Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has long talked about his desire to play in the Olympics, even before he made his first U.S. senior team in 2014.
One win from a gold medal as one of Team USA’s contributing frontcourt players, Cousins said the journey has lived up to expectations.
“It’s very fulfilling and it has always been a dream,” Cousins said after a 94-91 win over Serbia in group play. “I want to make sure I’m playing my part, but I’m also enjoying the ride.”
Cousins, 26, is averaging 8.6 points on 62 percent shooting and 4.4 rebounds in 14 minutes in Team USA’s seven victories, highlighted by 15 points against Argentina on Wednesday. Cousins scored two points and had three rebounds in 11 minutes before fouling out in a 82-76 victory over Spain in Friday’s semifinals. Team USA plays Serbia in Sunday’s gold-medal game.
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Cousins, a first-time Olympian, played a significant role in Team USA’s run to the 2014 FIBA World Cup gold medal. But gold in the Olympics is on another level, he said.
“This is the top in terms of international competition,” he said. “We’re getting every country’s best team and we want to beat the best.”
Teammates and coach Mike Krzyzewski said Cousins’ passion for playing for Team USA has been evident the past couple years, but never more so than during the two months since training camp began in early July. Cousins’ enthusiasm is evident both in the way he is playing and his attitude on the court, they said.
“I think what a lot of people don’t know about DeMarcus is he’s a great teammate,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s a very important part of our team and a guy we really count on inside.”
Captain Carmelo Anthony also has a passion for international competition. Anthony, a four-time Olympian going for his third consecutive gold medal, returned this year despite nagging ankle and knee injuries the past two seasons for the “special” opportunity to represent his country. Anthony said Cousins “gets it,” too.
“You can tell he wants this and he wants to be here,” Anthony said. “We realize what an honor it is to represent our country and how few people ever have this opportunity.”
“Boogie is a fiery, passionate and good guy,” said DeAndre Jordan, another first-time Olympian who has split time with Cousins at center.
Asked earlier this month if he intends to continue playing with Team USA beyond the Olympics, Cousins said he’d play “as long as they have me,” including for the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
But asked again after Friday’s win over Spain, Cousins said he’s not thinking beyond Sunday’s gold-medal game.
“There’s business left to take care of,” Cousins said. “We haven’t won anything yet.”