Coach K had DeMarcus Cousins as USA’s backup big long before final cuts

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Team USA’s rotation seems to be this heading into the FIBA World Cup (starting Saturday against Finland).

Starters: Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis

Key rotation guys: Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson, Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins

Specialists hoping for minutes: DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee

That Cousins is going to be the first true big off the bench (Gay is your backup four, welcome to international basketball) is a sign of how far he has come in the eyes of Team USA. And despite reports that Drummond and/or Plumlee had moved ahead of him on the depth chart at points during training camp, Cousins didn’t seem worried. Especially when it came to cut down time for the final cuts.

Now we know why — coach Mike Krzyzewski already had Cousins as. ESPN’s Mark Stein talked with Coach K and with Boogie about making the team.

Insisting he had zero worries about making the 12-man squad, Cousins brushed off the doubters last Friday night in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, telling assembled reporters: “Y’all will see.”

Turns out Cousins had plenty of justification to be so self-assured: Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN.com this week that Cousins has cemented himself as the backup to starting center Anthony Davis….

For all the skepticism about his ability to win over Team USA staffers who haven’t forgotten his poor first impression in 2012 — as well as the questions that linger about how he’ll get along with FIBA referees — Cousins is clearly ahead of fellow bigs Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond. (Ditto for 10th man DeMar DeRozan.)

Coach K substitutes a lot more freely than Cousins may be used to, using Team USA’s ridiculous depth to keep fresh legs on the courts at all times so the U.S. can play a relentless style of pressure/up-tempo basketball. Cousins will adjust (and run the floor more, which he should do anyway).

Then there will be moments Cousins’ will really be needed for his size. Such as if the USA gets Lithuania in the single-elimination games (as expected) and has to face Jonas Valanciunas and Dontas Motiejunas (two quality NBA bigs). Or, obviously, a gold medal game showdown with Spain which boasts Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

What he has done with Team USA shows Cousins is moving up the ladder fast, becoming one of the best big men in the NBA.

Now we’ll see how this confidence transfers to the Kings.

Former Lakers forward Tommy Hawkins dies

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tommy Hawkins, the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame and who played for the Los Angeles Lakers during a 10-year NBA career, has died. He was 80.

Hawkins died Wednesday in Malibu, according to the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom he once worked as director of communications.

He graduated from Notre Dame in 1959. Hawkins was inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor and his 1,318 career rebounds remain the oldest record on the books in Fighting Irish basketball history.

Hawkins was selected by the Minneapolis Lakers in the first round of the 1959 NBA draft. He played for them as well as the Cincinnati Royals, and notched 6,672 career points and 4,607 rebounds.

Nuggets hire assistant coach, assistant general manager

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DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets have hired veteran NBA coach Bob Weiss as an assistant on Michael Malone’s staff and announced the hiring of Calvin Booth as an assistant general manager.

Weiss has coached 31 seasons in the NBA, including the last four as an assistant with the Charlotte Hornets. He’s been a head coach with four teams, compiling a 223-299 career record with the Spurs, Hawks, Clippers and SuperSonics.

Prior to coaching, Weiss played a dozen seasons in the NBA.

Also Wednesday, the Nuggets made official their hiring of Booth, 41, who spent the previous four seasons in the Minnesota Timberwolves front office, serving as director of pro personnel last season.

Booth has quietly emerged as a respected evaluator of talent. He was one of the holdovers in the front office when Tom Thibodeau was hired to take over last summer as president of basketball operations and coach.

After one season working under Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden, Booth left for a promotion with the Nuggets, taking a position that will give him more responsibility and a greater say in the direction of another young team on the rise in the Western Conference.

Booth joins a Nuggets front office that includes Tim Connelly, who was promoted earlier this summer to president of basketball operations, a move that allowed Denver to hold on to promising executive Arturas Karnisovas as the team’s general manager.

Booth spent 10 years as a player in the league. Four of those seasons were with the Washington Wizards while Connelly was working there. The two also worked together in New Orleans in 2012-13, when Connelly was the assistant GM and Booth was a scout.

 

Rasheed Wallace says Zach Randolph isn’t a drug dealer: ‘The bigger the paycheck, the bigger the party’

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Kings big man Zach Randolph is charged with possessing marijuana with intent to sell, a felony – not because law enforcement has evidence Randolph planned to sell the drug, but because of the amount of the drug found.

Randolph’s agent/attorney denied the allegations.

Also sticking up for Randolph? Rasheed Wallace, who played with Randolph on the Trail Blazers.

Wallace, via TMZ:

“It seems to be — no matter who you are — the bigger the paycheck, the bigger the party,” Sheed says.

“I know for a fact he ain’t no dope dealer.”

Charging someone for intending to distributing drugs without any proof he intends to distribute drugs is hazardously lazy. Randolph – who has earned about $175 million in his career and is on a two-year, $24 million contract with Sacramento – can afford more marijuana than most. That doesn’t mean he plans to sell it.

The stakes are high for Randolph. If he’s convicted of “a felony involving the distribution of marijuana,” per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he’d be banned from the NBA for at least two years.

Report: Enes Kanter not yet permitted to travel to Mexico, where Thunder scheduled to play

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Remember when Turkey revoked Enes Kanter‘s passport?

That looms over the Thunder’s Dec. 7 game against the Nets in Mexico City.

Fred Katz of The Norman Transcript:

Without a valid passport, he is unable to travel to another country other than Canada, which allows entry from U.S. residents who have a Green Card. There is no such agreement with Mexico.

Kanter could receive a re-entry permit, a special document issued to citizens of other countries whose passports have been canceled for reasons the U.S. government deems unsuitable. The permit would allow Kanter to leave the U.S. for another country, such as Mexico, and still return. And the plan is for Kanter to acquire one before OKC’s game in Mexico City. Still, he is yet to receive a re-entry permit, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. There is, however, still ample time for that process to complete.

Kanter is a high-profile millionaire working for a billion-dollar company that has a vested interest in getting him to Mexico. He likely works this out.