Leading Off

Leading Off: Is it good Cousins, Gay made U.S. team?

When USA Basketball announced the 12-man roster for the FIBA World Cup after Friday’s victory over Puerto Rico, it wasn’t a surprise the Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay made the cut.

Cousins played in two exhibition games, averaging five points and six rebounds in 14 minutes; he missed the other game with a minor injury. Gay played in all three exhibition games, averaging 10.3 points in 15.3 minutes.

Team USA will need Cousins’ size and offensive skills, especially against Spain and the Gasol brothers. Gay is a versatile swingman who likely will be the first player off the bench.

But is making the team a good thing for the Kings and their fans?

After Tuesday’s final tuneup against Slovenia, Team USA will play nine games in 16 days, assuming it makes it to the final.

With so much basketball in such a short period, there’s always a chance of an injury. If Cousins or Gay suffers a serious injury, it would be very difficult for the Kings to improve on their back-to-back 28-win seasons.

On the other hand, both players should arrive at training camp in much better condition than they otherwise would have. Playing in games improves cardiovascular fitness more than, say, riding a stationary bike.

Plus, Cousins and Gay will spread the Kings’ brand across the world, something owner Vivek Ranadive endorses.

While most fans in this country barely have a passing interest in the World Cup since it’s not an Olympics year, Europe, Asia and the rest of the world will pay closer attention. After all, the NFL and college football don’t dominate in other parts of the world as they do here.

Even more important, Cousins and Gay will play with some of the NBA’s best players, under the direction of coach Mike Krzyzewski, and in unaccustomed reserve roles, all of which should help make them more unselfish players.

And, hopefully, that means fans will see far less of the death-by-dribbling offense that made the Kings so predictable in recent seasons.

Tom Couzens

tcouzens@sacbee.com


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