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.