Point Guards Aplenty In USA Camp

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LAS VEGAS – There are 28 players in USA Basketball’s mini-camp this week, eight of which are point guards. And with shooting guard Bradley Beal not participating in scrimmages (because he’s still rehabbing a right fibula injury), those point guards will be spending time on the floor with one another.

In one scrimmage on the first day of camp, we saw Mike Conley and John Wall team up against Ty Lawson and Damian Lillard. Kemba Walker and Jrue Holiday played on the same team.

In speaking with NBA TV over the weekend, coach Mike Krzyzewski said that one of the things they’ll be looking at is how all the point guards mesh on the court and “adapt to a few different roles.”

Two-point-guard lineups aren’t just a necessity because of the numbers here in Vegas or even the lack of star shooting guards in the NBA. It’s a big part of the identity Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo have developed with USA Basketball over the years. They stress speed and athleticism and that starts on defense, where the guards are asked to put pressure on opposing ball handlers. So we’ve seen Chris Paul and Deron Williams share the floor in the Olympics and Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook play together in the 2010 World Championship.

“We’ve all watched the Olympics,” Walker said Monday. “We’ve seen those guys play, so when we get out here, we know what time it is already.”

For some, playing alongside another point guard is no big deal. Lawson has played almost 2,000 minutes alongside Andre Miller with the Nuggets over the last two seasons. Pushing the ball at every opportunity is all he’s known playing under former Denver coach George Karl. Having played FIBA rules in Lithuania during the lockout, Lawson also knows the importance of on-ball defense.

“In the European game, it’s huge for pressure to be on the ball,” he said. “If not, they have a bunch of shooters, so they just come off and knock it down. Pressure’s huge. I’m not really used to it like this, but I’m getting used to it.”

For some of the others here, there’s an adjustment to not being the only point guard on the floor.

“Last season was my first time really doing it,” Conley said. “With Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wroten and those guys, I got to play off the ball a little bit. So I’m starting to get used to it. I’m still not all the way there, but it’s not my first time.

“The toughest part is being able to play without the ball. You got to learn where you get the ball, where you need to be, roll and replacing, getting spacing right and getting to the corners instead of always wanting the ball and needing the ball in your hands.”

Still, Conley knows what he’s doing when his fellow point guards kick the ball out to him on the perimeter.

“When I’m playing that off-guard, I’m thinking shoot first and pass second,” he said. “It puts me in a different mode, more of a scoring mode.”

And for Conley, the USA Basketball identity is a fun change of pace from the way he plays with the grit-and-grind Memphis Grizzlies.

“I love it,” he said. “Who knows? The Grizzlies might turn into that one day.”

More quotes from Monday…

  • Walker on playing with Holiday: “I’ve been around Jrue for a long time, since high school. I enjoyed it. It was cool to not be the only one having to make the plays.”
  • Conley on playing with Wall: “We’re pretty unselfish guys. We let whoever has the ball take it and the other person runs. We both like to get up and down, so it was fun to play alongside him.”
  • Lawson on Lillard: “He was killing today. You can see he’s been working on his games. His shot’s smooth. He’s a great player. I like playing with him.”
  • Lawson on the advice he’s received from the coaching staff: “Throughout practice, they were like, ‘Just play your game,’ because they saw me try to run plays and I guess they wanted to see what I can really do. So the last two games we played, I just started pushing it and felt a lot better. That’s what they wanted to see.”

33 Comments

  1. Sintido kumon says:

    Where is steph curry?they should have known by now that outside shooting is a main factor in international games…

  2. jtgv1 says:

    Well only 2 people are going to make that team in order of 1-3 1. Steph curry (if hes not already on there he can play shooting guard and would destroy the Euro squads lool) 2. Irving (obvious reason top 5 pg in his 2nd year) 3. John Wall (underrated but is going to be exposed this year as a top 7 pg (already avg 8+ apg)

  3. Dallas fan says:

    How come rondo was never mentioned?

  4. ko0kiE says:

    CP3, westbrook, rose, irving, williams, holiday, lillard, wall, lawson, walker, conley…. will be hard to choose from, especially if the young guys get better as fast as they did last year

  5. Keegan crawford says:

    Nick please tell me your joking right ^^^^^^ ?

  6. Nick Nguyen says:

    I don’t get why tony Parker isn’t in the us camp he’s a great point guard

  7. cleffnote says:

    My problem with having two point guards on the floor at the same time is that it becomes selfish ball instead of team play. I feel sorry for the centers and forwards in the game today.

    • WILKSY08 says:

      Yes and no- pont guards, especially American ones, are often scorers these days so players like westrbrook and rose wil be looking to mostly score. If you watched USA at the Olympics though, the veterans like Lebron and Kobe were acting as the distributors for the team, trying to get the young guys like Davis and the young guards involved. The NBA is evolving to small ball, but in national basketball they will always have needs for big guys. Think about Span for example, you can’t defend the Gasols and Ibaka without an effective C

      • sportfan says:

        Not to mention rebounding. Not every shot you put up will go in, so you need big guys to rebound and protect the paint.

  8. WILKSY08 says:

    Lets not forget that Rose hasnt played with Team USA for a while but was guaranteed a spot by coach K

  9. BaM says:

    Lithuania !!!

  10. 007 says:

    The NBA is really loaded at the PG spot. And small ball is the new style so Coach K is ready and already has adapted to it.

    It’s crazy how talented these PG are nowadays that someone as talented as Brandon Jennings is still yet to find a job.

    On another note the guy that said they have no finisher. I think that was a typo because who has better finishers then them Spain? Greece? Istanbul? ….C’mon Son they have won the last 2 Gold Medals.

  11. Dee says:

    The best finisher of this group is Lillard. He is the most reliable

  12. lee says:

    id say wall kyrie and lillard are the better pgs lillard is a shooter kyrie works the hardest and wall is pure god given talent

  13. Tim says:

    Lillard is the best PG no Doubt

  14. Tim says:

    easy give Lillard the Ball and you get the W he Can Finish from evrywhere :P

  15. B Radd says:

    Jrue Holiday is the overall best playmaker of this group. Kyrie is their with him but needs a little more seasoning.

  16. Finests says:

    im happy to see kemba at the camp glad he getting some recognition for he’s long hours in the gym and play on the court hope he could get even better from his steller sophomore season

    • kemba Fan says:

      I agree wit @finests….im happy for kembs he is a beast and the usa team cud upgrade his skills..i see a allstar in the future watch in see….kemba aka the NU a.i ha

  17. yeah a lot of point guards for USA…but without a go to finisher

    • TrueNBAFan says:

      Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Westbrook aren’t finishers?

      • Dee says:

        Have you lost mind, since when Chis Paul and Russell Westbrook not a finisher? CP3 and Westbrook has closed endless games.

    • Eddie Carolan says:

      I usually totally agree with your comments man but not entirely sure about this one. Irving’s been a quality finisher in crunch time with a lot of the same style plays as CP3. Lilliards pitched in with blazers too. Anyway, it’s likely that only Irving and would make a USA team for the time being and wouldnt need to fill that role with the big names he’d be playing with.

    • Stefan says:

      Every player in the damn team is go to finisher

    • Pay Attention says:

      ^ Kyrie might consider himself a decent finisher…

    • dyoung04 says:

      Kyrie is there finisher

    • Quentin says:

      he’s saying that there is no finisher like lebron or durant, rose, westbrook, or cp3 on the usa team