NEW YORK — USA Basketball began the second phase of training today in Manhattan. The roster has been cut from 19 to 15 and with the World Championship just 18 days away, it’s time to increase the intensity.
Once again, the media was let in the watch the last part of practice, and we saw four six-minute scrimmages against the Select Team.
In total, the Senior Team outscored the Select team, 55-44, but the Select Team did win the first six-minutes we saw, 14-13 on a Kemba Walker (UConn) pull-up jumper with seven seconds left. On the other end, Kevin Durant missed a three at the buzzer that would have won it for the Senior Team.
Here were the scores of the four scrimmages (Senior-Select): 13-14, 13-9, 13-8, 16-13
As I did in Las Vegas, I’ll start with the lineups that we saw…
1. Derrick Rose, Chauncey Billups, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Lamar Odom
2. Rose, Stephen Curry, Iguodala, Durant, Kevin Love
3. Rose, Curry, Billups, Durant, Love
4. Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Rudy Gay, Jeff Green, Tyson Chandler
5. Rondo, Eric Gordon, Gay, Danny Granger, JaVale McGee
6. Westbrook, Gordon, Gay, Granger, McGee
7. Rose, Billups, Iguodala, Durant, Odom
8. Rose, Curry, Iguodala, Durant, Love
9. Rondo, Westbrook, Gay, Green, Chandler
10. Westbrook, Gordon, Gay, Granger, McGee
11. Westbrook, Gordon, Gay, Green, McGee
So in the action we saw, Durant played exclusively at the four, and a lot with Iguodala (an offense/defense combo at the forward position). Also, neither Love or Odom was on the floor with either of the true centers (Chandler and McGee).
Lineup No. 3 was the most interesting, of course.
Danny Granger injured his right ring finger on the rim in the final scrimmage. He immediately walked off the floor. At this point, it doesn’t seem to be as bad as David Lee‘s injury (maybe just a jam), but we’ll find out more by tomorrow.
The players who stood out were Durant (of course), Rose (who had a couple of brilliant drives in the first scrimmage), and Iguodala (strong defense and a couple of sick dunks).
Here’s the scoring that we saw: Iguodala, Gay and Rose had eight points each. Durant and Westbrook had seven each. McGee had six, Gordon had three, Green had two and Love had one. There’s five points missing because I missed the first basket of the first scrimmage and I missed a three in the last one.
The Senior Team played zone exclusively for the final two six-minute scrimmages and it produced mixed results. Their length and athleticism got them some deflections and steals in the passing lanes, but as it always is with playing zone, rebounding was an issue. One possession early in the first zone scrimmage, when the Select Team got two offensive boards, stood out.
Rondo had three careless turnovers, two of them ridiculous attempts at one-handed, long-distance, lefty scoop passes (one which sailed out of bounds, another which hit high off the backboard). The only time I’ve seen one of those pulled off was by Jason Kidd, on an alley-oop to Kenyon Martin in the 2004 All-Star Game.
This is not an All-Star Game. I think Rondo is one of those players on the bubble with this team, and his play in the scrimmages we saw could not have helped his chances.
He may not be the better point guard in the NBA at this point, but Westbrook will make the team over Rondo if they choose to cut one of the four point guards. We saw Westbrook hit a couple of jumpers (including a corner three) today.
Durant pulled off two straight lobs in the third scrimmage, one to Rose (which Rose laid in) and the second to Iguodala, which was the highlight of the day. Iguodala caught the lob with his hand under the ball and somehow dunked it with his hand on top of the ball. Put that guy back in the dunk contest, please.
The second scrimmage did go down to the final minute, with Gordon hitting a three to put the Senior Team ahead, Westbrook getting a contested shot in the lane to put them up four, and then (after the Select Team made it 11-9) Gay sealing it with a tip dunk off a Westbrook miss.
Overall, it looked like chemistry was a little better than it was two weeks ago. Pick-and-roll execution was sharper, with McGee the beneficiary of a couple of nice looks from his teammates.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Follow him on twitter.