LAS VEGAS (AP) - DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis have been joking with one another during the U.S. basketball team's first two days of practice, about which big man is better.
But with the Americans in desperate need of big men, with the absences of Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, Cousins is serious when it comes to making the final 12-man roster.
The Sacramento Kings' 6-foot-11, 270-pounder, who has become one of the best centers in the game, is spending his third straight summer with the national team. His dedication toward making the squad became even more evident when he arrived in Las Vegas nearly three weeks ago to practice and train with the Kings' NBA Summer League entry that eventually won the championship.
''It was a training camp situation, so it kind of prepared me for this,'' Cousins said after Tuesday's practice. ''Training camps are tough, so it's not just something you can walk into, so my main idea was to prepare for this, besides training with the younger guys. I feel confident in my ability, I feel confident in being a piece of this team that will help. I just have to go through the course and do what I can do and wish for the best.''
Cousins' talent speaks for itself, but USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo has been just as impressed with his perseverance toward the national team, and the maturity he's seen off the court, overcoming attitude issues many believe have limited his progress.
''We give players credit for being here once or twice - or three times - and building equity within the program,'' Colangelo said. ''His attitude has been great the last couple of days. He's matured a lot over the last year or so, or two years. I've tried to encourage him, that this is a real opportunity.''
Though Davis appears to be the front-runner to become the team's starting center for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, coach Mike Krzyzewski said he's been pleased by Cousins' dedication toward the team annually.
''He's had the commitment to come every time, and he keeps getting better as a player, as evidenced by the year he had for Sacramento,'' Krzyzewski said. ''We just have to figure out how that's incorporated by what we're doing. DeMarcus brings a different `big man' than Anthony, just like (Andre) Drummond does, and we have to see how we might be able to incorporate that into what we're doing.
''All the guys are giving a good effort, and today I thought we had a great day.''
Davis, Cousins, Drummond and Kenneth Faried are all hoping to land one of at least two big-man spots on the national team.
''I think everybody has something to prove,'' Cousins said. ''You never want to just settle for whatever your last accomplishment was, so everybody here has something to prove.''
Davis played for the Americans in the 2012 Olympics and might have Cousins as a teammate this time.
''I love going against DeMarcus. He's definitely a great player,'' Davis said. ''He brings size, he can battle, he can score, plays defense - he's an all-around player. We joke around all the time about who's better; we just try to have a friendly competition, but at the same time make sure that we try to make each other better.''
For Cousins, it's no joking matter.