USA Basketball

19 players to vie for World Cup roster


VIDEO: All-Access: USA Basketball 2013 mini-camp

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – USA Basketball announced a 19-man roster for its training camp that will begin in Las Vegas on July 28. From this roster, 12 players will be selected to play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, which begins on Aug. 30 in Spain.

USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo said Monday that he’d like to whittle down the roster to “about 15 players” at the end of the week in Vegas, and then have the 12-man roster set when the team heads overseas on Aug. 23, after stops in Chicago and New York.

“The ultimate roster,” Colangelo said, “will be determined when we’re about to leave for Spain.”

On the 19-man list is Derrick Rose, who last played in a game on Nov. 22. Rose has fully recovered from his latest knee surgery and is ready to test himself and knock off some of the rust.

“We’d like to see him play like the Derrick of old, because he is one of the best players in the world,” USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday. “What we’ve heard is that he’s in great shape.”

Rose can look toward Tyson Chandler for inspiration. In 2010, Chandler was coming off an injury-riddled season with the Charlotte Bobcats. He got healthy in the summer and used the 2010 World Championship as a springboard to a great season in Dallas and an NBA title.

“Hopefully,” Krzyzewski said of Rose, “this would be a launching pad for him for a great NBA season.”

Rose is one of four point guards (Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard are the others) on the list. Colangelo has typically carried three point guards on his roster and Krzyzewski has often played two of them at the same time.

Also on the list are DeMar DeRozan and Chandler Parsons, additions made to the original list of 28 players on the greater 2014-16 roster in January. They’re two of nine wings who will be in Vegas, with the idea that the team has been at its best over the last several years with perimeter players manning both forward positions.

Not on the list is Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who is on the 2014-16 roster, but withdrew this summer. Other players on the bigger roster but not on this one are LaMarcus Aldridge, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, David Lee, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams.

Colangelo didn’t expect the guys with multiple Olympic medals to play this summer. And he understands why Leonard withdrew after a long NBA season. But it was clear on Monday that he was disappointed with another “no thanks” from Aldridge.

“We can only offer an opportunity,” Colangelo said, “and then they can either accept or not. In Aldridge’s case, this has happened a couple of times previously. But the bottom line is he advised us that he’s not available.”

The absences of eight of the 12 guys who won Olympic gold in 2012 leaves the U.S. with six guys with National Team experience, led by Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, the only two who won gold in both 2010 and 2012.

Love is one of six true bigs on the list. The U.S. has carried only three true bigs on its rosters in 2008, 2010 and 2012, usually with just one on the floor at the time. But it may choose to bring an extra to Spain, where the hosts will be their top challenger, likely with four NBA bigs (Victor Claver, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka) and on its roster.

“We’re going to sort through all of that in Las Vegas, Chicago and New York,” Colangelo said. “There’s a lot of versatile guys who can play 4 and 5, and 3 and 4.”

2014 Men’s National Team Training Camp Roster

Player Team POS Height Age Exp. National team exp.
Bradley Beal WAS G 6-5 21 2
DeMarcus Cousins SAC C 6-11 24 4
Stephen Curry GSW G 6-3 26 5 2010
Anthony Davis NOP F-C 6-10 21 2 2012
DeMar DeRozan TOR G 6-7 25 5
Andre Drummond DET C 6-10 21 2
Kevin Durant OKC F 6-9 25 7 2010, 2012
Kenneth Faried DEN F 6-8 24 3
Paul George IND F-G 6-9 24 4
Blake Griffin LAC F 6-10 25 4
James Harden HOU G 6-5 25 5 2012
Gordon Hayward UTA G-F 6-8 24 4
Kyrie Irving CLE G 6-3 22 3
Kyle Korver ATL G-F 6-7 33 11
Damian Lillard POR G 6-3 24 2
Kevin Love MIN F-C 6-10 25 6 2010, 2012
Chandler Parsons DAL F 6-9 25 3
Derrick Rose CHI G 6-3 25 5 2010
Klay Thompson GSW G 6-7 24 3

Age = When the World Cup begins on Aug. 30.

Ginobili’s in; World Cup could feature more than 50 NBA players


VIDEO: Manu Ginobili Exit Interview

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Tony Parker was happy to remind everyone that he’d be taking the summer off after winning his fourth championship. Tim Duncan made his feelings regarding FIBA known after the 2004 Olympics. But Manu Ginobili couldn’t resist making one more run with his national team.

After The Finals, Ginobili was unsure if he’d take part in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. But he announced over the weekend that he’ll represent his native Argentina one more time, with the blessing of his wife. He’ll join fellow NBA players Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola to put Argentina in the mix for a medal.

When they’re at their best, no national team plays prettier, Spurs-like basketball than Argentina. And Ginobili’s presence is obviously a big boost to what was one of the top offenses at the 2010 World Championship. The Bucks’ Carlos Delfino has expressed his interest in playing for the 2004 Olympic champs as well, but is coming off two surgeries on his right foot that kept him on the sidelines the entire 2013-14 season.

Though Parker won’t be representing France and injuries will keep Al Horford (Dominican Republic) and Andrew Bogut out, there could be more than 50 current NBA players representing 16 different countries at the Basketball World Cup. That list includes five more Spurs: France’s Boris Diaw, Brazil’s Tiago Splitter, the U.S.’s Kawhi Leonard, and Australians Patty Mills and Aron Baynes.

Diaw and Splitter will meet in Group A, which could have as many 20 NBA players representing Brazil (four possibles), France (seven), Serbia (three) and Spain (six). Spain, the tournament’s host and silver medalist in each of the last two Olympics, is obviously the biggest challenger for the U.S., which will compete in Group C and which has won 36 straight games under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

In January, the U.S. named 28 players to a preliminary roster for the next three summers. They have commitments from Kevin Durant and Kevin Love to play in the Basketball World Cup. They could also have a healthy Derrick Rose and the Finals MVP.

The U.S. will open a five-day training camp in Las Vegas on July 28. They’ll also train in Chicago and New York before making their way to Spain. The Basketball World Cup tips off on Aug. 30 and concludes with the gold medal game on Sept. 14.

In addition to the 50-ish current NBA players, there could be more than 20 former NBA players and several more players whose draft rights are owned by NBA teams.

Paul George Riding A Special Hot Streak


VIDEO: Check out Paul George’s top 10 plays of the season

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – By late Friday night, the next move had become obvious.

Vegas.

Immediately.

“Yeah,” Paul George agreed. “I should. And put a million or something down on 24.”

Obviously on 24. It’s George’s Pacers uniform number, and it’s becoming George’s world by the day. Ride the hot streak. Put down a million. Put down the “or something.” Just put it on two-four and keep pressing the bet.

Thursday morning, George was named to the initial Team USA pool of candidates for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball and the 2016 Olympics, a list that will likely be tweaked over the months and years but barring injury will include the Indiana small forward with the high character to match the MVP-level talent. Thursday evening, he was announced as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, obviously deserved but an affirmation of his rising profile. Later that night, George scored 26 points in Phoenix, even if it went to waste as the Suns won 124-100.

Then, Friday. The winningest team in the league by percentage was staring at a second consecutive bad loss, with the blowout in Arizona about to be followed not only by a defeat to the Kings, but a defeat to the Kings without the injured DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Sacramento led by 17 points in the second quarter and by four with 18.3 seconds remaining in the fourth. The Pacers called timeout.

They came out and got the ball to George, who hit a 26-footer from the right side with 15.1 seconds left. With a foul being called on the defender, Derrick Williams. George swished the free throw. Four-point play. Overtime.

George scored nine points in the final quarter of regulation and eight more in the five-minute extra period, making a combined six of nine shots in that time as part of finishing with 36 points. He had two steals in overtime, including a strip of Isaiah Thomas with 15.9 showing to clinch what became a 116-111 Indiana escape, a 6-foot-9 forward flat out picking the pocket of an experienced 5-foot-9 ball handler.

Not a bad couple days, from Thursday morning to Friday night with two resume-building announcements, 62 points and 75 minutes.

“It’s been tough,” he said.

Tough? League-wide accolades, big scoring numbers and clutch performances were tough?

“It’s been real tough,” George replied after the Kings game. “Going into Phoenix, battling a team that was ready for us, and then coming out tonight with another hot team, it’s tough and we’ve got to understand that teams are going to be ready for us.”

OK. But the new status, in popularity and performance. The great finish Friday.

“That’s been good,” George said. “It’s been a balance of both. It’s been awesome. I put a lot of work into this year, into this season, and just overall in being better as a person. It’s good that everything’s starting to pay off for me. It makes me want to get better every day.”

That chance comes tonight in Denver (9 ET, League Pass) , a tough travel back-to-back, at altitude and against Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, a Pacers assistant before this season. George is at 23.6 points a game, eighth in the league and has a new status of stardom after the Thursday double. Part of betting on him is the 53.7 percent from the field and 45.9 percent on 3s the last five games.

No casino runs, in other words. He is needed elsewhere.

“Definitely not,” teammate George Hill said. “We’ve got to focus. We got a big game ahead of us (Saturday). Then after that he can probably go to Vegas.”

Drummond Continues Payoff For Pistons

VIDEO: Andre Drummond earns a Block of the night nod

The latest statement about the progress of Andre Drummond came Thursday when he was named as one of the 28 players under initial consideration for the World Cup of Basketball this summer. It’s an additional credibility boost as he averages 12.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and 1.83 blocks while shooting 60.4 percent for the Pistons. Another could soon follow, with the All-Star reserves being announced next week and Drummond a strong candidate for the Eastern Conference.

This is the guy who lasted until No. 9 in the 2012 draft, the center with a supposed lack of focus that caused him to be labeled a risk pick who may never play hard enough to realize his potential, a prospect with an imposing body (6-10, 270) and athleticism compared to the once-upon-a-time Amar’e Stoudemire. That same Drummond needed less than two seasons for the major endorsement from USA Basketball and the possibility of another from East coaches in voting for All-Star reserves.

A lot of teams gambled and lost. They were worried about Drummond’s wandering play in one season at Connecticut and, understandably so, went in another direction on June 28, 2012, and have watched the Pistons benefit by simply holding their arms out to catch a top talent who practically landed right on top of them. There was obviously a risk for Detroit as well, coming off 25-41 season and in desperate need of dependable, but also the reality at that point that the upside and talent far outweighed the wager.

This is no surprise success story, in other words. Drummond was arguably the second-best prospect on the board, behind Anthony Davis as the clear No. 1. The judgment for front offices was partly whether Drummond would develop enough on offense to not force his side to play four-on-five with the ball, but mostly about the intangibles of gauging his desire to be great. In January of 2014, only two of the eight teams that picked before the Pistons are off the hook, another probably is, and a fourth could still get cleared.

The top of the 2012 draft:

  • 1. Davis, Hornets/Pelicans.

The right choice then, the right choice now. As long as he shakes the early problem of annoying, but relatively minor, injuries, Davis is going to be a superstar.

Updated perspective: Good call.

  • 2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats

Charlotte’s thinking was understandable: They were one season into a major investment in Bismack Biyombo, an over-investment as it is turning out, like the Pistons needed real traction, and went with the small forward whose motor was never doubted. Kidd-Gilchrist would never let anyone down with a lack of focus and he would deliver on defense.

Updated perspective: Bad call.

  • 3. Bradley Beal, Wizards.

Some of the continued shooting struggles (43 percent on 3s, yet 41 percent overall in a match of his rookie season) are a surprise given the scouting report coming into the league, but Beal, also under consideration by USA Basketball, still has the look of a star. He plays fearless, can handle and partners well with John Wall in the backcourt.

Updated perspective: Good call.

  • 4. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers.

Cleveland got undependable without picking Drummond. Deep into a second season, Waiters hasn’t been able to so much as hold down a starting job, can’t hit a shot, and there are serious doubts about his ability to team with franchise cornerstone Kyrie Irving. The Cavs passed on Jonas Valanciunas in 2011 (for Tristan Thompson) and Drummond in 2011, and so welcome to the season when Andrew Bynum started 19 games at center.

Updated perspective: Bad call.

  • 5. Thomas Robinson, Kings.

No explanation needed.

Updated perspective: Bad call.

  • 6. Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers.

Rookie of the Year. Foundation of the resurgence. Clutch player on the 2013-14 club headed to the playoffs. On the same USA Basketball list of candidates. Portland, needing a center and willing to wait, would have looked at Drummond with No. 11, then took Meyers Leonard with Drummond off the board. Leonard has not developed and the Blazers upgraded this season with Robin Lopez. Drummond would have been a great fit alongside LaMarcus Aldridge as the desired defensive presence who would not get in the way on offense. Just not at the expense of Lillard.

Updated perspective: Good call.

  • 7. Harrison Barnes, Warriors.

The toughest read of all. Golden State had traded for Andrew Bogut some 3 ½ months earlier and believed Bogut was working his way back from an ankle injury, but also knew the value of a talented center as a safety net who could become a backup and trade chip once Bogut proved healthy. And the Warriors liked Drummond enough to make a late visit to an East Coast workout just before the draft, indicating their level of interest. Bogut’s eventual good health made it a moot point, not to mention Barnes’ contributions, so it’s a win. But it is hard not to wonder. Bogut and Barnes or Bogut and Drummond/nice trade return? Take the certainty of what actually happened.

Updated perspective: Good call.

  • 8. Terrence Ross, Raptors.

Toronto’s logic was understandable. Valanciunas was NBA bound after a season in Europe and nothing should get in the way of his development. But. But there is no such thing as too many talented centers and either Valanciunas (the better bet at the time) or Drummond could have been moved at some point. But Ross is a part-time starter struggling to score.

Updated perspective: Bad call.

  • 9. Drummond, Pistons.

Updated perspective: Good call. Very, very good call.

USA Basketball’s Changing Faces




VIDEO: Kevin Durant is the present and future face of USA Basketball

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Roster turnover has been the hallmark of USA Basketball’s program under the leadership of managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. From one group of stars to the next, the brain trust of the organization has found ways to integrate the next generation of stars into the perfect mix with the already existing core group of stars that helped revitalize the program into the world’s most dominant group.

And this latest incarnation, the 28-man 2014-16 Men’s National Team roster announced this morning, includes a whopping 12 Olympic  gold medalists and a perfect blend of next generation stars (Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Paul GeorgeDeMarcus Cousins, etc.), current NBA superstars with extensive USA Basketball experience (Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Stephen Curry and LaMarcus Aldridge, etc.) and program stalwarts (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard).

As my colleague John Schuhmann points out, continuity is the greatest strength for USA Basketball now. The blend of 14 veterans and 14 newcomers on the National Team roster reflects that continuing effort from Colangelo and Coach K to build a program capable of functioning for years to come, as the names and faces of the stars in the player pool change.

Veterans Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are no longer a part of the player pool but that opens the door for up and coming stars like Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard and Andre Drummond to see if and where they fit.

“This roster is the strongest roster we’ve ever had,” Colangelo said during a Thursday morning teleconference.

It should be when you consider all of the talent they had to choose from. A 12-man roster for this summer’s World Cup, which starts in late August in Spain, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio will need come from this 28-man group, though Colangelo and Coach K were quick to mention that the mix remains fluid and that things could change.

“The pool is fluid,” Krzyzewski said. “Nothing is concrete. Life is fluid and especially life in the NBA.”

Veteran stars Durant, Love and James Harden have already committed to playing in Spain. Indiana’s George and London gold medalist Davis is also believed to be one of the frontrunner’s for one of those 12-spots on the World Cup roster.

But there are no guarantees.

“We don’t talk about locks because its unfair to all of the great players we have on our roster,” Colangelo said when asked specifically about George, who is expected to be announced later today as an Eastern Conference All-Star starter. “But suffice it to say we fell in love with [George] when we brought him into one of our camps and few years back. He’s become one of the outstanding young players in the NBA. His versatility makes him a very valuable asset on any team. If you’re talking odds, he’s probably a good bet. But again no one has a lock. All of our people know they have to earn it.”

The most interesting part of the selection process will involve the big men, where the numbers have filled out considerably since the last time the National Team was headed to a competition.

“We’re excited about the post because we have more guys than we’ve had before,” Krzyzewski said. “Aldridge, Cousins … for Dwight Howard to be back with the group, he was such an integral part of the Beijing Olympics. And one of the merging stars in the NBA in Anthony Davis. It’s more big guys than we’ve had before. In London, at the end of the gold medal game, my four and five were Carmelo and LeBron James, and that’s not bad. But hopefully, all of these guys are healthy and don’t have any contract or health issues … that would be utopia.”

As the rest of the international competition will attest, having a fluid 28-player pool like the one Colangelo and Coach K will choose from certainly qualifies as a basketball utopia. Changing faces while maintaining continuity in the program at the same time.



VIDEO: Anthony Davis is one of the new faces of USA Basketball

Continuity Now A Strength For USA Basketball

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – USA Basketball announced its pool of 28 players that will make up the rosters for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The roster, which includes 11 of the 12 players from the 2012 Olympic gold medalists (Kobe Bryant is the only exception), can be seen below.

Some things to know about the roster:

  • Note the word “initial” in the press release. Names could certainly be added to the roster between now and 2016. Players get hurt and have things that come up and keep them from participating. Also, there are no rookies or college kids on the list, and USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may want to bring a couple of young guys into the fold down the line.
  • Kevin Durant and Kevin Love have committed to play this summer in Spain.
  • The lack of continuity and stability were the USA’s weaknesses from 1998-2006, but have been strengths over the last several years. Even when the U.S. went to Turkey in 2010 with a new roster, the coaching staff was taking part in its fourth international competition and had a system in place. That coach Mike Krzyzewski is back for another run and so many players continue coming back is huge.
  • If the U.S. doesn’t win the World Cup later this year, they will have to participate in the FIBA Americas tournament in 2015 to qualify for the Olympics. After winning the Olympics in 2008, the World Championship in 2010, and the Olympics again in 2012, the U.S. has skipped the FIBA Americas tournament in 2009, ’11 and ’13.
  • If a player isn’t in the pool, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Colangelo and Krzyzewski didn’t want him. It’s possible that they asked and he declined.
  • Exactly half of the 28 players have experience in a major international competition. Blake Griffin was on the 2012 Olympic Team, but suffered a knee injury in training camp and was replaced by Anthony Davis. Colangelo often speaks of players earning “equity” with the program, so guys that have been on the roster before certainly have an advantage over those who haven’t.
  • Players’ NBA positions are listed below, but those aren’t necessarily their positions with the U.S. Team, which typically plays just one big man at a time and often has two point guards on the floor. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are power forwards, Love is a center, and Russell Westbrook is sometimes a small forward. The team wants to play fast and aggressive, especially on defense.
  • In 2008, ’10 and ’12, the team carried just three true bigs on the roster. There are 10 in the pool, including four with Olympic gold medals.
  • In addition to Bryant, active players with an Olympic or World Championship gold medal who are not in the pool: Chauncey Billups (2010), Carlos Boozer (2008), Chris Bosh (2008), Rudy Gay (2010), Eric Gordon (2010), Danny Granger (2010), Tayshaun Prince (2008) and Dwyane Wade (2008).
  • As noted by AP writer Brian Mahoney, the pool includes each of the top-10 scorers in the NBA. Also, Nos. 12 and 13.
  • Players who were at last summer’s mini-camp that aren’t on the roster: Ryan Anderson, Harrison Barnes, Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Favors, Jrue Holiday, DeAndre Jordan, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ty Lawson, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons, Dion Waiters, Kemba Walker, John Wall and Tyler Zeller. It’s a testament to how deep the point guard position is that Conley, Holiday, Lawson and Wall aren’t in the pool. Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen tweeted Wednesday that Parsons was not happy about his exclusion.
  • The field for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball can be seen here. The four wildcard teams (there were 15 applicants) will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 1. Spain, playing at home, is obviously the U.S. Team’s biggest threat.

2014-16 Men’s National Team Roster

Player Team POS Height Age NBA Exp. National team experience
LaMarcus Aldridge POR F 6-11 28 8
Carmelo Anthony NYK F 6-8 29 11 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012
Bradley Beal WAS G 6-5 20 2
Tyson Chandler NYK C 7-1 31 13 2007, 2010, 2012
DeMarcus Cousins SAC C 6-11 23 4
Stephen Curry GSW G 6-3 25 5 2010
Anthony Davis NOP F-C 6-10 20 2 2012
Andre Drummond DET C 6-10 20 2
Kevin Durant OKC F 6-9 25 7 2010, 2012
Kenneth Faried DEN F 6-8 24 3
Paul George IND F-G 6-9 23 4
Blake Griffin LAC F 6-10 24 4
James Harden HOU G 6-5 24 5 2012
Gordon Hayward UTA G-F 6-8 23 4
Dwight Howard HOU C 6-11 28 10 2006, 2007, 2008
Andre Iguodala GSW F-G 6-6 29 10 2010, 2012
Kyrie Irving CLE G 6-3 21 3
LeBron James MIA F 6-8 29 11 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012
Kyle Korver ATL G-F 6-7 32 11
David Lee GSW F 6-9 30 9
Kawhi Leonard SAS F-G 6-7 22 3
Damian Lillard POR G 6-3 23 2
Kevin Love MIN F-C 6-10 25 6 2010, 2012
Chris Paul LAC G 6-0 28 9 2006, 2008, 2012
Derrick Rose CHI G 6-3 25 5 2010
Klay Thompson GSW G 6-7 23 3
Russell Westbrook OKC G 6-3 25 6 2010, 2012
Deron Williams BKN G 6-3 29 9 2007, 2008, 2012

Hang Time Q&A: John Wall On ‘His Wizards,’ The Evolution Of His Game And RG III




VIDEO: John Wall and the Wizards topple the Hawks

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — John Wall is far from a finished product. And he knows that better than anyone. 

The Washington Wizards’ point guard and one of the budding stars in a league filled with potential young stars, Wall is currently working through the process of handling responsibilities as the face of a franchise and a player capable of leading his team to the playoffs.

Wall’s off-the-court leadership has grown considerably the past couple of seasons and might be the most critical component for a Wizards franchise that has invested in him for the future to the tune of five-years and $80 million.

Wall reflected on his journey, his future, the Wizards’ playoff hopes, Robert Griffin III and much more in a recent sit down with NBA.com:

NBA.com: What is different about this vibe of this group as opposed to last year or the year before?

JOHN WALL: I think how we came back as a group when I returned from my injury and just playing with the guys, we all liked each other as a team, even though we weren’t winning as much, and enjoyed playing with each other. It’s a trust thing. It’s the first time I can honestly say in my three years playing here that we all enjoyed one another. Nobody cared who scared who scored. We were all committed to what coach wanted us to do defensively and that’s how we came into this season and knew how good we could be.

NBA.com: What about the consistency factor, you guys had so many names and faces come in and out of the lineup? There’s been a lot of movement, personnel wise, since you were drafted.

JW: Basically, the biggest thing was staying consistent in everything we do. Me, trying to get healthy and doing the same things to get better. Staying consistent and knowing what guys you would have on the team in a given year and that guys weren’t going to get traded. We’ve got a good core of guys that we know will be there and what we want to do with those guys. It helps when you are planning long term because a plan is in place and you know exactly what your roles are and what you need to do.

NBA.com: Guys always talk about that turning point or that moment when the light goes on for them. For you, was that moment sitting out the start of the 2012-13 season, learning, watching, processing what goes on from a different perspective other than being on the court?

JW: I think that was the biggest turning point for me, sitting out that long, even though I didn’t want to sit out. Just getting the chance to study the game better helped me. Watching my teammates and seeing what they were great at and then knowing how I could come back and make the situation better, is what helped me. I think those guys made it a lot easier for me. Having Nene and Emeka Okafor knock down shots and finish. Having Brad [Beal] and Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza playing as well as they played. It was the first time I had guys do that and trust in me to lead the team and be their point guard. It makes a difference.

NBA.com: When you came into the league the East was loaded with top teams from Boston, Miami and Chicago to Atlanta and even Orlando. Things have changed dramatically since then. The Eastern Conference is wide open. Is there a now or never feel to this season for you guys, sort of like the door is open and you better get through it now or else …?

JW: It’s a great opportunity. And if you fall short right now, you are basically not committed to getting to where you want to be in this league, whether it’s the playoffs or whatever. My first three years, everybody was loaded. Now there is like four or five teams rebuilding at the same time. And that’s rare in this league. You have to make sure you have a good understanding of where you are as a team and be ready to jump in there if it’s your time. And I think it’s our time right now.

NBA.com: You had an owner (Ted Leonsis) who wasn’t shy about putting the pressure on his shoulders and also yours in terms of bringing the franchise back to a playoff level. He’s banked on you being an elite player and a franchise player. Does that add any extra pressure when you are already the No. 1 pick in your Draft and get the huge contract extension?

JW: I could tell the difference last season when I came back from my injury, just by the type of conversations I was having with my coach (Randy Wittman) and the things we were talking about and my owner and the meetings we were having. It wasn’t just about me improving and getting better, it was about a vision we all had for me and what that means for this team and this franchise. Being in on the planning process and being there from the start makes it different. The general manager coming to me throughout the summer and letting me know this is my team and making sure I understand that I have to lead, that’s all a part of the plan now. And I think I’ve put in the work to do it.

NBA.com: People always talk about putting in the work, but how has your work ethic changed since you’ve been in the league?

JW: My rookie season I didn’t know what to expect coming in. My second year was kind of tough because it was the lockout year. I was working my tail off but I really didn’t know what to do, because there was so much uncertainty. Last year was my first year to really understand the NBA game and comprehend what it was I needed to do and what I needed to work on. Then I get diagnosed with the knee injury and everything went sideways. So this summer I came in early and made sure everything was right, made sure I was healthy. And learning how to change the pace of a game, working on my body and improving my jump shot, those were the things I worked hardest on. I’m constantly getting better in all facets of my game and I think I can keep getting better and better.

NBA.com: Has the leadership component, particularly the vocal part, been tough for you? You’re not an older guy and you certainly don’t strike me as a very talkative guy. How hard do you have to work to remind yourself to be a leader in that respect?

JW: Coach Cal [Kentucky coach John Calipari] helped me work on that. I’ve always been a guy that led by example. The vocal part I worked really hard on at Kentucky. He basically said you have to learn how to talk to certain guys. And you can’t go out and try to fuss and cuss guys out. You have to respect each and every guy in your locker room as a man. So I think that’s something I improved in. It helped that when I came back last year my teammates trusted me to be that guy, both with the ball in my hands on the court and without the ball in my hands off the court. Talking to them helped me improve in that area.

NBA.com: You’re also a part of USA Basketball’s Men’s Senior National Team group. When you’re out there with all of the other best young players, all of the other top young point guards, what changes in terms of how you handle yourself and compete in that environment as opposed to being the face of the franchise in Washington?

JW: The toughest thing with that is you get to thinking like high school, especially when all the top point guards are out there. You want to battle it out with those other guys. But you are ultimately out there for USA Basketball, and that’s bigger than your name or the franchise you represent. So you try and just go out there and just play the game and get better, but also show the people in charge at USA Basketball that you can do whatever is asked of you if you are lucky enough to get the call and get asked to play in one of the international competitions. So it’s not an ego thing when you are in that environment.

NBA.com: You seem so much more measured and relaxed about things these days. Is this the most comfortable you’ve been on and off the court since you’ve been in the league?

JW: Yeah, 100 percent. I’d say 120 percent, the most comfortable I’ve been just talking to anybody and going into games, being on the court, and just feeling confident knowing this is the old me. My first three years, I was always kind of searching, how do I present myself and how do I do this or that the right way? The uncertainty is gone. This is the hardest position in the league to me. Every night somebody is coming at you. Seriously. You get no breaks. People can look at the schedule and you see Kyle Lowry or Jose Calderon and those guys aren’t always talked about, but some of the toughest challenges I have is against guys like that. Because you have to show them the same respect you do a Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook.

NBA.com: You have a unique dynamic in D.C. right now, being the young face of a franchise in a city where another player in similar position (the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III) is going through a similar stage of his career at the same time. How strange is it to watch that roller coaster from so close and comparing it your own evolution?

JW: I feel for him right now, I really do. There are some parallels, but then again it’s totally different. He started off hot, Rookie of the Year and all of that stuff. My first couple of years there was a learning curve, some stumbles and a lot of learning to do. Now I feel like I’m finally getting there now, hitting my stride and now he’s struggling. It’s tough and it’s also a reminder of why you have to stay humble and hungry no matter what’s going on around you. Take nothing away from him, he’s still that same guy and still humble and hungry. But you have to be mindful of the fan base and what type of support they’re going to show you. When you’re struggling it gets frustrating for the fans and even more frustrating for us, because you know what you want to do for your city, the things you want them to experience with you playing your heart out day after day. It’s the same for him and the Redskins as is it for us, we’ve got a lot of young talent and people want that to turn into winning. The fans do and so do we.

Barnes Bulks Up For Small Ball





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Harrison Barnes wore his layer of new muscle in Las Vegas last week like a superhero wears his costume. He tried to act natural, like nothing had changed since the last time we saw him. But it’s hard to hide the obvious, especially when it’s 10 to 15 pounds of new muscle.

Barnes has bulked up considerably since his breakout showing against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. With the addition of Andre Iguodala this summer, Barnes knows that the time he spent working at power forward in the Warriors’ small ball lineup could be a more common occurrence during the 2013-14 season.

So he had no choice but to go to work on his physique. The gains were on display throughout USA Basketball’s mini-camp for the Men’s Senior National Team, and specifically in the Blue-White Showcase (just ask Ryan Anderson).

Warriors coach Mark Jackson will have to sort out his rotation and find creative ways to use Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Barnes and Iguodala in a way that capitalizes on all of their individual talents. That could mean a sixth man role for Barnes or a position switch and perhaps another move, possibly even trading David Lee or Andrew Bogut to create more time for that smaller lineup.

A key piece of the Warriors’ core group, Barnes is prepared for whatever comes his way.

“I’ve really been working hard this summer to get ready for that,” Barnes said. “I’ve really been working on my body. I need to get used to the toll it takes down low, boxing out and rebounding with the bigger guys. [Denver's] Kenneth Faried definitely served as an inspiration and great guy to help prepare me for what it takes to play that position when you are considered to be undersized by people. But it’s like I said, I’ve been preparing for that change all summer.”

Thompson participated in the mini-camp, too. He acknowledged that changes that will come with Iguodala’s addition, and not just offensively.

“He’s going to help make us a stronger unit defensively,” Thompson said. “I think that’s the first thing that jumps out at you when you add him to our mix. We’ll adjust offensively. Coach Jackson can get creative with what he wants to do in that regard. Everybody will just have to wait and see what he comes up with.”

Watching Barnes work throughout the mini-camp and in that Blue-White game should be required viewing before any decisions are made. He played inside and out, ran the floor as well as anyone, guarded on the perimeter and in the paint and held his ground routinely against bigger guys. He scored 18 points in the game without any designed scheme to get him involved, which might be his best trait. He can adapt his game to whatever style of play the Warriors decide to utilize.

“The [USA Basketball] experience is great for me,” Barnes said. “It’s different for sure. But it’s kind of fun at the same time because you don’t have expectations for yourself. I don’t get game reps a lot at the [four], so I got to come out and here and just go on the fly. It was great, though. I’ve only had the chance to rock the USA on my chest one time, and that was in high school. So to come out here and get a chance to play against so many great players was fantastic.”

Barnes said he’ll take a similar approach to Warriors training camp. Instead of worrying about what he’ll have to sacrifice with the arrival of another player who will chew up minutes at small forward, he continue to focus on the positives and what it takes for him to be effective in whatever role he’s asked to fill.

“I don’t think it takes long for us to figure it all out as players,” Barnes said. “The best thing about Andre is he’s a great passer. And he’s got plenty of experience playing small ball. In my mind, our versatility is what’s going to set us apart. The fact that we’ll be able to play multiple guys at multiple spots is what will make us so dangerous, whether it’s me at the four and David Lee at the five or whatever it is we do against certain teams. We’ll have the advantage a lot of nights because we can match up basically with anybody.”

That was certainly the Warriors’ plan.


Report: CP3 Considering Rio In 2016?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Chris Paul knows exactly what that chest-swelling experience is like when you represent your country in the Olympics and return home with gold around your neck.

That experience, twice, and a living coaching legend like Mike Krzyzewski have served as incentive for Paul to reconsider his future participation with USA Basketball, namely for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“If it had been another coach than Coach K, I was prepared to be done,” Paul told ESPN.com over the weekend.

A healthy dose of peer pressure probably didn’t hurt the cause. Pau’s teammates on the gold medal winning team from the 2012 London Olympics, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, officially signed on for next summer’s World Cup of Basketball in Spain and 2016 during last week’s USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas.

Paul reconsidering could have an impact on other veteran stars (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, etc.) who were ready to move on and leave coveted slots on the Men’s Senior National Team’s roster for both tournaments to younger stars.

There’s no shortage of talent, especially at point guard. Paul could be in competition with the likes of Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry and a host of others vying for a roster spot in 2016. There were eight point guards on the mini-camp roster last week in Las Vegas.

But Paul would seem to be a lock for 2016 given his relationship with Coach K and the fact that he’s already earned golds in Beijing in 2008 and in London last summer. Three years is plenty of time for Paul and any other members of that 2012 team to reconsider their options. Not all of them are expected to even consider the possibility of another run in 2016, but USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo made it clear last week that the door remains open for at least a handful of those stars to rejoin the player pool that will produce the 12-man roster for Rio.

And as of today, only Durant and Love are committed for both Spain next summer and Rio in 2016.

USA Camp Gives OSU’s Smart Separation From 2013 Draft Class

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp

Marcus Smart, a 6-foot-4 guard from Oklahoma State, was the youngest player to participate in Team USA’s mini-camp. (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Their boot camp complete, the participants in the USA Basketball men’s national team mini-camp dispersed Friday, heading into what’s left of the offseason. Some have vacation plans, others have contractual obligations that will land them in exotic ports that only look like vacation destinations. Most will be back in the gym in a matter of weeks, if not days.

None will head to the NBA’s rookie orientation program.

Marcus Smart will head back to campus.

Maybe it’s not an indictment – yet another, one might say, considering the “weak” criticism leveled for the past few months – of the NBA’s 2013 Draft Class that none of the players selected participated in the week of USA Basketball workouts and scrimmages in Las Vegas. (Eight members of the 2012 Class were there, by the way.)

But it certainly was a credit to Smart, who earned his invitation with his play in FIBA’s U19 World Championships in Prague earlier this month. Smart was the youngest player at the camp this week and, with Creighton senior forward Doug McDermott, one of only two collegians. The 6-foot-4 Smart will be back at Oklahoma State this season, after his surprise decision to skip the Draft in favor of his sophomore year in college.

Looking down from an NBA vantage point, it looks to be a risky, poorly calculated choice. Beyond the 12 months he’ll wait before cashing in and the millions of dollars he might jeopardize with a serious injury, Smart’s stock might dip in a deeper 2014 talent pool compared to this year, when he might have gone in the top three.

But that half-empty approach isn’t Smart’s, who sees only good things coming from a return to Stillwater, strong runs through the Big 12 and the NCAA tournament and another season of development, particularly with hot prospect Andrew Wiggins providing constant motivation so close at Kansas. His freshman numbers — 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 40.4 field-goal percentage (29.0 from 3-point range) — surely can improve.

Then there’s the separation from the 2013 draft pack Smart got this week, playing on a court – with more than summer pick-up game intensity – against the likes of Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday, Damian Lillard and other young NBA bright lights. Neither Smart nor McDermott competed in the Blue-White Showcase Thursday night that was carried on NBA TV. But our NBA.com’s Siskel & Ebert of USA hoops, John Schuhmann and Sekou Smith, gave the Oklahoma State guard thumbs-up from his practice play.

So did Travis Ford, Smart’s OSU coach who attended the camp. The Cowboys coach isn’t exactly impartial but based on what he told Anthony Slater of the Daily Oklahoman, Ford did like what he saw as Smart went against the aforementioned, as well as John Wall, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley and Kemba Walker.

“Oh, he was terrific. I think he was a little nervous at first, not knowing exactly what to expect and being one of only two college players and wanting to earn their respect. But he got out there and, man. They did a little practicing, a little bit of going through offenses and defenses early, but once they started playing, he was terrific. Just competing like he does with us every day and his strengths were the same. He was getting steals, physically imposing himself, competing, rebounding, defending, started out making a three. He more than fit in. I know I’m a little bias (laughs), but I thought he was one of the better players out there.”

By the way, there was a time here at HTB when underclass players were treated like George Carlin‘s Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. Redaction ruled, lest someone think the pros were warbling siren songs to the young guys. But Smart already has made it clear he’s submitting his name for the 2014 draft (“Nothing will change my mind on that. [Oklahoma State] understands. They didn’t figure I was coming back this year.”)

The Class of 2013 will have a year’s head start by the time Smart arrives. But given his skills, his thoughtful return for another year on campus and his USA Basketball opportunities this month, he won’t be a year behind.