OAKLAND - Team USA doesn’t need DeMarcus Cousins to score 26 points a night. They don’t need him to handle the ball or launch from three. He’s on the Olympic team for one reason -- to dominate the glass. Everything else is just gravy.
Through the first two exhibition games, Cousins posted 13 points and 11 rebounds in just 17 minutes a night. He’s leading Team USA in rebounding by four rebounds per contest and controlling the paint on the defensive end as well.
Tuesday night at Oracle was no different. Cousins planted himself firmly in the lane and the Chinese national team had neither the size, nor the strength to drive him out. In a 107-57 blowout win for Team USA, Cousins still managed to standout, finishing the night with a game-high 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting and leading the way once again with 11 rebounds.
He’s primed to show the world what both he and plenty of others around the basketball world already believe -- that he is the best big man in the world.
“It’s a no-brainer,” Kings general manager Vlade Divac said from his courtside seat. “He’s the most dominant player in the whole world. And being from Serbia, I have to root for Serbia, but I feel bad for them. He’s going to kill them.”
Divac looked more like a proud father than a boss as he watched his star big take the court. He knows the value of playing from one’s country and what impact it might have on Cousins when he returns to the Kings for training camp in late September.
In Sacramento, Cousins is a star. He might even be more than that to a team in desperate need of a some success. He has found his niche with the team, but it’s a much different one then he will be asked to play for the Kings. He is starting in the middle for the best team on the planet and he is making a huge impact, but it’s not his show. He is just a cog in the Team USA juggernaut.
“They’re clear on what they really need us to do,” Cousins said. “Rebound, defend, running the floor, doing all the dirty work I guess you’d say.”
Despite the lopsided win, Cousins and his teammates know full-well that the competition will get tougher when they land in Rio next month. A 50-point victory is nice, but this team has a lot of room for improvement as a group of All-Star players learn to play to each other’s strengths.
“Wow, we’re nowhere near where we need to be,” Cousins said. “We’re still making a lot of mistakes, a lot of silly turnovers, giving up easy baskets on defensive breakdowns. We’ve still got a long ways to go.”
The Kings are hoping that this experience makes an impact on Cousins that he can bring back to the team. The Kings are banking that the experience of playing with some of the best will help Cousins develop the leadership skills he needs to help Sacramento turn the corner.
Only time will tell if playing for his country will have the desired effect, but one thing is for sure -- Cousins is having the time of his life.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Cousins said with a grin. “I’m around a great group of guys -- laughing, joking all day, enjoying each others company, playing basketball, which we all love. It’s been a great time.”
“It’s fun to be around winning,” Cousins added.
Cousins can’t stop smiling. Playing for Olympic gold has been a dream of his since he entered the league. He has been through plenty of ups and downs, but the ultimate prize is right there for the taking.