really tell us much. I saw Coach K in the elevator, but we just chatted.

Q: How disappointed would you be if you don’t make the team?

A: I would be crushed. Everyone knows how much I want to do this. This is my third year here (two with Select Team), and I don’t run from any challenge. I would be crushed, but I’m not a quitter. I would come back and try again.

This interview was conducted before Friday night’s scrimmage, where Plumlee outplayed Cousins on the defensive end of the floor. Team USA has plenty of offensive talent, but they need active bigs interested in focusing their efforts on defense — something that Cousins hasn’t proved consistently capable of this summer.

He did mention in the interview that he’s playing through a leg injury, which could be affecting his ability to play the game while giving maximum effort on both ends of the floor. And, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that Cousins will in fact be left off the roster. But if that’s the way the team decides to go this time around, Cousins will simply need to stay positive and continue to work hard within the USA Basketball system to prove he belongs — and eliminating the types of needless incidents he’s become known for during the upcoming NBA season probably would only help those chances.

[via Nets Daily]

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!

Nicolas Batum zips pass between Tobias Harris’ legs to assist Frank Kaminsky (video)

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Listen up, defenses: Nicolas Batum will throw passes between your legs.

Three things we learned Wednesday: Warriors, Cavaliers try to make statements in December

Golden State Warriors forward Kevon Looney, left, and Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford reach for a rebound during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 115-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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ESPN thought they had a great double header on Wednesday, but those games were decided by a combined 49 points, you should have flipped over to Hairspray Live. Anyway, here are the big takeaways from Wednesday.

1) You can’t have a statement game in December. But if you could Cleveland, Golden State made them. Can we just skip ahead to Christmas when these two teams finally play each other? Plus by then my shopping will be done, and I’m dreading doing it. We’ve said before the Cavaliers and Warriors have established themselves as the best in their conferences and they made that point with authority on Wednesday.

Cleveland did it thrashing the Knicks 126-94. To be fair, the Knicks were on the second night of a back-to-back and were without Derrick Rose. But that is a small part of the disparity here. First, Phil Jackson may want to not try to piss off the best player on the planet. Just a suggestion. Beyond that, the Knicks have had a good season (12-10), but they match up poorly with Cleveland. They don’t have a good defender for Kyrie Irving. Nobody has a good one for LeBron (well, maybe the Spurs). Kristaps Porzingis struggles to defend in space, and Kevin Love can exploit that. I can go on, but you get the picture. Between beating Toronto Monday and this, the Cavs are back to exploiting their advantages out East.

Golden State made its statement by blowing out a Clippers team that had been the second-best team in the West to this point. The Warriors did it with defense first — Los Angeles shot 39.6 percent as a team. Stephen Curry did a respectable job on Chris Paul (15 points on 14 shots), Klay Thompson blanketed J.J. Redick (just four shots), and Draymond was built to guard Blake Griffin (12 points on 20 shots, with seven turnovers). The Warriors anticipated the Clippers skip passes and turned those into transition chances (Golden State won the fast break points battle 27-11). The Warriors didn’t even have a great night on offense — Curry was 0-of-8 from three — and won 115-98 (and it wasn’t that close). Still, the Warriors ball movement was there.

Marreese Speights is in a unique position — the Clippers backup big was with the Warriors the past few seasons, and he was honest and harsh in his assessment of the differences between these teams.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo got a triple-double on an off night. He’s that good. Portland is not a good defensive team. Improved with Al-Farouq Aminu healthy and back on the court, but still not good. However, their defensive strategy of having their bigs play back and not press high off picks works against Giannis Antetokounmpo because you want to make him a jump shooter anyway — and the Greek Freak was notably frustrated at times Wednesday night.

And he still had a triple double of 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. He’s playing that well. Look at it this way, in a Westbrook/Harden world Antetokounmpo is the only NBA player averaging more than 20 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals a game this season.

The real story for the Bucks was the 27 from Jabari Parker, that’s the reason Milwaukee beat Portland 115-107.

3) Kemba Walker needs to be an All-Star, he got Hornets a win over Pistons. Charlotte shot 34.1 percent Wednesday night, no way they should get a win in that situation. But alas, there was Kemba Walker, who had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter sparking a Charlotte win, 87-77. Walker is averaging 23.6 shots per game, is shooting a career-best 41.4 percent from three, has a true shooting percentage of 58.2 percent (well above the league average), and is the everything for the Hornet’s offense.

The man deserves to be playing in New Orleans in the All-Star Game this year. I know the East is loaded with quality point guards — Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Isaiah Thomas, John Wall — but Kemba has earned the recognition this year.

Warriors rout Clippers 115-98 for 7th straight win over LA

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, left, tries to go up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers guard Alan Anderson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 115-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Klay Thompson scored 24 points, Draymond Green added 22 points and the Golden State Warriors routed the Clippers 115-98 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight win over Los Angeles.

Stephen Curry had 19 points for Golden State, and Kevin Durant, who came averaging a team-best 27.0 points, was held to 16 on 5-of-17 shooting.

Curry failed to make a 3-pointer for just the second time this season, going 0 of 8. The Warriors were 7 of 30 from long range.

Jamal Crawford scored 21 points for the Clippers, who have lost five of seven. Four of their seven overall losses have come at home.