Back to work: USAB deals with new injury and the weight of one withdrawal

DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis got tangled up in Team USA's scrimmage Thursday.

DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis got tangled up in Team USA’s scrimmage Thursday.

CHICAGO – After 12 days of upheaval, hand-wringing, rest and re-commitment, Team USA went back to work Thursday with the first of two workout-and-scrimmage sessions, in preparation for their tune-up game against the Brazil national team Saturday night at United Center.

Jerry Colangelo, managing director of USA Basketball’s men’s team, opened the midday session with a pep talk, sharing the encouraging prognosis on Indiana wing Paul George, whose gruesome right-leg fractures Aug. 1 marred what to that point had been a stellar practice week in Las Vegas.

Then, a couple hours after Colangelo talked to the 16 NBA players vying for 12 Team USA roster spots, Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins raised the red flag of injuries again. He got tangled up with New Orleans’ Anthony Davis chasing after a loose ball and wound up lying on the court, grabbing at his right knee.

The early word was a strain, which later was amended to a bone bruise. By mid-afternoon, Cousins – who had limped out of the gym after receiving treatment – minimized the damage via social media.

Still, Cousins’ availability the rest of this week remains unknown. George will be honored via some shooting shirts the U.S. players don Saturday and for their remaining tune-up games before heading to Spain, though of course his 2014-15 season is over for the Pacers and for him.

And then there’s the very large elephant that filled the very large gymnasium Thursday, NBA Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant‘s decision to withdraw last week, citing mental and physical fatigue despite participating in the Las Vegas sessions.

Colangelo said he was not surprised when Durant called him to withdraw, suggesting he noticed wear and tear in Oklahoma City’s four-time scoring champ during the stay in Vegas.

But it all seemed to hit Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski as news, because he had fashioned the national squad’s attack around Durant. After Thursday’s two-plus hour session, Krzyzewski bemoaned the lost preparation time, having Durant quit after rather than before the work started.

“We had a whole camp building what we’re doing around him,” Krzyzewski said. “So that’s the very first thing: You had one of the great scorers at the [power forward position]. So how does that change your offense? That changes your offense immensely.

“You have to do more to get your guards shots. I mean, these guards are really good, but they were complementing one another – Kevin with those guards. … Now we have to look at developing our inside and getting the guards more involved.”

To hear Krzyzewski tell it, losing Durant to his abrupt personal decision is little different from losing George to that devastating injury.

“You don’t replace Kevin Durant. You look different,” he said. “We have today and tomorrow to look different before we play a really good team. That’s a concern for me, because we were pretty far along.

“We had our best camp ever in Vegas since I’ve coached. We had more strategy in, to play a certain way. And then Kevin deciding not to play, we didn’t practice until we’re here. So it’s concerning. Hopefully we’ll be good enough on Saturday.”

Sacramento forward Rudy Gay, a member of the 2010 FIBA World Cup team, joined Team USA in time for Thursday’s workout. He said he’s in good enough shape and needed only to catch up with certain sets and play-calls. He has moved into Durant’s roster spot for now, but he isn’t trying to replace Durant’s production or style.

“I wish I could play like the MVP,” Gay said, smiling. “No, I’m not coming here to fill his footsteps. I just want to play hard and help this team get a W. I’m not going to do it just like him.”

Picking up the slack from Durant – and George, for that matter – figures to be a collective thing. Neither Krzyzewski nor the players nominated anyone to understudy the Durant role. More likely, the offensive burden will fall more on guards such as Stephen Curry, James Harden, Derrick Rose and Klay Thompson, with more of a shift to the outside. Also, Team USA might show feistier, small-ball lineups and dial up their defense, which was at a fever pitch already on Thursday.

“You can’t replace Kevin Durant – what he does, that’s impossible,” Thompson said. “Not having Kevin out there … if a play breaks down, you can just throw it to him and he’s going to get you a bucket.

“You just have to do it collectively. The challenge, I don’t think it’s going to be scoring. I just think it’s going to be who’s gonna rise as a leader. I’m not worried about it actually because we’ve got guys who have experience at this level – we’ve got Steph, Rudy Gay, James Harden, D. Rose.”

Said Atlanta’s Kyle Korver, another deep threat whose touches might go up a bit: “Our guard play is amazing. And that’s going to be the strength of our team now. A lot of what we do is going to be predicated off of our guard play. … I don’t think we’re going to get to the end of the shot-clock much.”

George’s freak injury revived some debate on the risks faced by NBA players – and the teams that employ and guarantee them millions of dollars – in international play such as this and the Olympics. Durant’s late withdrawal is seen by some as a second-guess and a preemptive move to avoid a mishap of his own. Cousins’ limp off the floor Thursday was yet another reminder.

But there still were 16 players in the gym, to be cut down to 12 by the time Team USA leaves New York Aug. 23. If there was any trepidation, no one was showing or saying.

“I didn’t sense anything,” Korver said. “We’re basketball players. This is what we do. … More so than anything, what gets you hurt is playing to not get hurt. When you get to this level, you have to be able to shut that out.

“We’d love to have them. We understand why Kevin’s not here. Obviously we feel horrible for Paul. But I think there’s still a lot of potential with the guys that we have.”

40 Comments

  1. timothyhoward says:

    Alright. team USA.let’s go.baby.

  2. This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw. Thanks for posting this informative Information

  3. Luke says:

    Why does this article not include that derozan will contribute to a lot of the offensive load? It says that klay will have the offensive burden but Derozan is a better offensive player than klay Thompson. He’s not kd, but if given minutes will do work for usab

  4. seh says:

    kd is my idol but i lost few respect for him withdrawing from the usa team. wtf why he is scared? look drose is not even bother what happen to george still choosing to play and the other 16 players. wtf KD what happen and giving that lame reason ahahaha come on kd.

    • kd's abeast says:

      Its not a lame reason sorry but 3 out of the ladt 5 years he has played the most amount of mins and the other 2 years he was second. Plus taking up westbrook load he is tired. He played more than the amount of minutes ypu can play in a regular season.

  5. Marv says:

    Now we’ll see how coach Mike Krzyzewski does with a late change. This is closer to what Larry Brown had to put up with in 2004 yet Coangelo made disparaging remarks about him. This is why Coangelo will never get the best coach even if he begs.

    • Rob says:

      idk man, I agree with you. This will be a test for the incredibly talented Coach K. But at the same time both him and Larry Brown have had decades to show what they were made out of. Larry Brown is a great coach and he did a lot of great things. But he was handed that Pistons team on a silver platter, when Rick Carlisle built up that team to what it was an got canned. I think Kevin Durant isn’t getting enough heat for the nature of his decision. Reporters in Las Vegas were saying that KD showed no signs of fatigue and was challenging everyone on the team to 1on1 practice because Coach K was preserving them. KD got scared, KD got selfish. After he saw what happened to Paul George. At least there’s still 16 other players who feel its worth playing for their nation.

      On a side note, im not sure why everyone thinks the Americans have dominated the FIBA World Cup ever since they started letting NBA players play. If you actually look at the numbers, the USA did dominate the Olympics, World Cup on the other hand is a compleeeetely different story.

    • ko0kiE says:

      excuse me? they have an excellent coaching staff including thibs, monty williams and jim boeheim

  6. celentano says:

    even with durant + cousins on that usa roster, maybe usa end up 2 or 3 place on the fiba worldcup! ok, team usa is a lot talented but still far away like the dreamteam back in the days with … .

    • LebronFan says:

      stop comparing every single USA team to the dream team.

    • WHAT?????? says:

      2nd or 3rd?? Tell me, which team is going to beat them? Give me the roster of that team and we’ll talk.

    • ko0kiE says:

      i think Team USA has still upper hand against ANYONE in the World Cup competition.. but they are beatable under the “right” cicrumstances, unlike the unbeatable Dream Team.

      but if they prepare well for each opponent – as Coach K and his Staff always do – they will be fine and going for gold.

  7. Mick J says:

    I’m rolling with:
    Derrick Rose/Damian Lillard
    Steph Curry/Kyrie Irving/Kyle Korver
    James Harden/Klay Thompson
    Rudy Gay/Chandler Parsons
    Anthony Davis/Boogie Cousins/Andre Drummond

  8. Jo says:

    I think thats pretty bad to leave like that and make USA have to scramble for a replacement. Hopefully they can work it out. There is probably going to be some tough competition. Has USA ever loss when they do this? I know since I have been watching they end up winning, ha dsome close calls though!

  9. TTKIN says:

    I cant wait to see what Rose does in this competition. Before George’s injury, the story of that scrimmage, to me, was Rose running over everyone and getting to the bucket literally at will. I cant wait to see what he does in the actual games. Gonna be exciting. After Kobe, my 2 favorite players are Curry and Rose…cant wait to see those 2 feed off each other. Rose driving and dishing to Curry is gonna be a thing of beauty to watch.

    • ko0kiE says:

      word.. i also believe this will be the killer duo of the world cup this year… and harden could be the go to guy late in the shot clock.

  10. cp10 says:

    All the better that KD left early – sooner rather than later. KD would’ve gotten injured. He did participate in the Vegas camp but a long season as MVP will take a toll. And sure LJ did it all in 2012 but each player is different.

  11. Think Tank ! says:

    I think Team USA should tank for a higher pick next time around.

  12. SAVAGE22 says:

    Durant will be missed but Rudy will step it up on D and average around 12 a game which along with the guards play and americas interior defense (#BLOCKPARTY) will be more than enough #USAforthewin #webelieve

  13. exiled says:

    kd & Lbj are great players but D.Rose and Harden can replace them easily

  14. Vicente Salaner says:

    Meanwhile, and as usual, not a word in this site about what the US’s rivals are doing or on how they’re looking.

  15. Shawn Kemp no. 1 says:

    excuses

  16. Matt Godley says:

    It’s gonna be a mess with all those guards in one team and no one to make order around, someone will definitely have to step up and lead this team but who? I think the roster is completely unbalanced, Steph Curry, James Harden, Kyle Korver and Derrick Rose all in the same tea?! obviously Coach K will have to rotate between them ’cause it just doesn’t make sense having so many guards on the court all at the same time.

    If anyone should lead this team it’s Rose, on the other he just got back and even though he’s looking good on the scrimmages right now the real test will be the upcoming game against Brazil. If he wants to lead this team he’s gonna have to establish himself as the dominant player.

  17. ko0kiE says:

    of course this is not the best USA Basketball possible with all the current players but I think compared to the rest of the world, this is still the most talented and athletic team of all.. it’s just a matter how they play together.

  18. IrieChat says:

    Demar DeroZan will lead Team USA…That’s a RAP.

  19. DFresh says:

    1 no kawhi. he said he was exhausted from their playoff run.
    2 rudy gay in not a guard. guys like him lebron and josh smith to name a few come into the league playing guard but as they lose a step, fill out their frames the move over to their natural forward positions

    gay is adequate, there is no replacing kd. but you have to move on. team USA will be ok

  20. Paul says:

    For everyone asking about Kawhi he backed out long ago, no way Coach Popovich would let him play anyway.

  21. jumppong says:

    No kawhi leonard?? for SF??

  22. Durantula says:

    Durant has put enough work in for USA BBall, let the younger guns handle it. He has to consider that his team is a contender for the title next year, not to mention the 300 million shoe deal he’s got coming. That is serious bread. As Chuck said that changes your family and your community’s destiny.

    We got your back KD, you do enough for the game as it is.

  23. zen says:

    i think not having durant is good for the team maybe as result will be more ball movement

  24. harriethehawk says:

    Kevin Durant is the best player in the whole wide world. To me.

    • T gas T ako says:

      i strongly disagree w/ u man,, durant doesnt have a ring bro… hes just a really great scorer

      • TTKIN says:

        I agree with you but not the argument you used….Josh Powell has a ring from his time with the Lakers…suggesting he’s better than Durant?

  25. YungMussuBlack says:

    Rudy Gay is a guard. Smh!

  26. YungMussuBlack says:

    Replacing Durant with Gay, is like replacing an Aston Martin with a Toyota. It’s rediculous.