Team USA Showcase

DeMarcus Cousins says he’s fully recovered, honored to make Team USA

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On his way out the door in Sacramento guard Isaiah Thomas said what a number of scouts had said before about DeMarcus Cousins.

“I think if he ran the floor a little more, he would make the game a lot easier for him.”

That was one of the things holding him back from getting a roster spot on Team USA (that and his attitude towards authority and referees, which has improved). Team USA has gone with the “our athleticism can overwhelm you and we will run you into the ground” system and it’s worked quite well. If you can’t keep up you get left behind.

But he ran well for team USA in scrimmages and looked good — until he went down when he and Kenneth Faried bangs knees. That kept him out of a couple scrimmages but couldn’t keep him off the team (especially after he played against Puerto Rico last Friday night).

Cousins told the Kings official Web site he is healed and pumped to have reached a career goal.

“I’ve said it time and time again — it’s a goal of mine for this summer,” said Cousins post-game Friday. “It’s a huge honor. Who wouldn’t want to represent their country?”

Although a knee injury caused him to miss valuable practice time and the squad’s first exhibition contest on Aug. 16, the Kings center discloses he’s fully recovered from the setback and has methodically studied and aimed to execute the coaching staff’s game plan.

Cousins is going to come off the bench because Anthony Davis is a much better fit as the rim-running/rim-protecting five Mike Krzyzewski needs with this style. Cousins will get the chance to prove he should get backup minutes ahead of Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee.

But where Cousins will really prove his worth is when the USA runs into other teams with big, skilled centers. Specifically Spain, which has Marc Gasol starting and can move Pau Gasol or Serge Ibaka in that role when they go a little smaller. USA teammate Kyrie Irving gets it.

“I think (he brings) competitive fire and toughness, as well — we’re going to need that going over to Spain, and we’ll see what happens,” said Cavaliers All-Star Kyrie Irving. “He’s doing a heck of a job of just continuing to be consistent every day in practice and every day in the games when he gets minutes.”

If Cousins can carry that over to the NBA season, it will be another step forward for the Kings.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.

Paul George reiterates “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot”

Paul George

In the Pacers first exhibition game of the season Saturday against the Pelicans, Paul George started at the power forward spot and looked healthy — that should be the big takeaway. He also showed off his offensive game in the first quarter, eventually finishing the night with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He forced some shots in the second half and had some defensive challenges, but it was a solid outing for a first preseason game.

George did not see it that way, and that will end up being the big takeaway.

He complained about playing power forward during training camp and given the chance after this one game he did it again, as reported by Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

“I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said after the Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game in which he started matched up against 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.

“I don’t know if this is my position. We’ll sit and watch tape and I’m sure I’ll talk with coach (Frank Vogel). I’ll talk with Larry (Bird) as well to get both their inputs on how the first game went but…I’m still not comfortable with it regardless of the situation. It’s still something I have to adjust to or maybe not. Or maybe it’s something we can go away from.”

George sees himself as a wing, where he has played his entire career. He doesn’t like defending traditional fours, as a scorer he doesn’t like expending all that energy defending pick-and-rolls and banging with bigger bodies. He’s been clear about that.

He still needs to be open to the idea. How much time George gets at the four on any given night should depend on the matchup — and Anthony Davis is about as rough a matchup as he is going to see. Davis scored 18 points in 15 minutes, and the Pelicans controlled the paint against the small-ball Pacers. George had a hard time defending Davis — welcome to a rather large club, PG. That said, George scored 12 points in the first quarter mostly with Davis on him, he pulled the big out in space and got what he wanted.

Back to the matchups point, George will struggle defensively against the best fours in the game (most of whom are in the West). But what about the nights in the East when George would be matched up on Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn, Jared Sullinger (or David Lee, or whoever) from Boston, or Aaron Gordon with the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks when they play small? There are a lot of lineups the Pacers will see where George at the four makes sense.

The Pacers are transitioning from a plodding and defensive-minded squad to a more up-tempo style, and that’s going to take time— a lot more than one preseason game. However, if George is throwing cold water on the plan after this one effort, it might take a lot longer and be a lot bumpier to make that transition than we pictured.