DeMarcus Cousins is excited.
Next month in Rio de Janeiro, he’ll realize his dream to play for Team USA in the Olympics. But wherever he goes, questions follow about the Kings and the latest chapter in their soap opera.
This summer has been no different. Cousins now is being asked about first-round draft pick Georgios Papagiannis, who happens to play center, Cousins’ position.
Cousins emphasized he is not getting involved in the Kings’ decision making. He’s leaving those duties to general manager Vlade Divac and the rest of the front office while he focuses on playing for the national team.
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“I do my job,” Cousins said Monday after Team USA’s practice at Mendenhall Center. “I can’t control (the draft). I control what I can control.”
After the June draft, the Kings are younger. With the additions of Papagiannis and power forward Skal Labissiere, they also are much bigger, even though they needed help at point guard and small forward.
Cousins said it’s not his responsibility to interpret the front office’s moves. His task is to play at a high level as a two-time All-Star.
“I really don’t understand it,” he said of the addition of Papagiannis, “but I do my job.”
I’ve been through the trenches when it comes to Team USA. I love the grind. I love what I went through. It helped me become a better player and person, and I’m going to take advantage of it.
Last summer, the Kings tried to make a big move toward a postseason berth, adding a big-name free agent in point guard Rajon Rondo along with veterans expected to help turn around the team. But the strategy failed, and they missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.
The Kings took a different approach this offseason, avoiding high-profile free agents. Cousins said he did not offer the decision makers his opinion.
“I let them do their job,” he said.
It’s no secret Cousins wanted Rondo to return. Rondo led the NBA with 11.7 assists per game last season, but the Kings did not attempt to retain him.
Although Rondo signed a two-year deal with the Chicago Bulls, Cousins said his feelings for Rondo “remain the same.”
“He’s like a big brother to me,” Cousins said. “Like I said, I can control what I can control. Management went their way.”
Cousins said the additions of Arron Afflalo, Matt Barnes, Garrett Temple and Anthony Tolliver will provide needed versatility and defensive toughness. Cousins said he has wanted to play with Barnes, who grew up in Fair Oaks and can be one of the league’s peskiest players. Despite his reputation, Barnes always has has been popular among his teammates.
“I hate to play against him, but I love to have him on my team,” Cousins said of Barnes.
I can’t control (the draft). I control what I can control.
Cousins also attended some of the Kings’ summer league games and said Labissiere “was very impressive.”
Cousins worked out in Las Vegas this offseason preparing for his Team USA duties.
“It’s the obvious. I get to play for my country; that’s the biggest thing,” Cousins said. “So it’s an honor for me. I take pride in what I’m doing, and I’m going to represent well.”
Cousins went from being a member of the U.S. Select Team in 2012, which practices against Team USA, to earning a spot on the Olympic team. Kings teammate Willie Cauley-Stein is on this year’s Select Team.
“I’ve been through the trenches when it comes to Team USA,” said Cousins, who played for the Americans when they won the gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. “I love the grind. I love what I went through. It helped me become a better player and person, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Rio de Janiero Olympics basketball glance
A weakened U.S. basketball team believes it’s still the strongest one at the Olympics. LeBron James, Stephen Curry and enough stars to fill an All-NBA team passed on playing, leaving the Americans with a roster that falls short against the Dream Team comparisons they always face. But the U.S. squad doesn’t need to beat the Dream Team or to be one. It just has to be the best in Brazil. “I respect the guys that declined the opportunity, but I think we still have a great team here, a lot of talent,” Kings center DeMarcus Cousins said. “We still have the same goal in mind, winning the gold medal.” The Americans remain favored as they pursue a third consecutive gold medal. Some things to watch:
Carmelo Anthony, Knicks; Harrison Barnes, Mavericks; Jimmy Butler, Bulls; DeMarcus Cousins, Kings; DeMar DeRozan, Raptors; Kevin Durant, Warriors; Paul George, Pacers; Draymond Green, Warriors; Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers; DeAndre Jordan, Clippers; Kyle Lowry, Raptors; Klay Thompson, Warriors;.
Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke; Assistant: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse; Assistant: Tom Thibodeau, Timberwolves; Managing director: Jerry Colangelo
Friday: vs. Argentina in Las Vegas; Sunday: vs. China in Los Angeles; July 26: vs. China in Oakland; July 29: vs. Venezuela in Chicago; Aug. 1: vs. Nigeria in Houston
Olympic Games, preliminary round
Aug. 6: vs. China; Aug. 8: vs. Venezuela; Aug. 10: vs. Australia; Aug. 12: vs. Serbia; Aug. 14: vs. France
Two six-team groups. Each team faces the others in its pool, and the top four teams in each advance.
Group A: United States, Serbia, France, China, Australia, Venezuela
Group B: Spain, Lithuania, Brazil, Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria
Which group is tougher?
Group A is more top-heavy, with the United States, Serbia and France finishing 1-2-3 in the FIBA World Cup two years ago. But Group B appears to be deeper, with Spain (No. 2), Lithuania (3), Argentina (4), Brazil (9) and Croatia (12) among the top dozen teams in the world.
Rolling into Rio
The United States has won 63 consecutive games, 45 in FIBA competition and 18 in exhibition play.
Carmelo Anthony will become the first U.S. men’s basketball player to appear in four Olympics, and he’ll become the most decorated men’s basketball Olympian ever if the United States wins a medal. He has a bronze from 2004 and golds in 2008 and 2012.
Third time the charm?
Spain seeks a breakthrough after pushing the United States deep into the final minutes of the last two gold-medal games. The Americans won 118-107 in 2008 and 107-100 in 2012. The Spanish bring back veterans such as Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro for another shot.
Goodbye, golden generation
This certainly seems like the end for Argentina’s greats, who won a gold medal in 2004 and a bronze in 2008 and finished fourth in 2012. Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni are back.
Men in the middle
Spain is keeping Marc Gasol on its roster for now, and Australia is doing the same with Andrew Bogut, hoping their centers can return from injuries sustained during the NBA season. France has added Rudy Gobert.
The Associated Press