Leading Off

Leading Off: Why Cousins and Gay will make Team USA

When Team USA plays the Dominican Republic in an exhibition tonight in New York, look for DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay of the Kings to be key players off the bench.

If they play well – if Cousins, who says he’s “50-50” after injuring his knee last week, plays at all – it will bolster their chances of making the final roster for the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski are expected to make cuts this week, perhaps even before Friday’s exhibition against Puerto Rico.

Of the 16 players, six are consensus locks to go to Spain: Pelicans center-forward Anthony Davis, Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, Rockets shooting guard James Harden, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, Warriors point guard Stephen Curry and Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving.

With three point guards all but a lock, it’s unlikely the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard will be needed. Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan could be a numbers victim, too, with Harden, the Warriors’ Klay Thompson and possibly even the Hawks’ Kyle Korver ahead of him.

Cousins, the Nets’ Mason Plumlee and the Pistons’ Andre Drummond are competing for one guaranteed spot backing up Davis, though two could make the final roster. Cousins missed Saturday’s 95-78 victory over Brazil and isn’t sure about tonight, although he practiced Tuesday.

We like Cousins’ chances to make the final roster because the team will need his size, especially against Spain and the Gasol brothers, and he’s a better offensive player and passer than Drummond.

Gay, who scored five points in 12 minutes Saturday, could be one of the eight players getting regular minutes in Spain, leaving either the Mavericks’ Chandler Parsons or the Jazz’s Gordon Hayward out of the mix, depending on how many swingmen make the team.

Here’s our prediction: Drummond, DeRozan and Hayward will be cut this week, but the final cut – either Plumlee or Parsons – won’t be made until the Aug. 29 deadline to submit rosters for the World Cup.

– Tom Couzens


What to watch

Basketball, Team USA

vs. Dominican Republic,

4 p.m., NBA: Today’s game is key to making the final 12-man roster.

Today’s poll

Will the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins and/or Rudy Gay make Team USA ?

To vote, go to sacbee.com/sports

Tuesday’s results

How will the A’s

finish the season ?

Total votes: 112