There is an excitement and buzz around the Sacramento Kings right now following the recent announcement of DeMarcus Cousins making Team USA’s Select Team. While he wasn’t named a finalist for the National Team, Cousins hasn’t given up hope on London yet and seems determined to earn a chance to represent his country.
“I’m very excited,” Cousins said. “I feel like I have a legitimate chance to go in and actually earn a spot for the team. So I’m going to go in, try to earn a spot.”
Cousins isn’t alone in his hunt to become the first King to compete in the Olympics since Mitch Richmond back in 1996. It appears that the owners have been lobbying for him behind closed doors as well.
“I spoke to (director of USA Basketball) Jerry Colangelo and pushed for DeMarcus to be on the Select Team,” Gavin Maloof said following Wednesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery festivities. “I think that’s invaluable for him. The experience is incredible because he’s playing with the best talent in the world. To know what it means to be a pro, (and to work with) the best coaching staff…it’s invaluable for him.”
Cousins’ chances of making the final roster aren’t great. But with veteran big men like Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Andrew Bynum skipping the summer games, Team USA is left a little weak on its frontline. Cousins is hoping his play on the practice squad turns heads.
For some of those around Cousins, seeing him play in London would be exciting, but secondary. For Kings head coach Keith Smart, it is about Cousins taking the next step as a player and person.
“I just want him to be involved in the experience,” Smart said. “Being around those players will show him that, you may think you’re working hard or may think you’re 100-percent committed, (but) until you get around some guys who are already proven pros in the NBA, you don’t really understand that.”
The idea isn’t lost on Cousins. He too has an agenda for his summer’s activities. Cousins returned to Sacramento last week and began an early offseason training program with Kings strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro. Thursday was a lifting day and when we caught up with Cousins on Friday, he was sore from the previous day’s workout.
Cousins seems to understand that he is entering a new phase in his career. A phase where potential must translate to wins and he appears ready to take on the challenge.
“(I just want to) go in and learn from some of the elite guys in this league,” Cousins said. “How to work, how to be a leader, how to make your teammates better and how to be a better teammate – all of that. I’m definitely going to try to go in there and learn something.”
It is promising to hear these words come from Cousins. For the Kings to reach the next level, he does need to work on skills like leadership and making his teammates better. There is a hunger behinds Cousins’ words and to see him mapping out his goals is very encouraging.
So, is Smart proud of his young center?
“I’m happy for him,” Smart said Friday afternoon. “I’m happy that he was really consistent in his play this year and got the attention to get a chance to be selected. But also, it’s important that he continues to grow as a pro and I think having a chance to go to the Select Team, to be around some of the other Olympians, guys who are at the top of our league – to be out there, sitting with these guys, talking about playing, will benefit him in the long run.”
The Maloof family already has plans to attend the Olympic games this summer. While they aren’t sure if one of their own will be in attendance, they are pulling hard for Cousins.
“I hope to see DeMarcus there,” Gavin Maloof said. “I hope he makes it.”
Kings fans probably feel the same way. The Select Team is a big step for Cousins. The Olympic team would be even bigger. This offseason might just be what the doctor ordered for Cousins to make the leap and become an elite NBA player.
Video production support provided by Jonathan Santiago.