USA Basketball made its first roster cuts official Tuesday — the Washington Wizards' John Wall and Bradley Beal and the Atlanta Hawks' Paul Millsap — and that kept the Sacramento Kings' DeMarcus Cousins in the mix of 16 players vying for 12 spots on the team that will compete in the FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Fellow former Kentucky star Anthony Davis is considered a lock to make the team. Cousins appears to battling the Brooklyn Nets' Mason Plumlee and the Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond for one or two spots for a backup post player.
U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski talked about Cousins during a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
"All the coaches were really pleased with DeMarcus and how he played," he said. "Look, his attitude is tremendous because he wouldn't keep coming back to be a part of Team USA if it didn't mean something to him. We recognize that. He was in good shape. He played well. He was talking on defense. He was our leading rebounder (in Friday's scrimmage) and he can pass out of the low post. He gives us a 'big' that is different than Anthony Davis."
Plumlee is reportedly Cousins' biggest competition for the role of backup center. While Cousins had 11 rebounds, scored 11 points that included a spectacular one-handed follow dunk, and threw a perfect outlet pass that Kyrie Irving tipped to James Harden for a layup Friday, Plumlee ran the floor, defended and scored 10 third-quarter points.
"We're going to look at all of them, but we haven't determined how many we're going to keep," Krzyzewski said.
Kings General Manager Pete D'Alessandro was at the scrimmage and thought Cousins fared well.
"I saw DeMarcus doing some of the things we know he can do," he said. "And we know what he can do. His ability to pass the ball — to be as big as he is and throw the touchdown pass — is a great skill that needs to be exploited, especially for a team like (USA) and for us, because we want to run, too. The fact he grabbed a rebound, took two steps and then outlet the ball instead of dribbling, that is a lethal combination. He just looks so much more polished, so dominant out there. And he seems to be realizing that, on this team, he doesn't need to do everything. Just be who he is."
The Americans are off this week. The 16 players will resume training sessions Aug. 14-16 in Chicago and play exhibition games against the Dominican Republic and Brazil. Another training camp will be Aug. 18-22 in New York. The final roster must be submitted the day before the World Cup begins Aug. 30.