HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — As Summer League wraps up, it’s time to turn our attention to USA Basketball.
The Men’s Senior National Team won’t be playing in any tournaments this summer. They qualified for next summer’s World Cup by winning last summer’s Olympics, so they’re not sending a team to the FIBA Americas tournament that begins Aug. 30 in Caracas, Venezuela.
But managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski aren’t taking the summer off. Instead, they’re bringing 29 young players to Las Vegas for a mini-camp that begins Monday and concludes with an intra-squad scrimmage on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV).
|USA Basketball 2013 mini-camp roster|
It’s an opportunity for the players to make a positive impression on the USA Basketball staff, and for the staff to develop thoughts about next summer’s roster, which could include players from last year’s Olympic Team.
To preview the mini-camp, NBA.com spoke with Colangelo, who first broke the news that the Bulls’ Taj Gibson was a late scratch with a sprained ankle. That leaves 29 healthy players – 27 NBA vets and two college players – for the four days of camp.
NBA.com: What would you like to get out of next week’s camp?
Jerry Colangelo: Let’s go backwards, first. Let’s go back to Beijing. We had our Olympic roster and we weren’t sure what would take place in 2010 for the World Championship. As it turned out, we got an entirely new group of young players, who did an outstanding job. That was really a great effort in Istanbul to win that, with guys who went on to have outstanding seasons after that performance there. Then in London, in turned out as I expected, that the roster would be made up of probably half and half of the World Championship team and the Olympic team.
So now, as we look to ’14, some of the younger Olympians have indicated they definitely want to play next summer. So this roster for the World Cup primarily could come from this group plus a few players that we had that won’t be here. [Stephen] Curry and [David] Lee are just two names that have been involved with us in the past and are out because of injuries and rehab. And Kawhi Leonard, who was originally part of this group – we knew right away that he would not be able to [participate] because of rehab during the offseason this year.
So, primarily this group, a few others and some carryovers from the Olympic team in ’12 will make up the roster. So this process is to take a good look at this group of roughly 30 and come up with some determinations about the people that we would consider moving forward, in terms of selections for next summer.
But we’re not going to select the players from this camp. This is another preview. We also have the next NBA season to look before we select a team.
NBA.com: In 2010, you started with 20 players in training camp and eventually pared that down to 12 for the World Championship. Do you expect to do the same next summer?
Colangelo: It’s pretty hard to speculate what we would do. If we did that in the past, that’s probably our M.O. It’s hard to get down. It really is. So many players are close to one another. So the more we can see, the better it is. And it’s better for them too.
The good news is this thing is purring. The machine is going extremely well. The players want to be a part of this, as evidenced by all of this participation. And the pipeline is full. All that’s evidenced by how successful our junior teams are. The 19-and-under team that just won the gold medal is a terrific team of young talent. So they just keep coming, and as long as the players continue to aspire to be a part of the USA Basketball program, we’re in good shape.
NBA.com: This is a four-day camp with 30 players, including nine point guards. Will guys have enough opportunity to make an impression?
Colangelo: Oh, we think so. This is going to be a lot of scrimmaging. We think that’s the best way to look at a group like this. Obviously, we’re going to put in some of the stuff that we use.
By the way, with Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams coming in, they have to get assimilated. So part of this camp is everyone getting reacquainted and (for the first time) getting acquainted. And so it’s good to keep indoctrinating younger players into our program and our system, on the court and off the court.
NBA.com: On each of the last three rosters, you’ve had three NBA point guards and three NBA big men. Do you think you’ll continue using that formula or do you take it year by year?
Colangelo: It’s year by year, but what we do have is great athleticism with our players. We have a lot of wing players. We have a terrific number of point guards.
If you look at the roster we have in this camp plus the carryovers at the point guard position, that’s a very, very competitive position. But we have a lot of twos and threes also. There’s always been a shortage of bigs. You go with your strength and start with that.
NBA.com: When you bring these guys into the gym, do you learn a lot more about them than when you’re watching them during the NBA season?
Colangelo: Oh yeah. It doesn’t take a genius to look at talent and know who can run, jump, shoot, defend, etc. But it’s all the other things, how people relate, how they articulate, how they get along with one another, how they relate to us. So this is all part of the process. I think it’s really important to do exactly what we’ve been doing, because it seems to be successful and it’s what we believe in.
NBA.com: So how does a player make a positive impression on you next week?
Colangelo: In our minds, what players do on the floor and off the floor are equally important. How they get along with one another, how they relate to the coaching staff, how attentive they are in our meetings…
I’ll give you an example. Paul George last summer was on the Select Team, getting our Olympic Team ready. We saw a lot in Paul George. This kid was really coming. And of course, that translated into a terrific year in the NBA season. But throughout the season, he was quoted as saying things about what he learned during his time with USA Basketball and how much he wanted to be a part of it. So it works both ways.