Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Nov. 29): Could DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall reunite in NBA?

Wall, Cousins open to NBA reunion | Thibodeau vents after Wolves’ loss | Green blasts Warriors’ critics | Davis sticks up for teammates | Iverson a fan of Celtics’ Thomas

No. 1: Wall says he, Cousins often talk of NBA reunion — As teammates on the University of Kentucky in 2009-10, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins powered the Wildcats to a 35-3 mark and a trip to the East Regional Final in the NCAA Tournament. From there, both players left UK for the NBA and while they play on opposite coasts now, remain as close as ever. As Wall’s Washington Wizards hosted Cousins’ Sacramento Kings last night, the topic of an eventual NBA reunion came up and neither Wall nor Cousins were particularly coy about their hopes for that someday. Candace Buckner of The Washington Post has more:

In many ways, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are like any other pair of good friends. They text constantly. Laugh at the same silly jokes from when they were teenagers. Talk trash whenever they’re pit against each other. However one thing makes these friends different than most: Wall and Cousins are two NBA superstars on fledgling franchises and yet hold the hopes of entire fan bases with their shared goal of one day playing on the same team.

“We talk about it all the time,” Wall said with a smile, after his Wizards defeated Cousins and the Sacramento Kings in overtime, 101-95.

Hours before the two went to dinner together, Cousins, playing coy while in a perky mood, expressed similar thoughts.

“[Do we] talk about playing with one another? Is that your question?” Cousins asked a reporter, then grinning big just like Wall, “It’s come up.”

Wall and Cousins, former Kentucky teammates and current all-stars, together again? It’s a delicious fantasy harbored by long suffering fan bases on both coasts. For now, it remains just that — a fantasy.

Cousins, a 6-11 forward/center, still has two years remaining on his contract, while Wall will remain with Washington until at least the 2018-19 season.

Cousins turned 26 years old in August and Wall reached the same milestone a month later, which is only to point out that both are playing in their primes now. And they’re doing so while leading franchises, that by the looks of Monday night’s affair, will remain insignificant in 2016-17 conference playoff races.

Also, before the #Boogie2DC bandwagon fires up, understand that, although the players talk about reuniting, neither buddy, along with another 2009-10 UK teammate Eric Bledsoe, wants to bend.

“They’re going to all come to Sac,” Cousins playfully proclaimed. “Come to Sac!”

And how does Wall react when Cousins pitches Sacramento?

“[Wall] wants me [in D.C.],” Cousins said. “Eric want us in Phoenix.

“Play with John and Eric again,” Cousins contemplated, “you never know what will happen. It’s the NBA, so hopefully one day he’ll be in a Sacramento uniform.”

As for Wall, in spite of the Wizards never having advanced beyond the second round during his tenure, he professes public love for the team and city. Wall’s deceased father, whom he adores, had Washington roots. Also, Wall is just as active within the District community as Cousins is in his. Naturally, Wall wants Cousins in a red-white-and-blue uniform.

“Just trying to figure out what’s going to happen, you know what I mean?” Wall said. “[Cousins] loves where he’s at and I love where I’m at, so whatever we feel like gives us the best opportunity to win — I know what our [team] is here and what I want to do here. And it’s something I keep in my mind.”

During Monday night’s monotony, when two struggling teams faced off, at least the two fan bases could delight in what could be. On Twitter, a Kings fan started a hashtag #BuildThatWall. Inside the Verizon Center, when the Wizards made their first trip to the foul line, someone broke the silence: “Boogie come to DC! We need ya!”

So, yeah. Just picture Wall and Cousins doing this for the same team. The two college buddies sure have.

“We’re trying to figure it out now,” Wall said, “and hopefully things work out in the best manner and figure something out.”


No. 2: Thibodeau frustrated in wake of Wolves’ latest loss — As our John Schuhmann pointed out in his latest Power Rankings, there are a lot of weird things going on with the Minnesota Timberwolves now. The Wolves lost to the visiting Utah Jazz last night, marking their fifth loss in their last six games as they can’t seem to find any defensive continuity. After the defeat, neither coach Tom Thibodeau nor his players were happy with the effort and are trying to put a finger on the precise issue dogging them. Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune has more:

Monday, in a 112-103 loss to the Utah Jazz — the second straight for the Timberwolves and the team’s fifth in six games — the Wolves again struggled on defense, failed to protect the rim and were ultimately unable to stop a Jazz team that, while young, seemed a step ahead of the Wolves all night.

Coach Tom Thibodeau, it appeared, had had just about enough.

“Right from the start of the game, the offensive rebounding … ,’’ Thibodeau began. “The second quarter was a disaster. Fourth quarter, disaster. Thirteen blow-bys in the second half. Not good. I don’t know. We have to back it up. We have to take a look at everything.’’

Down five entering the fourth quarter, Thibodeau again went with Tyus Jones at the point for the final 12 minutes. With Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine leading the way, the Wolves tied the game twice, then took an 83-82 lead on Jones’ three-pointer with 7:47 left.

The Jazz calmly responded with an 11-0 run to take the game over for good, finishing the fourth quarter with 38 points.

“Defense has to come every night,” said Ricky Rubio who, for the third straight game, watched the fourth quarter from the bench. Asked if that was hard for him to do, he simply said, “Yes.’’

“It was supposed to be the key for this team to take off,” Rubio said about the defense. “But it’s not, right now.’’

“We’re missing something,’’ Thibodeau said. “They scored 112 points. Fifty percent shooting. You can’t win like that. Reckless fouls, no discipline. You want to be making progress. That’s the important thing. We didn’t make progress today. That’s something that has to be corrected.’’

That is proving a difficult task for a team that keeps making the same mistakes on defense.

Afterward Towns, in a lengthy, but soft-spoken postgame interview, tried to put the blame on his shoulders, saying it was his fault, nobody else’s. “All these losses fall on my shoulders,’’ he said. “It’s something I have to fix. So far this season it’s been me. … Does it make sleeping at night hard? Yeah. I just have to do more. I have to play at a higher level, at a level where we can’t lose.’’

But it might go deeper than that.

Wiggins said the team was making the same mistakes. “The message is getting through,” he said. “But it’s different from saying something to actually doing it. Everyone is frustrated. It’s not fun to lose. We have to want to play defense.’’


No. 3: Green sounds off on Warriors’ critics — The numbers clearly say the Golden State Warriors have taken a step back, albeit a small one, on defense so far this season. After ranking fourth in Defensive Rating in 2015-16, they are No. 8 today. The counter-argument to that stat may be in the number 12 — as in how many consecutive wins the Warriors have rung up after last night’s win against the Atlanta Hawks. Warriors forward Draymond Green’s defense paved the way for that win and after it, he wasn’t about to hear how Golden State’s defense was worse. Anthony Slater of The Mercury News has more:

Here they were: the Durant-injected Death Lineup — featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala — handed a slim lead and told to close. In shaky fashion, they passed the test, squeaking by the Hawks 105-100 on Monday night.

So with things still hanging in the balance, Golden State’s undersized yet ferocious small-ball center, again, took over on the defensive end. The Warriors have only had three truly late toss-up games this season: at Phoenix, at Milwaukee and against the Hawks on Monday night.

Draymond Green closed the Suns win with swarming defense in the final five minutes and a huge block in the closing seconds. He finished off the Bucks with a smart steal on an inbound pass he said he knew was coming. “Don’t go at me for game,” he warned the league in Milwaukee.

On Monday night, the Hawks did. And they failed. With 43 seconds left, Dennis Schroder swooped in for what seemed to be an open layup with 43 seconds left. Green rotated over, rose on his recovering ankle and swatted away Schroder’s shot. It bounced off the Atlanta guard as he fell out of bounds. Warriors ball.

“It’s like a double slap in the face,” Green said. “When you get the shot block and it go off you out of bounds? It’s pretty funny. I like those.”

Curry couldn’t seal the win with a desperation missed 3 on the next possession. So one more stand was warranted. And Green delivered it again in almost identical fashion, this time blocking a Kent Bazemore shot off Bazemore and out of bounds to seal the win, creating the next highlight clip for his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy, which he has loudly campaigned for in the past few weeks.

“People have kind of counted our defense out with (Andrew) Bogut leaving. That kind of pisses me off,” Green said. “The world said we traded our defense away when we got KD. I disagree. I think our defense has the upside to be better.”

Including those two game-saving swats, Green finished with four blocks on Monday. Durant had two more. The Warriors had 10, becoming the first team this season with double-digit blocks in four games. They are averaging 6.6 per game, the second most in the league and more than last season.

“That pushes me more than anything else,” Green said. “Just the doubt on that end. Like if someone said, ‘The Warriors offense is going to suck.’ KD would be pissed, Steph would be pissed and Klay would be really pissed. That’s kind of how I feel on the defensive end.”


No. 4: Davis sticks up for Pelicans teammates — New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis is leading the NBA in scoring (31.6 ppg) and blocks (2.8 bpg), is eighth in rebounding (10.9 rpg) and is in the top 20 in steals (1.6 spg). And yet for all his work, the Pelicans sit at No. 12 in the Western Conference and have, at best, faint playoff hopes. Some experts point to the lack of help Davis receives from his supporting cast in New Orleans, but in an interview with, he says that couldn’t be further from the truth:

Davis, speaking to ESPN’s Marc Stein on the “TrueHoop: Conversations” podcast, acknowledged that he hears talk about his current predicament but doesn’t necessarily agree.

“I hear it. I see it. I’m on social media, so I see it all the time,” Davis told Stein. “But I think, for me, it’s just about the guys in that locker room. I know they come out here every day in practice and every night in the game and fight and leave everything on the floor. It’s nothing that I try to pay attention to as much. But you see it. You have to pay attention to it.

“For me, that’s not my M.O. to get into all the media and all that stuff. I just worry about what’s going on in that locker room and on the floor with the guys I have in the locker room.”

Davis has reached new heights in his fifth season in New Orleans. As of Monday, he leads the NBA in points (31.6) and blocks (2.8) while averaging career highs in rebounds (11.0), steals (1.8) and minutes (37.2). The 23-year-old said his ability to block out the public conversation, much like his game, has grown over the years.

“Of course, my rookie year, it’s really the first time people are really, really talking about you,” Anthony said. “Of course we had it at Kentucky and a little bit at high school, but when you get to the NBA and of course you’re the No. 1 pick, all this media’s going to be around you.

“And so when they start [saying], ‘Oh, injury prone,’ ‘He’s not a leader,’ ‘He can’t carry [a team],’ all this stuff, you start to see it. But after a while, as you get older and more established in the league and more experienced, you kind of find a way to tune it out. I think that’s the point I’m at right now.”

Although the Pelicans have fought their way back, Davis admitted the early struggles seemed ominous.

“We were very worried,” Davis told Stein. “We didn’t envision ourselves being in that situation. But we dug ourselves a hole. We’re slowly climbing out of it, and we just have to keep fighting. Nobody wants to start 0-8. Nobody wants to start off on the wrong foot. But it happens.

“Some teams have whoever on their team where they’re able to do whatever they want on the floor. For us, we have to be blue-collar guys who are coming in, work, being scrappy, first to the floor, rebounding the ball, sharing the ball. That’s how we have to be. That’s how we’ve been the past couple weeks, and that’s how we’ve been able to get wins.”


No. 5: Iverson keeping an eye on Celtics’ Thomas — Boston Celtics All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas is having another stellar season and has his team in the thick of the chase for a top seed in the Eastern Conference. While he toils away and leads his squad, one of his idols, Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, is apparently watching closely. The undersized Iverson was known for his fearless style of play in his day and has taken a liking to Thomas and his game. Chris Forsberg of has more:

The morning after scoring 29 points while helping the Boston Celtics rally from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit for a thrilling win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Isaiah Thomas awoke in his Twin Cities hotel room to find a flurry of congratulatory text messages, but one of the green blurbs on his iPhone stood out more than the others.

Keep doing your thing. I’m watching.

The message was from NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, a player that Thomas lists on his NBA Mount Rushmore and the player whom most undersized guards of this generation aspire to be like.

“It was real early in the morning that he texted, like 8:30, so he must have been watching highlights [of the Minnesota game] or something,” Thomas said, unable to muffle a smile. “I told him, ‘I appreciate it and that I’m just trying to be like you.’ He was like, ‘Say no more.’ Those texts man, it just motivates me to keep going. Someone like that is watching me without me even reaching out to him, so I guess I’m doing something right.”

The two first crossed paths when Thomas was with Reebok. They bumped into each other again when Thomas attended a boxing match of good friend Floyd Mayweather. Thomas recalled: “[Iverson] was around his friends, and he was like, ‘Man, we were just talking about you the other night and how you’ve been killing it.'” But the relationship between Iverson and Thomas truly blossomed at All-Star weekend in Toronto in February, when Iverson sought out Thomas at an NBA event.

“[Iverson] came over and talked to me for like 30 minutes, just about how big of a fan he was of me,” Thomas said. “And people can say that, but then he was even doing my moves. He was like, ‘I like that move, the little hesitation move to the right.’ And that’s when I realized that he’s not just saying it, he watches my game.”

Iverson’s reps reached out to Thomas this summer and asked him to attend a gala in Philadelphia in August. Thomas said he dropped everything he was doing because, “That’s Allen Iverson, so I couldn’t say no.” The two got a chance to talk again, and Thomas emerged with a prized gift: an Iverson autographed jersey that the Hall of Famer personalized to Thomas with, “To: A real killa.”

In a video produced by Thomas’ reps, it showed behind-the-scenes footage of Thomas and Iverson meeting at the gala and Thomas sheepishly asking him for his autograph. Iverson then gushes about Thomas and calls him the future of the NBA. Back in his hotel room, Thomas is supremely motivated to improve his game after the meeting.

“Damn, I gotta be Allen Iverson, bro,” he tells a friend in the video while gushing about how Iverson averaged 28 points per game for his career. “I gotta get better. It’s not cool, I gotta get better. … I averaged 22 [points] and six [assists]. That’s not a good year. I gotta go for 25.”

“It’s just like, when you have a stamp from arguably the pound-for-pound best player ever, it’s like, I’m not going to listen to nobody else. I already got the stamp. [Iverson] already said I was pretty good and that I’m cut from the same cloth as him. And those type of things only motivate me to keep going.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is reportedly still looking to make a big-time trade … New York Knicks center Joakim Noah knows he has to start playing better … Washington Wizards guard John Wall banged his knee last night, but is expected to be OK going forward … Veteran Arron Afflalo is trying to stay optimistic about the Sacramento Kings’ playoff hopes … Enes Kanter is doing what he can to try and carve out a bigger role in the Oklahoma City Thunder rotation … Orlando Magic big man Nikola Vucevic isn’t happy to be coming off the bench …