Friday, August 1, 2014

DeMarcus Cousins and Team USA

On one level, you can see the argument for taking Mason Plumlee over Demarcus Cousins for the US team. Coach K has always preferred to play super small in international tournaments - Lamar Odom got most of the minutes at C in 2010 and LeBron James was the biggest player on the floor for big chunks in 2012. With Anthony Davis entrenched at the starting 5 position, K is going to play a lot of small-ball behind him and he's probably never going to play two big men together, even against Spain.

For the most part, the backup C on Team USA is going to be a spare part, enclosed in a glass case and broken only in case of emergency. Plumlee is hardly ever going to see the floor in Madrid while his ability to move his feet in space and roll to the basket in the two-man game is a better fit for the style of play that Coach K wants.

On another level, though, c'mon. Plumlee and Cousins play the same position and there is no argument as to who is the better player. Cousins is a fourth-year player who averaged 23 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists on 52% shooting last season - Plumlee is a rookie who averaged 7 points and 4 rebounds a game. If you were sitting in Cousins shoes, it would be hard not to take the decision as a slap in the face.

It's certainly not like Cousins couldn't fit with the rest of Team USA. At the very least, he deserves a chance - if they end up playing Spain in the gold medal game, he's much more capable of matching up with the Gasol brothers. He's a really good basketball player and he's easily one of the 12 best players in Las Vegas. Isn't that what it should ultimately be about?

That's been the theme throughout his career. He's always been the biggest player on the court and he's always attracted an outsized share of the attention and blame for everything that's going on, often for things that are not his fault.

John Wall got all the publicity, but DMC was the best player at Kentucky. He was much more efficient (56% to 46%) on offense - he was the guy other teams came into the game worrying about stopping. Everyone wanted to talk about the blow-ups between him and Coach Cal, but that wasn't why they lost in the Elite Eight. West Virginia sat in a 1-3-1 zone to neutralize Cousins and dare Wall, Bledsoe and the rest to beat them from the 3-point line and they couldn't do it. But guess who got the blame and fell all the way to No. 5 in the draft.

He's been one of the most productive big men in the league since he came to Sacramento, but somehow it's his fault they've been stuck in the lottery for the last four seasons. Yes, Cousins needs to improve on defense, but not many big-time scorers come into the NBA with defensive chops. Not even LeBron did. It's a lot to ask of a young player to be a team's best offensive and defensive player and single-handedly carry a franchise like the Kings.

They didn't even really have an owner in his first three seasons in the league. Take a look at the rosters they've put around him - it's laughable. The best player he played with in that span was Tyreke Evans and he's now a sixth man on an average New Orleans team. The best player he played with last season was Isaiah Thomas and he's now a sixth man in Phoenix. Guys aren't leaving Sacramento and snatching up starting spots on good teams - they are moving to the bench. Rudy Gay is their second best player now and the list of NBA teams wiling to pay him $18 million a season to dominate the ball goes about one deep.

With all the incompetence around him, it's a minor miracle that Cousins has been able to put up All-Star caliber numbers in Sacramento. Should he have made the All-Star team last year? You can make the argument either way, but when Anthony Davis ends up making the team in his second season, after paying less dues than Cousins on a team that wasn't much closer to making the playoffs, you can see why he would be a little upset.

From his POV, he's getting robbed of draft positions, All-Star berths and spots on Team USA not because of anything he's done on the court, but because of some petty personal BS. It's open season on DMC in the NBA world and everyone and their mama feels free to take as many shots at him as they want, even though he's performed about as well as could reasonably be expected at this point in his career. Of course he has a chip on his shoulders - if you were in his shoes, how could you not?

It's hard to call a guy paranoid when people really are out to get him.


  1. Does Team USA really need the distractions that Drama-cus Cousins brings with him?

  2. They don't need to do anything, obviously. They have way more talent than the rest of the world.

    But if they were never going to put him on the team because of his reputation, why bother with the charade of bringing him to Vegas at all?