CHICAGO – Near the end of their first practice together since Paul George broke his leg, Team USA players nervously watched another player go down.
Cousins injured his right knee after tangling with two other players while trying to get to a loose ball during USA Basketball's practice in preparation for the upcoming World Cup on Thursday. An MRI revealed no structural damage, and USA Basketball officials listed Cousins as day to day. Cousins didn't speak with reporters, but walked out of the Quest Multisport Complex without aid.
"I talked to him on the way out. I think he will be OK," said Kings forward Rudy Gay, who was added to the U.S. pool of players last week. "I hope he is just being a drama queen. …I think he will be fine.
"I've never seen him go down and stay down. I think in the back of his head … everybody is thinking about what happened before [with George]. I think he will be OK."
U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski did not rule out Cousins playing in Saturday's exhibition game against Brazil, although USA Basketball managing director Colangelo expressed doubts. Colangelo said the doctors and trainers were cautiously optimistic Cousins will be fine, but recommended an MRI to be completely sure.
"He said that he was a little scared after you go down after that prior [George] injury," Colangelo said.
George suffered a broken leg during an intra-squad scrimmage on Aug. 1, raising questions about whether NBA stars should participate in the tournament. Kevin Durant, the 2014 NBA MVP, withdrew from the World Cup team last week, citing fatigue and his offseason demands. Gay, who was motivated to play in part to win the World Cup in George's honor, replaced Durant.
George will have his first news conference since suffering the injury on Friday in Indianapolis. Colangelo said U.S. players will wear a patch on their shooting shirts in George's honor during their remaining exhibition games, but FIBA will not allow the patch when World Cup play in Spain begins on Aug. 30.
Krzyzewski said the remaining roster players are committed to playing in the tournament. Colangelo added that he talked to the U.S. players about George's injury during a team meeting on Thursday morning.
George "is expected to make 100 percent recovery. Everything is well there," Colangelo said.
Guard Kyrie Irving is a member of a remodeled Cleveland Cavaliers team that now has championship aspirations after the addition of LeBron James and the forthcoming trade for Kevin Love. George's injury didn't cause Irving to think twice about playing for Team USA.
"I feel like the best should represent the country and that is who is picked as well," Irving said. "It's a dream come true for all of us. I can't turn down this opportunity to represent this country and play against the best in the world.
"It's something I've been looking forward to since I was a kid. The P.G. injury was unfortunate. But this is bigger than all of us. We're representing millions of people."
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been the most adamant NBA owner against players taking part in FIBA competitions, saying there isn't financial incentive for the owners to risk the players' health. The U.S. roster currently includes forward Chandler Parsons, who signed a three-year, $45 million contract this offseason with the Mavericks. Parsons said Cuban has not tried to stop him from playing.
"I obviously talked to [Cuban] and I talked to Paul," Parsons said. "At the end of the day, it's up to me. It's my decision. To play for this team is a huge honor for me. To make it would be a huge accomplishment. I think I can help them win the gold medal.
"It's a freak accident that you can't really think about. It can happen on any given play."
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