James Herbert of CbsSports.com reports that Brooklyn Nets forward and former Duke Blue Devil Mason Plumlee may be promoted to the USA Men’s Basketball Team for the FIBA World Championship in Spain at the end of the month. Team USA currently at sits at its 19 man camp roster which will have to be whittled down to 12 by the time the World Championships start.
So what happened?
Two things happened. First, Kevin Love backed out of the National Team roster. This followed a series of power forward refusals to play in the tournament. Those refusals included Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge, and Houston Rockets forward Dwight Howard.
At the time of Love’s defection, Team USA had Sacramento Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond, and Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap. Millsap was brought in to replace Griffin.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski responded to Love’s absence by bringing over Mason Plumlee from the USA Select Team, the practice squad, over to the real team USA. In Coach K’s defense, Plumlee was eminently available and likely to be in good shape. Calling up say Josh Smith might have brought in a player who needed to be in game shape and might not be there yet.
So why would Coach K now put Plumlee on the active roster for Spain, instead of being the fifth wheel for practice reasons? That second answer is DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins has all the talent that you want for a big man of his size. However he is highly combustible, and has shown himself prone to mental lapses and emotional reactions. Some of these have occurred in Team USA practice.
Talent wise you’d take Cousins over Plumlee every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Coach K may decide it is too risky for Team USA to have Cousins on the roster. This is not because Cousins might pick up a technical foul or two. This is because Coach K does not want to be responsible for an incident that might tarnish the legacy of Team USA or the United States.