As Team USA went through its training camp in Las Vegas and then played some exhibition games in New York and Chicago, DeMarcus Cousins seemed to be on the bubble in terms of whether or not he’d make the final 12-man roster.
Cousins hadn’t performed well defensively, and it was believed (and reported) that Mason Plumlee might have gotten the nod over Cousins if it came down to it, precisely for that reason.
But Kevin Durant’s unexpected withdrawal and the injury to Paul George opened up some roster spots, and with Spain’s front line of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka likely looming in the tournament’s championship game, head coach Mike Krzyzewski decided to bring as many bigs as possible.
Following Team USA’s win over Mexico, Krzyzewski talked up just how happy he’s been with the way Cousins has performed, and said that he’s believed in him all along.
From Sam Amick of USA Today:
“We have believed in DeMarcus right from training camp,” Krzyzewski said after Cousins’ 11-point, seven-rebound performance in the 86-63 win vs. Mexico Saturday that included a solid defensive job against Mexico big man Gustavo Ayon. “All the reports about him not making the team and all that were all not right. We felt that he would be the perfect guy with or in place of (New Orleans Pelicans big man and starting center) Anthony (Davis) at times, but more in the place of Anthony.
“I think it’s just a matter of him continuing to get in better shape. Our guys are getting accustomed to where (and) when he does come in the game, he’s different than Anthony. And so (they need) to look for him (offensively). And I think they see him more now. I think his defense has really improved. He tried to take three charges today, (and) played Ayon pretty well without getting help so (Mexico) couldn’t get a three off of him.”
Cousins was 5-of-5 shooting on Saturday, and also grabbed seven rebounds in under 14 minutes of action.
Team USA will need Cousins to make Spain’s bigs work on the defensive end of the floor, and while Krzyzewski’s words aren’t exactly insincere, the excessive praise may be geared to motivate Cousins to continue to improve, while preparing him for a potentially heavy workload in the championship game when things matter the most.