The hits just keep on coming for Team USA as the 2014 FIBA World Cup approaches.
In the Americans’ first practice since Paul George‘s horrific leg injury during a nationally televised scrimmage, DeMarcus Cousins also injured his knee while diving for a loose ball, according to ESPN. Though Cousins’ injury might not be anywhere near as serious and potentially career-altering as George’s, Cousins still had to be helped off the floor and couldn’t put much weight on his right leg.
Director of Team USA Jerry Colangelo said Cousins will miss Team USA’s game against Brazil on Saturday and that the Sacramento Kings big man will have an MRI done on his leg to assess the damage.
Without George and Cousins, Team USA’s already depleted frontcourt is starting to look borderline anemic. Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and Dwight Howard opted to not join the Americans this summer, leaving Team USA to choose from Cousins, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond and Mason Plumlee in the frontcourt. Kevin Durant, who was projected to log minutes at the power forward position, also dropped out citing a need for rest before the upcoming NBA season.
This injury also raises the issue of whether or not NBA stars should compete internationally once again. George’s severe injury brought about talks of whether it was worth it for the NBA’s brightest stars to risk injury, though they pretty much do that every time they step onto a basketball court during the summer. If Cousins’ injury is severe, or even if it minimally affects his status for the 2014-15 season with the Kings, don’t be surprised if this issue launches to the forefront of the conversation once again.
For the time being though, the main focus is how Team USA will cope with Spain’s size at the FIBA World Cup. Cousins and Plumlee were battling for a roster spot, and unless this is just an injury scare, it looks like that roster spot is Plumlee’s to lose. The Brooklyn Nets’ center showed promise as a rookie and is playing for a coach he is comfortable with as a Duke alum, but the Americans have to be a little nervous about facing Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka with Plumlee backing up Anthony Davis off the bench.
That being said, Team USA’s massive advantage in the backcourt over the rest of the world means they can compete with and beat anyone if the frontcourt can just hold its own. Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry and James Harden headline a loaded backcourt that can beat defenses with athletic drives to the rim or perimeter shooting.
Still, Cousins’ injury is a significant blow to Team USA’s depth and frontcourt strength, so here’s hoping this is just a minor injury concern, both for the Americans and the long-tortured Sacramento Kings fans base.