According to ESPN and CBS, DeMarcus Cousins is likely to be passed over in favor of Mason Plumlee for a spot on the USA basketball team, a victim of character standards that Suns fans are all too familiar with.
While USA Basketball is mired in scrutiny following the horrific injury of Paul George on Friday, a curious report has somewhat flown under the radar. According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, Mason Plumlee is likely to make the team over DeMarcus Cousins.
Should there be any doubt over who the better player is, let us look at the tale of the tape.
Cousins: 4 years in the NBA, 22.7 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.9 APG, 26.1 PER in 2013/14
Plumlee: One year in the NBA, 7.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, 19.0 PER (only 18.2 MPG) in 2013/14
Plumlee had a solid rookie season as he eventually took over the starting center position for the Nets after Brook Lopez was lost to injury.
Cousins, on the other hand, has steadily improved throughout his four professional seasons, culminating in his monstrous 2013/14 campaign. Very few NBA players can even approach Cousins' level of production.
There is just one problem.
While Plumlee is a squeaky-clean white kid from Indiana, Cousins is just as well-known for his combustible temper as his play on the court.
When Jerry Colangelo is making the decisions, these things matter.
In Phoenix, Colangelo fostered a high standard of character for professional athletes that, at least with the Suns, is still practiced today. His conviction was only emboldened by the ugly drug scandal of 1987, which eventually led to the decision not to offer all-time leading scorer Walter Davis a competitive contract the following year, in essence letting him walk.
While he has been widely commended for his business practices, they often have presented a direct conflict to putting the best teams on the playing field, and there have also been some curious contradictions along the way.
In 1983, Colangelo traded mercurial but talented guard Dennis Johnson to the Celtics in what is widely considered one of the most lop-sided trades in NBA history. Johnson often clashed with coaches during his time both in Seattle and Phoenix, and after three stellar seasons as a Sun was shipped to Boston for center Rick Robey.
Johnson became a key cog for two championship Celtics teams with his fierce defense and clutch playmaking. His jersey number 3 was retired by the Celtics, and he was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 2010.
In three miserable seasons in Phoenix, Robey never played more than 61 games in a season or averaged more than 14 minutes per game, due to injuries that some suggested were a result of suspect conditioning.
In 2001, Suns star Jason Kidd and teammate Clifford Robinson both found themselves in legal trouble, Kidd for domestic violence and Robinson for marijuana possession.
Colangelo acted swiftly, trading the All-NBA Kidd to New Jersey and ushering in the woefully uninspiring Stephon Marbury era.
Despite the seriousness of Kidd's domestic violence incident, the joke was on Colangelo again. While Kidd led the invigorated Nets to the first of consecutive Finals appearances in 2002, the Marbury-led Suns ended a 13 year streak by missing the playoffs in the West.
As for Robinson, despite being a decorated NBA veteran, valued teammate and a renowned defensive player, he was sent to Detroit for lowly-regarded reserves Jud Beuchler and John Wallace.
While Robinson was a key-contributor for the playoff-bound Pistons, Beuchler and Wallace combined to play 52 games for the Suns.
As the luster was slowly being drained from the Suns franchise, Colangelo had again made his point quite clear. Only players of the highest quality of character would wear the uniform of the Phoenix Suns, even if it hindered the success of the team.
In light of his clear willingness to place character standards over the quality of the team on the floor, how ironic then were the times that he used his considerable power and reach in the community to protect those close to him when certain unfortunate incidents arose.
Like in 1997 when the Suns' poster child Kevin Johnson found himself under police investigation for alleged misconduct with a minor. A year after Colangelo engaged in a public squabble with Charles Barkley, the ugly KJ scandal went untouched by every media outlet in Phoenix aside from those meddling kids at the New Times.
Colangelo responded by re-signing Johnson for the 1997/98 season at $8 million, and to date neither have ever publicly addressed the scandal.
Or in 2003 when Colangelo's daughter was arrested for an extreme DUI in which she even topped recently-busted P.J. Tucker by producing a blood-alcohol level of .238. According to an investigation again conducted by the pesky New Times, Jerry responding by arranging a fundraiser for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio which raised $50,000 for the controversial lawman.
Presumably as a result of Colangelo's generosity, his daughter was able to avoid the grueling environment of Tent City in exchange for a ten-day stay at Arpaio's alternative facility, derisively dubbed the "Mesa Hilton", where she enjoyed such amenities as air conditioning, her cell phone and take-out meals. According to the report, she was also only required to spend 12 hours per day in the facility.
Of course, to establish a direct link between Arpaio's fundraiser and the preferential treatment shown to Colangelo's daughter would be a serious accusation of public corruption. Surely that would be beneath the scrupulous Colangelo.
As DeMarcus Cousins is learning, if you're fortunate enough to be close to Colangelo, you'll find him to be quite magnanimous. If not, you're at the mercy of his ever scrutinizing judgement of character.
While Cousins' behavioral issues have been well documented, he has led a quiet life away from the court and has thus far never had an instance of criminal behavior. He is not by any means an ideal personality type for a basketball team, but he is one of the best active American basketball players and is at least a top-five big man on any refutable list in terms of sheer production.
What's more, he has exhibited a genuine desire to represent his country, which should be specially noted in light of the Paul George incident, not to mention the tendency of a number of high profile players to forgo the honor of international competition. When asked by the Sacramento Bee how disappointed he would be if he indeed is left off the team, Cousins replied, "I would be crushed. Everyone knows how much I want to do this. This is my third year here, and I don't run from any challenge. I would be crushed, but I'm not a quitter."
During USA workouts in 2012, Cousins reportedly drew the ire of Colangelo for his heated, physical style of play, which unfortunately for Cousins included trash-talking and complaining about refereeing.
Despite this, or perhaps partly because of it, he garnered the respect of the veteran players at the workouts. Kobe Bryant said of him, ""European basketball is extremely physical, and he brings a physicality that really changes the energy of the game. He's not afraid to upset guys, and he kind of makes the game uncomfortable."
Colangelo was not impressed, and Cousins was left frustrated by their exchange, stating "I had a conversation with him, I asked him, 'How was I being immature?' He never really gave me an answer. I mean, I really wanted to know. I took offense to it. It definitely bothered me."
One thing you cannot take away from Cousins is that he takes basketball very seriously. It appears that his passion and his elite play at the center position will not be enough. Once you find yourself on Jerry Colangelo's "naughty" list, you're essentially a non-entity to him -- unless you happen to have a close and personal relationship with him, of course.
We also know from the Barkley fallout how seriously it grates on Colangelo when one publicly airs details about disagreements with him.
Enter Mason Plumlee, the rich man's version of every center Jerry Colangelo has ever brought to the Suns. Quiet, hard-working, squeaky-clean, and golly wouldn't you know it, used to play for USA coach Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.
Small world, innit?
I would tell you not to take it personally, DeMarcus, except for the fact that it appears to be 100% personal. Anyone that can identify a basketball out of a lineup knows that you're a better player than Mason Plumlee, and USA Basketball should be grateful to have a player of your caliber that possesses your desire to represent your country.
If it makes you feel any better, Suns fans have suffered many times on many different occasions under the weight of Colangelo's character standards.
Join the club.
Come listen to this podcast amongst friends. If Guardians of the Galaxy was less funny, not filmed, didn't have actors, and was just a lot worse overall it would be Bright Side After Dark.
Hi Bright Side people. How are you guys? I hope you're all having good days. Either way I know what can make it better - we made a sports podcast for you!
Sreekar left the country to go find himself or something and because the idea of doing a podcast alone with Bryan Gibberman sounds like a fate worse than death we called in
a powerful friend Greg Esposito.
Since we actually like Greg and don't want to get him fired from his job as the Digital and Social Media Manager of the Phoenix Suns this represents our cleanest podcast to date.
I would assume Rollin Mason talked him into it with this fantastic sales job:
On this edition of Bright Side After Dark I make a startling confession to our kind guest, we talk about sports video games for a while, talk about some other Arizona sports, get into some childhood superstitions, and ask Espo what he likes best about his job.
The listener testimonial goes to Kellan Olson, who totally gets it.
It's definitely the best podcast that starts with bright and ends with dark #BrightSideAfterDark— Kellan Olson (@ATSWGoes) July 28, 2014
Come on in and listen.
As the NBA free agency signing season winds down, the Phoenix Suns find themselves in a unique position of having a completely full roster capable of making the playoffs while also having the second most cap room in the entire NBA.
Let's take a look at the cap sheet as of this morning, August 3, 2014.
That's 12 guaranteed contracts, plus two more players committed to the team but just not under contract yet.
The total cap space available of $12.25 million includes the cap holds for Eric Bledsoe ($6.57 million) and Tyler Ennis ($1.5 million). Once Bledsoe is signed, the Suns available spending money will go down accordingly.
You may be surprised to see that first round draft pick Tyler Ennis, #18 overall, has not yet signed his rookie contract with the Suns. T.J. Warren was signed in early July, but Ennis still has not been signed.
The delay is not entirely uncommon. #1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins just signed his contract a week ago, while the Denver Nuggets just signed the second of their two first round picks, Jusuf Nurkic, three days ago after having signed Gary Harris weeks ago.
So there's likely nothing to see here. However it should be noted that unsigned rookies can be traded immediately, but once they sign a contract they cannot be traded for 30 days. It's possible that GM Ryan McDonough's itchy trigger finger is waiting out the trade market before putting the pen in Ennis' hand.
There is no other advantage to keeping Ennis unsigned. His cap hold and rookie salary are nearly identical.
Teams must spend 90% of the salary cap on player contracts during the 2014-15 season. If the team never reaches that threshold ($56.76 million), the leftover money must be distributed among the signed players at the end of the season.
If Bledsoe is signed for $12 million per year and Ennis signed for $1.5 million, the Suns will be nearly at the minimum threshold.
Last year, the Suns kept $5+ million available all season just to be able to absorb incoming contracts if an ideal trade presented itself. None did.
This year may be more of the same. As long as Bledsoe is unsigned, the Suns still have $12.25 million to use to absorb salaries. After that, the available money will be in the $4-6 million range.
Once such scenario (total conjecture on my part): If Minnesota does dump Kevin Love for prospects (Wiggins and Bennett), the Wolves might decide to also trade C Nikola Pekovic ($12 million per year) away for prospects as well. The Wolves already have Gorgui Dieng waiting in the wings to take Pekovic's place. Maybe the Suns, who need low-post scoring and rebounding, would rather Pekovic over someone like Greg Monroe, who is asking for more salary and could cost more outgoing prospects to obtain. Still that's a huge commitment (4 yrs, $48 million) to a slow center who doesn't quite fit the Suns mold. But that's just one illustration of why to keep salary cap space open.
The Suns now have proven NBA players at every position. Some positions are even a logjam. There's no way Gerald Green, Archie Goodwin and Marcus Morris will get the minutes they've earned through hard work and, in Green and Mook's cases, proven NBA play last year.
The Suns will likely make a trade before the 2014-15 season starts. But now that we've hit August, summer vacations will start taking place before pickup games in September and then preseason in October. McDonough, President Lon Babby, Assistant GM Pat Connolly and Assistant GM Trevor Buckstein all need some time to recharge their batteries. August is traditionally the month in which to do that. Don't expect a lot to happen in August.
By the way, if the Suns don't make any more moves other than signing Bledsoe and Ennis,
One of the BSotS improvement ideas was to have the latest salary cap numbers somewhere on the home page as something you can always find.
The best we can do is this:
It's right under 'Sections' on the main toolbar, and will link to all the latest salary cap stories like this one. Any time the Suns make a move, we'll post an updated story and get it to the top of this list.