DeMarcus Cousins describes Carmelo Anthony as an “old head” of Team USA. This will be Anthony’s fourth trip to the Summer Olympics, making him the resident old man of USA Basketball.
But to Cousins, Anthony is more than a leader on the court.
Cousins grew up admiring Anthony. So being on the Olympic team not only allows Cousins a chance to win a gold medal next month in Rio de Janeiro, it gives the Kings center an opportunity to play alongside his favorite player.
Anthony is becoming more of a mentor to Cousins than he might have otherwise.
Cousins, t an All-Star, relishes playing with Anthony. They’re both expected to play in Team USA’s first exhibition game of the summer Friday against Argentina at T-Mobile Arena.
“It’s dope,” Cousins said after a recent practice at the Mendenhall Center. “I enjoy being around him. He’s got so so much experience in this game. It’s well known that I’ve been a Melo fan my whole life. Just to be able to work with him daily is going to help me become a better player. I’m excited for it.”
Anthony, a New York Knicks star and 13-season NBA veteran, said he’s known Cousins “somewhat” over the years but recently has bonded with him.
Many see Cousins as talented yet volatile. As a teammate, Anthony sees a different side of Cousins.
“I’m getting a chance to really get to know him as a person – forget about basketball,” Anthony said. “To be honest, I think there’s a big misconception about DeMarcus. I think sometimes, it’s situational things. Does he need to relax a little bit sometimes? I told him that. Over the years, I’ve seen him get better and better with that. We all kind of go through that.”
And while Cousins listens to Anthony about the mental game, the center has learned much else from the high-scoring small forward. Cousins isn’t a throwback center who only plays in the post. Like Anthony, he can handle the ball and score from three-point range.
Cousins has cited big men like Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol in the past as players he’s enjoyed watching, but Cousins resembles a wing player in a 6-foot-11, 270-pound body.
So it’s no surprise Cousins is keeping his eyes and ears open around Anthony and new Warriors forward Kevin Durant during Team USA practices.
“I’m a fan of any player with skill,” Cousins said. “ ... Melo being my favorite player of all time, I’m trying to pick his brain every second I can.”
Cousins has never played on a winning team in six NBA seasons, all with the Kings, but he is immersed in a different culture with Team USA, the clear gold-medal favorite in Rio. Players accustomed to being stars in the NBA are asked to put the team first for the Olympics.
Cousins is enjoying the experience. Anthony said he wants Cousins to reach his potential and take the lessons learned during the summer back to Sacramento and into his seventh NBA season.
“I just try to motivate him and let him know he has the opportunity to be the best big man in the NBA as long as he keeps that chip on his shoulder,” Anthony said.