BILBAO, Spain -- Remember how supremely confident DeMarcus Cousins was in his last chat with reporters before Team USA's FIBA World Cup roster was finalized?
Insisting he had zero worries about making the 12-man squad, Cousins brushed off the doubters Friday night in the bowels of Madison Square Garden, telling assembled reporters: "Y'all will see."
Turns out Cousins had plenty of justification to be so self-assured: Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN.com this week that Cousins has cemented himself as the backup to starting center Anthony Davis.
Still recovering from the bone bruise in his right knee suffered earlier this month in Chicago, Cousins was the fourth player off the U.S. bench in Tuesday's exhibition victory over Slovenia. Yet the rotation in that game confirmed that he's firmly part of the "core group" of nine players so often referenced by Krzyzewski since this team started practicing together in late July.
Derrick Rose, until he shows he can handle a bigger load, is backing up Kyrie Irving at the point. Klay Thompson is the first swingman off the bench behind Golden State Warriors teammate Steph Curry or James Harden. And Rudy Gay is the No. 2 power forward behind Kenneth Faried.
Which brings us to Boogie.
For all the skepticism about his ability to win over Team USA staffers who haven't forgotten his poor first impression in 2012 -- as well as the questions that linger about how he'll get along with FIBA referees -- Cousins is clearly ahead of fellow bigs Mason Plumlee and Andre Drummond. (Ditto for 10th man DeMar DeRozan.)
It would thus appear that Cousins, as he has been trying to tell us for some time, had nothing to worry about as final cuts approached.
"I mean, [people] say what they say," Cousins offered in that last chat with the media on U.S. soil, after someone asked if he thinks this summer's stint with the national team can finally start to change perceptions about him.
"If you don't understand what I'm out here to do every night, then you're not really trying to understand. My main purpose every night is to win a game. If you can't accept that, then say what you got to say."
The inclusion of Plumlee and Drummond, meanwhile, means Krzyzewski has four players on his roster who stand at least 6-foot-10. Which is a first in Team USA's five major tournaments under Krzyzewski since he led them into the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan.