In a USA Basketball scrimmage that featured a couple of Kings, a number of players with little or no chance to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic team, and six “ringers” who filled in for their more high-profiled peers who sat out the voluntary event because of injury, fatigue or cautionary measures, DeMarcus Cousins produced the most prodigious stat line of the night.
Sacramento’s sixth-year center celebrated his 25th birthday Thursday with 24 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and three assists, including a nifty shovel pass to Blake Griffin for a jam.
Cousins also missed all six of his three-point attempts – yes, he hoisted six shots from beyond the arc – but who was counting? His White squad also defeated the Blue team 134-128, but again, who was counting?
Rudy Gay, playing for the Blues, scored nine points and collected three rebounds, but, well ... no one was counting.
“The attrition was a little more than we expected,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said early Thursday, explaining the six late additions, “but participating in the scrimmage was voluntary and not required. A number of our guys (34 invitees took part in the mandatory three-day minicamp in varying degrees) had injuries and weren’t ready to go, so we wanted to make sure we had enough players so that no one had to play very long.”
With LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul among those who participated earlier in the week but elected to leave town early or watch from the stands, the quality of competition was comparable to that of an NBA All-Star Game played in the offseason – without most of the All-Stars.
There dunks aplenty, and plenty of missed dunks. There were baseball passes and perfect lobs, and more than a few errant throws that skipped off the court. There were visible signs of fatigue as well; most of the players appeared to be in offseason form or, in other words, not in the best of shape.
Indeed, the two practices preceding Thursday’s scrimmage consisted mostly of light shooting, some casual work in the post, almost zero physical contact, and players taking shifts on the sidelines, with body parts encased in ice.
“Noncontact, noncompetitive,” is how coach Mike Krzyzewski half-jokingly described the level of activity. “We as a staff have learned how to coach them and how not to over-coach them. This is a good example of not coaching them at all.”