Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook won’t be participating for Team USA in this summer’s Olympic Games. Injuries forced Chris Paul and LaMarcus Aldridge to officially withdraw their names from consideration for Rio de Janeiro, while Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, and John Wall are also sidelined for international play with maladies of their own.
Needless to say, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski don’t have the luxury of simply picking their ideal 12-man squad from the list of 30 finalists that was revealed in January. Paul, Curry, Davis, and Westbrook were locks for Rio back then, Griffin was sure to receive serious consideration, and all it was going to take for Aldridge or Wall to earn a roster were the absences of a couple regular stalwarts.
Rigors of the regular season and playoffs have a way of changing things. Regardless, DeMarcus Cousins – health provided, of course – always seemed destined to play in his first Olympic Games this summer. And according to The Undefeated’s Marc Spears, the Sacramento Kings superstar has been selected for Team USA.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Cousins was a key member of the 2014 World Cup squad that won gold in Spain, and the attitude problems that continue to plague him for the Kings haven’t resurfaced with USA Basketball for years.
While Cousins is definitely behind Davis in Team USA’s interior pecking order, he’s probably ahead of any other traditional big man, too. He’s a devastating scorer on the block, a supremely gifted passer, and has quietly developed into a very good rim protector. The 25 year old isn’t cut from the long, lean, hyper-athletic mold that Krzyzewski prefers, but has carved himself a lasting niche with the national team nonetheless.
Cousins’ selection for Rio just further cements that reality, and doesn’t change the outlook for any other Olympic hopeful, either. He’ll be one of two center-types that gets legitimate minutes come August; a third is likely to round out the roster. The rest of the national team will be made up of several shape-shifting forwards, two or three primary ball handlers, and specific specialists of the higher-ups’ choosing.
Team USA won’t be the group that Colangelo and Krzyzewski most want to send to Rio de Janeiro. But it will still be good enough to be a heavy gold-medal favorite, as the presence of a player like Cousins makes abundantly clear – despite the forthcoming absence of so many similarly qualified stars.