DeMarcus Set for USA Exhibition

Coach Malone and Coach Krzyzewski share their thoughts on Cousins’ play as National Team mini-camp concludes.

By: Steven Wilson

by Steven Wilson
Writer, Digital

All week, Team USA coaches have praised DeMarcus Cousins’ energy and attitude, citing his growth as a player and person.

As the team prepares for its basketball showcase on Friday inside Thomas & Mack Center, Sacramento’s center will look to wrap up a strong week of National Team training.

“His play is going to speak for itself,” stated Kings Head Coach Michael Malone. “Everybody knows he’s a talented player. But I think he’s done a great job of showing people how much he’s matured since the first time he came here a few years back.”

The fifth-year pro registered a solid finish to mini-camp on Thursday, and afterwards, Team USA’s head coach talked about the fiery competition he’s witnessed in the paint.

“He’s been attentive and [he’s] tried – diving on the floor for loose balls,” said Mike Krzyzewski of the Kings young star. “They all have to adapt and it’s a different way of playing defense, ‘How do you play defense with all these athletes, and how do you help out?’ We [will] have to see in games – these exhibition games – how that will wash out. We haven’t made a decision and we won’t for a while, but we will definitely take a long look at the bigs.”

Cousins has stood tall amongst a talented cast by playing with a high motor and crashing the boards.

“I loved his energy,” said Malone. “I loved how he used his voice on defense, [the way] he dominated the glass, he’s getting on the floor for loose balls – all those kinds of things he did this week can only help him. I hope he has a great game tomorrow and I hope things work out for him because I think he truly deserves to be on this team.”

Team USA’s scrimmage, which will feature a blue-white intrasquad game played under FIBA basketball rules, will be the first chance for players to showcase to the public what they’ve learned, but none more so than No. 36.

“I learned a lot from being under [Kevin Durant] while being here,” admitted the Kentucky alum. “He’s been a big help for me so far, so I’ll take it in stride.”

The big man’s progression this week has been another welcomed sight for his coach, who stated Wednesday was Cousins’ best all-around outing.

“Today was more of a shootaround day where they didn’t do a lot, but I loved how he practiced yesterday,” stated Sacramento’s leader. “My challenge to him was to show everybody in the gym he can help this team without his scoring.”

The 6-foot-11 center delivered.

He was attentive during defensive drills, excelled at boxing out and rebounding on both ends, and moved the ball around on offense to earn his teammates open shots.

“I left the gym very excited for him and proud of him,” admitted Malone. “He didn’t get the ball a whole lot, but I said, ‘You want the ball? Then get it off the glass – rebound. Every time they shoot the ball, you go and get it.’ He ran the floor, he talked, so I’ve seen a lot of progress.”

With three years of National Team training under his belt, Cousins’ comfort level has helped him adapt to the speedy style of play in Las Vegas. Although a spot on the final 12-man roster will be a close competition, his understanding of the system is an asset. 

“I think it’s easier for us to see who they are with that level of comfort,” stated Krzyzewski.

“DeMarcus’ game is different, so he has an adjustment to make and he’s trying to make it. Also, as he grows, we have to look and see – is there something we can do to help and bring more out of his game? We’re going to take a good look at our bigs.”

Coach K and Co. have much to determine, yet Malone sees reason for optimism.

“All I have gotten back from [the coaches] is that he’s been terrific,” stated the Kings second-year head coach.

“[DeMarcus’] heart is in the right place. He wants to make this team so bad, and if he’s able to do so, it will be great for him and the entire city.”

Friday night, Cousins’ play will be on full display. 

And-One

  • Cousins will be one of two centers on the U.S. National White Team on Friday, alongside Detroit’s Andre Drummond, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Houston’s James Harden, Washington’s Bradley Beal, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Portland’s Damian Lillard, Atlanta’s Paul Milsap, Dallas’ Chandler Parsons and Golden State’s Klay Thompson
  • The Blue Team will consist of Golden State’s Stephen Curry, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Denver’s Kenneth Faried, Indiana’s Paul George, Utah’s Gordon Hayward, Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, Brooklyn’s Mason Plumlee, Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Washington’s John Wall.

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