USA camp – Day 3 notes


VIDEO: Through the Lens: USA Basketball Practice, Day 2

LAS VEGAS – Media time after Day 3 of USA Basketball training camp went a little long, because everybody was watching an extended game of “King of the Hill” between Kevin Durant, Paul George and James Harden.

“King of the Hill” is a three-way game of one-on-one. Player 1 tries to score on Player 2. If he does, Player 2 steps off the floor and Player 3 comes in and to play defense. But if Player 2 gets the stop, he moves to offense and tries to score against Player 3. The game goes on until a player gets five buckets.

That shouldn’t take long, but the trio played the game from several different spots on the floor. (Here’s a vine of a couple of right-elbow possessions.) By the time they were done, they had gone for a good 20 minutes or so, drawing quite a crowd of media, USA teammates, coaches, and other onlookers. And this was after a full practice.

“It was intense,” George said afterward. “At the end of the day, we’re out here to get better. And there’s no better guys for me to go against, for myself to guard than KD and James. And James is quick and low to the ground and KD’s got the length, so it’s good for me, offensively, as well. But at the end of the day, we’re all here to get better and work hard. And I think we took it to another level.”

Yes, that was George giving credit to Harden’s defense. At one point, Harden blocked Durant’s seemingly unblockable shot, getting in some trash talk afterward.


VIDEO: James Harden, Kevin Durant and Paul George play a game of King of the Hill

***

Speaking of Durant and George, they’re the latest USA forward tandem that no other country that can match up with. And by putting them on the same team every day, the U.S. staff is making sure they get time to build some chemistry.

***

Harden and Durant, meanwhile, are two of only five players in camp with Senior National Team experience. But 12 of the other 15 were here last year for a four-day mini-camp.

The U.S. had no competition to play in last summer. By winning the 2012 Olympics, they automatically qualified for this year’s World Cup and had no reason to send a team to the FIBA Americas tournament. But USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski brought 28 guys to Las Vegas, so they could get to know them and get them integrated into the system.

It was only four days and with so many guys in the gym, none of them got all that much playing time in the scrimmages. But it reduced the learning curve for the whole group and allowed them to hit the ground running on Monday.

“A big thing is their familiarity with me and the coaching staff,” Krzyzewski said Wednesday. “We spent a lot of time trying to get to know them. So, it lends for familiarity.”

And it has paid off.

“We have actually gotten more in in the first three days of this camp,” Krzyzewski said, “than we have our previous three camps.”

DeMar DeRozan was one of those guys here last year.

“It definitely helps,” he said, “because you got an idea. It’s different when you don’t have an idea about something and you go into it blind. It’s different this time around.”

DeRozan said that the one thing he was more prepared for was “the physicality, really understanding how it’s going to be when you’re out there on the court, competing at a high level.”

Those four days last summer didn’t just help the players. It also helped new assistant coaches Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams get a feel for the system and build some bench chemistry with Krzyzewski and returning assistant Jim Boeheim.

“Last year,” Krzyzewski said, “I wanted Tom and Monty, for us to have an active role in it, so we got to know one another. So, as a coaching staff, we’ve hit the ground running.”

We’re always going to focus on the even-numbered years, when the U.S. is competing in the big international tournaments. But the years in between can be critical as well. Krzyzewski called 2013 “a big summer.”

“It provides a foundation of relationships and knowing one another that’s invaluable.”

***

The scrimmage that the media saw on Wednesday was between two squads of Senior Team members, with the Select Team limited to controlled-scrimmage action earlier in practice.

Here were the lineups:
Blue 1: Stephen Curry, DeRozan, James Harden, Kenneth Faried and DeMarcus Cousins
Blue 2: Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee
White 1: Derrick Rose, Klay Thompson, George, Durant and Anthony Davis
White 2: John Wall, Bradley Beal, Kyle Korver, Chandler Parsons and Andre Drummond

And here are a couple of notes from the scrimmage…

  • Basically, it’s Blue 1 vs. White 1 for the first five minutes, and then Blue 2 vs. White 2 for the second five minutes. But Wall subbed in for Rose a couple of minutes early on Wednesday.
  • Early in the scrimmage, Rose blocked shots on two straight possessions. The first was on a corner three. He blocked the shot, saved the ball and got it to George, leading to a White Team fast break. On the next possession, he blocked a drive by Harden.
  • Focused on the negatives of the other non-Davis bigs, I was talking myself into Plumlee having at shot at the final roster. But a couple of things on Wednesday gave me a reality check. First, Plumlee struggled offensively in the scrimmage, missing two free throws and committing two turnovers (an illegal screen and a traveling violation). Second, in talking about the bigs, Krzyzewski said that Plumlee “is going to be in the scrimmage on Friday.” Reading between the lines (which may be a bad idea), it sounds like Plumlee probably won’t be with the team beyond that.
  • I will say that Plumlee was the most vocal big man in the scrimmage. You can see the Kevin Garnett influence, because he’s always letting his backcourt teammates know if they’re by themselves on the perimeter or if there’s a screen coming.
  • My favorite play of the scrimmage: A long outlet pass from Cousins to DeRozan, who caught the ball in the air and, before he came down, sent a slick bounce pass across the lane to Harden, who was fouled on the play.
  • A lob from Parsons to Drummond reminded you that the latter doesn’t need much separation from his man to go up and catch the ball where no one else can get it. He may now be the most intriguing on-or-off-the-roster question on this team.
  • Blue won the 10-minute scrimmage 24-19, with Lillard hitting a dagger, step-back three with 18 seconds to go.

***

There won’t be any scrimmaging on Thursday, so that everybody is fresh for Friday’s USA Basketball Showcase (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

“Tomorrow is a non-contact day,” Krzyzewski said, “so we don’t get little injuries or whatever, and then that they’re prepared for Friday. You get another chance on Friday to see, with the lights on what goes on.”

***

As noted in today’s story about Durant and George, those two and Davis are locks to start for this team. I’d guess that Rose looks really good (like 90/10) to start at point guard and Harden is the most likely starter (65/35) at the two. Curry is the other possible starter at either guard position.

Outside of those six, which were assumed locks before camp began, it’s really hard to say that anybody else is definitely on the roster. Colangelo told Sam Amick of USA Today that it would be hard to carry more than two “pure points.” In the same quote, Colangelo says that Rose, Irving and Wall are points.

(Though we saw Curry on the floor without one of the other point guards for the first time on Wednesday, he’s definitely more of a two than a one on this roster. Colangelo calls Lillard “a tweener.”)

Rose is in, so it sounds like one roster spot will come down to Irving and Wall. Wall is the better defender, the better passer and, seemingly, the better fit. But Irving brings better shooting and a history with Krzyzewski.

30 Comments

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  2. El Stone says:

    Why isn’t LeBron James playing?

    • jake s. says:

      Players approaching 30 rarely play in the world cup. Lets be honest… NBA championships mean more than world cup championships at this point. The rest of the world just simply isn’t as basketball oriented as the United States is. Winning gold medals at the olympics and the world cup is easy if you play for team USA. Players approaching 30 want to preserve their bodies for the real trophy. Just look at Paul George. Need I say more?

  3. Adrian M. Bazaga says:

    These days, Spanish media report that Spain team has the best frontcourt of this World Cup, with Gasol brothers and Ibaka…., better than the USA one. Taking into account that the 2014 USA team is going to be worst than the Dream Team who win the 2012 Olimpics (defeating Spanish team by only 7 points), and the current Spanish team is even better than the last one in 2012, I think the supposedly advantage of Spanish froutcourt can be the key in the next Worl Cup final, between Spain and the USA.

  4. Pacers BLM says:

    Who won King of the Hill?

  5. Pacers BLM says:

    The reply option is not working for me. To: IbraKidibra, LOL What world are you living in? Hey!! wake up, wake up, you are in a dream !!

  6. Pacers BLM says:

    The reply option is not working for me. To: IbraKidibra, LOL What world are you living in? Hey!! wake up, wake up, you are in a dreak !!

  7. harrythehawk says:

    I really don’t care what country wins to be quite honest. Just cant wait to wstch some basketball and look for some familiar faces on opposing teams.

  8. IbraKadibra says:

    Early exit for team USA this world cup, better luck next time.

    • T gas TT ako says:

      hey dummy do you watch NBA,, Spain has a chance ,, but USA has so much fire power,, and their roster also plays good defense as well

  9. Flexy says:

    Great squad, new faces, new era. Champs/Gold medalists for sure

  10. NostraDameUs says:

    I think the final team will look as follows:

    Starters: Rose, Harden, Durant, George, Davis
    Bench: Curry, Irving, Lillard, Derozan, Thompson, Cousins, Drummond

    Wall should make the team, however Irving and Coack K obviously have a connection. Personally, I would carry Wall as well, but Thompson provides shooting and size for the 2nd unit. Curry, Irving, and Lillard provide shooting however all 3 lack size.

  11. cp10 says:

    Trash-talking between Harden and KD? lol. Fear the beard! (fuller than ever) Also, Wall as the other PG but Irving’s got some mad ball-handling skills.

  12. Sop says:

    Drummond is a better choice than Cousins for this team.
    1. Cousins should not represent the USA. He’s still a major a$$hole who’s just slightly better at hiding it.
    2. Cousins is not a good, end of your rotation guy as his ego is to big.
    3. Cousins is a low post scorer not an energy guy off the bench, which the US needs and Drummond can be.
    4. Drummond is a better shot blocker and has better athleticism.
    5. Drummond is great in the locker room and open to coaching.
    6. Drummond’s game is very complementary to the star as he doesn’t need the ball to haul in loads of ORs.
    7. Drummond is quicker and can get out on runs better than Cousins.
    8. Drummond is the future of USA Basketball at the Center spot. He’s 3 YEARS younger than Cousins, way more explosive and needs help to develop his game. Yes USA should be focused on winning the tournament, but they also need to remember to keep an eye on developing future national team players. Pick Drummond and do both.
    9. Even though Drummond is 3 years younger than Cousins there is no conclusive evidence from NBA head-to-head match ups vs. each other or vs. Marc Gasol or Jonas Valaciunas who the better of the the 2 US centers is.
    10. Taking both is also an ok option, but taking Plumlee, Milsap, or Faried over the guy who recorded the 2nd most double-doubles in the league last year (Drummond) would be a huge insult. If it happened hopefully Drummond would get over it in 2 years by which time he will be the 2nd most dominant post-player behind Dwight and Colangelo will be calling about the Olympic Team.

    • Michael says:

      You have coach k among other great minds with the National team, ego and attitude won’t be an issue period.

  13. Rockets Man says:

    I really have to say. The Rose, Harden, Durant, George, Davis lineup excites me the most.

  14. Mussieboy says:

    Sent from Samsung RUGBY® Smart.

  15. Alberto Soto says:

    I am excited to see what Derrick Rose can bring to the court. I am impressed by the news I have heard lately. Kid plays hard and really wants it as much as any other NBA player. Though it’s going to be a challenge, I hope he can continue to be consistent, progressive, and stay healthy.

  16. miguelamor22 says:

    Who won??!!

  17. bball7 says:

    I feel like wall’s defensive presence is much more important than irving’s shooting

  18. jake s. says:

    You rarely get to see Kevin Durant commanding a team without Russel Westbrook on it. This series of games will be a gem for real NBA fans.

    • dd def says:

      personally i think KD would be better off if he wasn’t on a team with westbrook at all. obviously he needs strong players around him, but i think an actual pg would serve him well.

      • RP says:

        KD played almost half of this last season without Westbrook and did great. He broke all kinds of records and led the Thunder to #1 in the league and kept them there. …until Westbrook came back. Westbrook is a great player….but everyone on the team played better without him.

  19. rokec says:

    Why was Rose replaced by Wall? Was there a problem with D-Rose?

    • grievous56 says:

      Wasn’t K Love replaced by Wall?

    • TTKIN says:

      I know Thibs said he wanted Rose to attend this camp to knock the rust off, but Thibs proly had him removed early since they said things were getting heated all day with the competition amongst the players. He proly just was being cautious.