DeMarcus Cousins’ Dedication Can Eliminate Team USA’s Biggest Weakness

On Tuesday afternoon, Finland simply didn’t belong on the same basketball court as the United States, who stormed out to an early lead and finished the rout with a 59-point victory, one that left little doubt about the strength and depth of the U.S. roster. 

But during a game in which there was no true standout performer, DeMarcus Cousins‘ effort stood out in a big way. 

Granted, “Boogie” was not the best player on the court.

That honor would have to go to Anthony Davis (17 points, four rebounds and an assist), James Harden (nine points, three rebounds, three assists, four steals and a block) or Klay Thompson (18 points, one rebound and two steals). Take your pick, as there are legitimate reasons for each of the three. 

The defense also shined, forcing 31 turnovers and holding Finland to a putrid two points and no field-goal attempts during a dominant second-quarter performance. 

So, you might ask why did Cousins stand out on such a night?

It’s a legitimate question, as the big man who plays his NBA ball with the Sacramento Kings finished the game with nine points, 10 rebounds and one steal on 3-of-4 shooting from the field. At least from a statistical standpoint, he wasn’t all that special—though he did manage to grab more boards than any other player in the contest. 

For Cousins, it was all about effort. There was no doubt he wanted to be on the floor, contributing for his country whenever Mike Krzyzewski called his number. He displayed none of the mental issues that have plagued him throughout his career in the Association. 

Not once did he pout, though there was no reason for the United States to complain about anything on Tuesday afternoon given the state of numbers on the scoreboard. He never let a bad call get the best of him, nor was he provoked by anything that happened during the proceedings. There was even one potentially troublesome moment when he explained he didn’t touch a ball that went out of bounds, only to find the official disagreeing with him. 

No reaction. Perfect. 

Instead, he was motivated and dedicated to the cause at hand. The entire game was filled with moments that tested Boogie, and he passed each one with flying colors.

As Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley noted, he kept his composure after a hard foul, something that doesn’t often happen in Sac-Town: 

This applied to the other end as well: 

The play that stood out most was a rebound that actually went out of bounds and gave Finland an extra possession. Early on in the proceedings, Stephen Curry launched a three-pointer from the left wing, and it clanged off the back rim. Cousins and Kenneth Faried both charged from the weak side, eager to grab the board and give Team USA another possession. 

Instead of corralling the miss, the two bigs got in each other’s way and lost possession of the rock. Rather than getting frustrated or upset, Boogie just jogged down the court with a bit of a mea culpa look on his face. 

Thus far, and it’s admittedly early on in the World Cup proceedings, Cousins is living up to his word. Remember, it was only shortly before the start of the tournament that he told USA Basketball’s official site he thought of himself as a role model: 

I am a role model, absolutely. There are different types of people out there, and I come from a different type of place. So, I absolutely think I am a role model.

I come from a place where there are not a lot of opportunities. People there, they don’t ever really dream big because they don’t think it ever really exists. Like the things you see on TV, they think it’s just a false world. And them seeing me make it, they believe it is possible. Those people grew up with me; they have seen the struggles; they have seen me fight and work my way to where I am now, so I absolutely believe I am a role model.

Cousins is maturing into a dedicated team member, excelling on a squad that doesn’t feature him as one of the best players. He could be, but this isn’t like his days with the Kentucky Wildcats or Sacramento Kings. He’s coming off the bench, and quality play from him is more of a luxury than a necessity for Team USA. 

However, it’s an awfully nice luxury, because motivated play from the 24-year-old center would help negate one of the Americans’ biggest weaknesses. 

“If he can keep his feelings for the FIBA referees in check, and if he gets out and runs the court, he could play a bigger than expected role for Team USA,” wrote Kurt Helin for ProBasketballTalk before Cousins took the court against Finland. “The fact is that against some of the Americans biggest hurdles—Lithuania, Spain—Team USA is going to need Cousins. And that fire he brings.”

For Team USA, the strength of the roster undeniably lies in the guard play.

The frontcourt, led by Davis, is the biggest weakness, though that could quickly change if Cousins becomes a dominant, motivated force. After all, he’s a fringe All-Star in the NBA, and he’s able to bully most everyone he squares off against on the international scene. 

Should Team USA pull off a big-man rotation that relies heavily on Davis, Cousins and Faried while bringing Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee off the bench in less-important situations, that’s no longer a huge weakness. And as Helin noted, that’s quite important against the better teams in the field. 

Fortunately, Cousins will have a few more games to prove himself.

This was a great start, and he’ll have plenty more time to continue what he started while the Americans waltz their way through a weak Group C, one that features Finland (check), the Dominican Republic, New Zealand, Ukraine and Turkey. There’s nary a tough game there, and Team USA should end up playing Group D’s fourth-place team in the knockout round. 

Chances are that will be Mexico, though there’s also a chance Australia or Slovenia fails to live up to the expectations. Regardless, those are all teams whose strengths lie outside the realm of big men, or at least don’t boast truly dominant centers. 

When Lithuania and Spain come calling—and they will—things get a bit more serious.

By that time, Cousins can do his country a huge service if he continues acting like a model citizen and letting his contribution on the court speak for itself. 

Beating Finland by such a huge margin and featuring a suffocating defense was a dream start for Coach K’s squad. It only got better with this type of performance from the mercurial big man.

Big things are in Team USA’s future now, both literally and figuratively. 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Stan Van Gundy Rips 76ers, Would Eliminate NBA Draft

Stan Van Gundy knows what he’s talking about. In eight seasons as a head coach, his teams posted a 371-208 record, including one conference title and zero losing seasons. Now that he’s no longer on the sidelines, Van Gundy thinks the NBA should eliminate the draft altogether because it’s ruining the integrity of the game, per Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. 

He’s using empathy to imagine how Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown is feeling: embarrassed.

The Sixers are 15-43, and their defense has become a fantasy basketball godsend yielding a league-worst 110.9 points per game. 

They traded away starting center Spencer Hawes and the second overall pick from 2010 in Evan Turner. They got some second-round picks in return and wasted no time in buying out Danny Granger, who led the Indiana Pacers in scoring for five seasons in a row. 

In the Feb. 26 loss to the Orlando Magic, Philly started D-Leaguer Henry Sims, Hollis Thompson, James Anderson, possible Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and legitimate starter Thaddeus Young.

The Sixers appear to have a bright future ahead of them with Carter-Williams and injured big man Nerlens Noel as the foundations (plus plenty of second-round picks). 

Moreover, according to Real GM, the Sixers have a lottery-protected first-round pick owned by the Boston Celtics (by way of the Miami Heat), so squeaking into the playoffs does not make much sense for them.

Losing is in their best interest. That’s why the draft is bad.

I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t think Stan Van Gundy is either. However, new NBA commish Adam Silver is a lawyer, and I don’t think they can just do away with the draft altogether. Then again, the wheel isn’t a much better idea. 

Anyway, the joke is on the Sixers, because NBA legend and logo silhouette Jerry West doesn’t think this will be a good draft anyway. 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Chris Paul great, but Grizzlies eliminate Clippers in 6

A balanced effort always beats a two-man show, and the Clippers had little to match up.

View full post on USATODAY.com Feed

Martin steps up as Thunder eliminate Rockets

The Thunder will advance to the second round and face the Memphis Grizzlies.

View full post on USATODAY.com Feed

Warriors eliminate Denver with 92-88 win in Game 6 (Yahoo! Sports)

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 02:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors celebrates against the Denver Nuggets during Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 2, 2013 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Draymond Green threw his arms in the air and ran to Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson for an emotional hug. Jarrett Jack squatted down, put his right hand on his head and closed his eyes. Stephen Curry wanted to see it all – teammates parading around the court, gold confetti in the air, smiles all around the announced sellout crowd of 19,596.


View full post on Yahoo! Sports – NBA News

Celtics survive Game 7, eliminate 76ers

Rajon Rondo had 18 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds as the Boston Celtics beat the Philadelphia 76ers 85-75 in Game 7 on Saturday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

The Celtics will open the third round of the NBA playoffs in Miami against the Heat on Monday night.

Rondo scored nine straight Boston points after Paul Pierce fouled out with 4:16 left in the game, helping the Celtics turn a three-point edge into a double-digit lead.

Andre Iguodala scored 18 points, and Elton Brand and Jrue Holiday had 15 apiece for the 76ers, who eliminated the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round, but couldn’t do the same with the Celtics.

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Wade scores 41, Heat eliminate Pacers 105-93 (Yahoo! Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 24:  Dwyane Wade #3 and Mario Chalmers #15 of the Miami Heat celebrate after Wade hit a shot and was fouled against the Indiana Pacers in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on May 24, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Heat defeated the Pacers 105-93 to win the series. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Miami’s Big Two was more than enough to finish off the Indiana Pacers.


View full post on Yahoo! Sports – NBA News

76ers eliminate top-seed Bulls in first round upset

The Philadelphia 76ers rallied for a 79-78 victory over the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls in Game 6 on Thursday night.



View full post on USATODAY.com Feed

Bo Ryan: Wisconsin’s Change of Heart Doesn’t Eliminate Transfer Problem

Wisconsin Badgers head basketball coach Bo Ryan came off as quite the villain when he talked about Jarrod Uthoff on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning radio show on Thursday morning.

Ryan, of course, got himself in hot water by restricting Uthoff‘s options after he had decided to transfer out of Wisconsin. He defended himself by saying that he wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary. 

Via Yahoo! Sports:

After years and years and decades of coaches doing this same thing way before me and coaches who have had larger lists, you’re not going after them, you’re not making a big deal of other situations. It has become an attack on a particular institution when over the years, 300 and something institutions have done the same thing. All I’m asking is for fairness.

Translation: It’s okay because everyone else does it. This is how this particular game is played.

The public wasn’t sold, and the pressure apparently got a little too intense for Ryan and Wisconsin’s decision-makers. ESPN’s Andy Katz passed along the latest news on Twitter:

Coincidence? Nope. This is a case of Wisconsin succumbing to public outrage.

According to a full report on the situation from ESPN.com, Uthoff‘s former AAU coach claimed that Uthoff had submitted a list of 25 different schools only to see Wisconsin deny half of them. The university claims Uthoff requested “permission to contact” 16 different schools, not 25. 

Regardless of the exact number, it was reported by CBSSports.com that Ryan had blocked Uthoff from transferring to any ACC school, Marquette and Iowa State, as well as all Big Ten schools. He effectively tried to bar Uthoff from having a future at several very good basketball programs.

Unfortunately, Ryan has a point when he says that he did something that numerous other coaches before him have done. His mistake was taking it too far. His next mistake was pleading for fairness like a child who had been sent to the principal’s office.

Fairness? You want fairness, Mr. Ryan? Then let this kid go wherever he pleases instead of trying to serve your and Wisconsin’s best interests. 

Such was the outcry, and it was clearly heard in Madison. The partial removal of Uthoff‘s transfer restrictions is Wisconsin’s white flag.

Great. Wonderful. But sadly, this is a mere battle that has been won. Just because Wisconsin decided to change its stance does not mean that the system that Ryan hinted at is going to follow suit. As long as coaches can block their players from going to certain schools, they will. Or, at least, they’ll give it a shot, as Ryan did.

We’re not talking about superstar players trying to force their way out of town onto a team and into a city more to their liking—a problem that the NBA suddenly finds itself having to deal with. In a situation like the Uthoff situation, millions of dollars are not at risk, and the situation should be no different from that of a regular student transferring schools.

Because, at the end of the day, we are indeed talking about students, right? Students should be able to learn where they please, and student-athletes should be able to play where they please. 

Granted, I can understand the desire to keep student-athletes from transferring within the conference, and it’s something that I for one can live with. But the way in which Ryan tried to block Uthoff from going to schools with no conference ties to Wisconsin was utterly absurd. He was trying to punish Uthoff by banishing from his sight altogether.

Ryan basically got mad, and then he got megalomaniacal. 

He reacted like he did because he could. If the public hadn’t gotten wind of the situation, nobody outside of Uthoff and his camp would have complained.

 

Follow zachrymer on Twitter

Read more College Basketball news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – College Basketball

Syracuse vs. Ohio State: Buckeyes Who Must Shine in Elite 8 to Eliminate Orange

The east region held to form with No. 1 seed Syracuse and No. 2 seed Ohio State reaching the Elite Eight to battle for a spot in New Orleans. However, due to the Orange’s loss of Fab Melo, the Buckeyes actually enter the clash as a slight favorite.

Here are three Ohio State players who must have strong performances if the Buckeyes are going to punch their Final Four tickets on Saturday night.

 

Jared Sullinger

Even though Sullinger’s stats are similar to his freshman season, he’s improved quite a bit since this time last year. His jump shot has become a weapon, especially since he can knock down an outside shot to keep defenses honest, and his own defensive play is much better.

He should be able to have his way with Syracuse’s forwards without Melo available to control the paint. Kris Joseph doesn’t have the size to contain Ohio State’s biggest star, so it’s important for Sullinger to establish himself early to put pressure on the Orange zone.

The Columbus native is averaging 18 points and nine rebounds so far during the tournament. He’ll need to match or exceed that production for the Buckeyes to advance.

 

Aaron Craft

Three of Syracuse’s four top scorers are guards, and all of them are capable of heating up from downtown. The onus will be on Craft, one of the nation’s top perimeter defenders, to make sure the Orange don’t hit a barrage of long jumpers.

He’ll likely start the game guarding Scoop Jardine, but will probably rotate onto Dion Waiters or Brandon Triche, depending on which player has the hot hand. Craft has the ability to guard them all, even though he’ll be at a size disadvantage.

In addition to his defensive duties, Ohio State needs Craft to chip in on the offensive end as well. It’s a lot of responsibility, but the sophomore has been up to the task.

 

Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Smith is the overlooked member of Ohio State’s starting lineup, but that doesn’t make him any less important. For example, the Buckeyes defeated Gonzaga by seven. Smith had seven points. They beat Cincinnati by 15. Smith had 15 points.

So, it’s clear Smith plays a vital role despite his teammates getting more publicity. He’s like the glue that holds everything together. If the Buckeyes need a big rebound or timely bucket, Smith has a tendency to step up to make it happen.

Ohio State doesn’t have much depth, so Thad Matta needs Smith to keep producing. The head coach knows how important he is, even if the casual fan doesn’t.

Read more College Basketball news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – College Basketball

Next Page »