Love's absence opens path for Cousins

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
12:51
PM ET
Are you ready for the Coach K & Boogie era?

USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo insists that he is.

Asked if Kevin Love's sudden withdrawal Saturday, so soon after Blake Griffin’s pullout, gives DeMarcus Cousins and Andre Drummond real hope of making the 12-man roster of players bound for the inaugural FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, Colangelo told ESPN.com: “Absolutely.”

Love, Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard have all made themselves unavailable for national-team duty this summer after initially signing up. The trusted trio of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, meanwhile, was never available this summer.

So that leaves Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski with a limited selection of big men for the training camp, which opens Monday in Las Vegas: Kenneth Faried, Drummond and the mercurial Cousins alongside roster shoo-ins Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis.

Colangelo is not ruling out the idea that someone from the 13-man Select squad of younger players invited to Vegas to scrimmage with the 18 contenders for the senior squad -- namely Mason Plumlee or Miles Plumlee or perhaps even Doug McDermott -- could play their way into the chosen dozen that will board USAB’s plane to Spain on Aug. 23. Yet it’s clear, for now, that Colangelo is going to give Cousins, Drummond and Faried every chance to step into the void created by the recent rash of withdrawals.

“That’s the best bet,” Colangelo said.

It’s also a safe assumption that lanky shooters such as Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver are likely to get increased consideration to join another lock for the 12-man roster who possesses the ability to play power forward internationally: Paul George.

“We have a bunch of young guys we can look at while we're there,” Colangelo said. “I think this just opens up an opportunity for Cousins, Drummond and Faried. We also have players who can play two or three positions. So we can throw a lot of different combinations and lineups out there.”

Translation: Colangelo isn’t rushing to put out an emergency call to Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap or Derrick Favors to give them an 11th-hour opportunity to try to make the team. Nor is he betraying any concern about keeping Cousins plugged in after a shaky start to their relationship in 2012. The players who are already in Team USA’s player pool, most notably Cousins and the equally unproven Drummond, are going to get first crack.

(For the record: Ryan Anderson, who makes a ton of sense as a stand-in for Love and Aldridge given his ability to space the floor and rebound at a high level, simply isn’t an option because of the recent back surgery that’s expected to sideline him until September at the earliest.)

The reality, furthermore, is that Team USA’s lack of size and bulk is a significant concern against only one opponent on the international stage: Spain. And the hosts, as we’ve been saying for months, face a much tougher path than the Yanks just to get to the World Cup final in Madrid on Sept. 14 and force a rematch of the past two Olympic gold-medal games, both of which Team USA won narrowly.

Let’s also not forget that Spain is surely worried about coping with the Yanks’ backcourt speed, as well as that Durant dude, more than Team USA should worry about countering the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. There’s frankly no one in the 24-team field who has an answer for the likes of Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard and John Wall, which is why USAB officials know they can expect zero sympathy from the rest of the world after Aldridge, Griffin and Love decided to step aside.

“We’re going to look at the young bigs we’ll have [in Las Vegas],” Colangelo said. “There may be some force-feeding, but that’s OK, too.

“You can’t just sit around and cry in your beer about who you don’t have. You look at what you do have and you say, ‘We’re going to get the job done.’ We feel very confident about our opportunity. We’re ready for it.”

Since a disappointing third-place finish at the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan, Team USA has won three major competitions in a row under Krzyzewski. The Yanks won the 2008 and 2012 Olympics as well as the 2010 Worlds in Turkey and sport a 62-1 record with Coach K in charge.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics
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