USA Basketball

USA Basketball: Roster Breakdown





LAS VEGAS – USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo needs more than four days and a 48-minute scrimmage to evaluate the players who are vying for the remaining spots on the Men’s National Team that will compete in next summer’s World Cup of Basketball in Spain.

But you have to start somewhere. And with anywhere from four to six members of the team that won gold at the London Olympics expected to reprise their roles (Kevin Durant and Kevin Love are already in), per Colangelo’s estimate, that leaves plenty of room for the players who participated in USA Basketball’s mini-camp at UNLV to make their respective cases for consideration.

With Colangelo, U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski and the entire staff going over every detail and monitoring the players on and off the court, it was an intensive boot camp-style experience for many of the NBA and collegiate stars who were going through the process for the very first time.

This is only the beginning, of course. And that’s why we (NBA.com’s John Schuhmann is my partner in this CSI-style evaluation of the prospects who were in attendance this week) aren’t ready to close the door on any of these guys. Sure, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis and Paul George appeared to separate themselves from the pack with their performances earlier in the week and in Thursday night’s Blue-White Showcase at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

They weren’t the only ones, however, to walk away from the process feeling good about the work they put in.

“I thought I had a really good week, I thought I played well overall. And I learned a lot from the coaches,” said Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who was indeed another standout. “I learned some things watching these other point guards, too, as there were so many top guys here. It was great, just the whole experience and what it’s all about. A lot of people don’t get this opportunity, so I just tried to soak it all up. I feel like I left a great impression. They talked a lot about character and the type of people that it takes to be a part of something like this. And I think they all saw that I’m the type of person that can adapt to be a part of Team USA. And I can definitely do what I have to do on the floor to be a part of this team.”

Maybe.

No one knows what will happen between now and next summer.

It’s like Colangelo said, this was just another week in the life of this group. The evaluation process will continue throughout the course of the 2013-14 season and beyond.

In the meantime, we need to gauge where all of these guys stand after the first phase of this process. We broke it down based on the rosters for the Blue-White Showcase and also included the four players who did not participate in the Showcase (for various reasons):

WHITE TEAM

Ryan Anderson
Anderson didn’t shoot particularly well in early-week scrimmages, but drained all three of his 3-pointers in Thursday’s Showcase. As a stretch four, he’s a unique player among this group. He could probably hold his own underneath against most international opponents, but he got pushed around a bit by the stronger bigs in camp.

Mike Conley
Conley has an advantage, because the U.S. always wants to pressure the ball and he’s the best defender among the point guards in camp. He and Ty Lawson proved to be a cohesive combo in the Showcase, but he still may be a victim of the numbers game with so much talent — including guys that weren’t here this week — at his position.

Andre Drummond
Drummond is a physical specimen, a force on the offensive glass, and a matchup nightmare for almost any international opponent. But he’s still young and raw, and coaches need to trust that their players will make the right decisions on the floor. Obviously, his development over the first half of the NBA season will be a big part of how much consideration he gets in January.

Kenneth Faried
Every team needs energy and rebounding and Faried brings both in spades. If there’s enough scoring talent elsewhere on the roster, he could grab one of the last couple of spots. But he’s still a 6-foot-8 power forward who can’t shoot. The power forward position is typically played by stars like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and a center needs to have size (Tyson Chandler) or a jump shot (Kevin Love). Still, his attitude and relentlessness could force the U.S. staff to think outside the box.

Paul George
Though he didn’t play great on Thursday, George is the best overall player (defense counts!) in this group and should be a lock to make next year’s World Cup roster. Forget what he brings offensively. As a lockdown defender, he’s the great complement to Durant at the other forward position, similar to Andre Iguodala in 2010. In fact, if Iguodala isn’t on next year’s roster, it’s probably because the staff believes they have a more complete player in George.

Jrue Holiday
Holiday is one of three All-Stars in camp, one of the better defenders among the point guard crop, and has the size to slide to the two. He didn’t really distinguish himself early in the week, but had a strong game on Thursday, playing alongside Irving.

Kyrie Irving
Irving was the star among the eight point guards in camp and among all 24 guys who saw the floor on Thursday. Obviously, he’s a clear favorite to make next year’s World Cup roster. It will be tougher to slice through international zones, but his offensive brilliance will still outweigh his defensive issues. And a season under Mike Brown should make a big difference when it comes to the D.

DeAndre Jordan
Jordan threw down some vicious dunks in camp, but is otherwise limited offensively. And like a couple of other players on this list, his defense needs to improve. He can block shots, but trusting him to defend a dozen Rubio/Gasol pick-and-rolls may be tough to do.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
MKG is athletic, will get after it defensively and make plays for his teammates. He was all over the place (in a good way) on Thursday, registering eight points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in just 19 minutes. But his jump shot is brutal and opposing defenses will leave him alone on the perimeter, so it might be tough to include him on next year’s roster, especially if Russell Westbrook is there to provide similar energy and a better jumper.

Ty Lawson
Lawson’s quickness is an obvious asset, he has plenty of experience playing in an up-tempo system, and he dished out a game-high nine assists on Thursday. But again, there are so many point guards on this list, and most of them are better shooters.

Chandler Parsons
A versatile wing who can run, jump and shoot (though he was 0-for-3 from beyond the arc on Thursday). With his size (6-foot-9) and the lack of depth at the forward positions, he has a legit shot at one of the last spots on next year’s roster.

Tyler Zeller
Zeller has size and skills, but he’s another big who needs to get better defensively. He might actually be competing with younger brother Cody for a roster spot down the line.



BLUE TEAM

Harrison Barnes
An ideal fit as a combo forward, Barnes made plays at the rim and defended from the perimeter to the post throughout the mini-camp. He capped off his week with 18 points and the game’s best highlight on Thursday. That said, he could get squeezed in the numbers game at both positions when selections are made next summer for Spain.

DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins showed considerable improvement in his attitude and effort from his bumpy showing last summer and still had moments where everyone in attendance cringed. He has undeniable talent but is a questionable fit on a team where he will be asked to defend, rebound and block shots first instead of doing what he does best as a low-post scorer. He was a non-factor Thursday night.

Anthony Davis
Davis has Olympic experience that no one else in camp could boast of and it showed. He consistently stood out among the big men in camp, has clearly gotten stronger, and drained a few jumpers on his way to 22 points on Thursday. The minutes he played in London last summer give him an added advantage. An excellent shot blocker, Davis still has work to do as a position defender, but he’s ticketed for Spain barring some unforeseen issue.

DeMar DeRozan
An exceptional athlete and improved shooter, DeRozan didn’t shine in any particular area in a crowded field this week during scrimmages and struggled in limited minutes on Thursday. He will have a hard time creating space for himself with so many other shooting guards and small forwards in the mix who shoot it much better than he can.

Derrick Favors
Summer school tutor Karl Malone has added a noticeable edge to Favors’ game. He’s always been light on his feet and an eager defender, but he’s added a physicality to his game that was on display in scrimmages. He challenged forays to the rim with full force. He runs the floor extremely well and could blend well with whatever group is selected for Spain. One issue: He racked up four fouls in just eight minutes of action in Thursday’s Showcase.

Gordon Hayward
One of the true breakout performers during the mini-camp, if there was a 12-man group being selected this summer Hayward would no doubt be on the list. Listed at 210 pounds on the official roster, he seems much bigger and played like it in scrimmages. His best work might have been on the defensive end. His versatility could be the key to his chances of fighting for a roster spot next summer.

Damian Lillard
If Irving ranked No. 1 on the deep list of point guards in attendance, Lillard was 1-A. He’s bulked up a bit since claiming Rookie of the Year honors and his ease running the show and playing off the ball, a crucial aspect for every point guard in mini-camp, was evident. He’s still improving as a defender as well and showed off all facets of his game in the Showcase. He’s ready if needed.

Greg Monroe
An accomplished young big man whose best skills don’t necessarily shine through in a mini-camp setting, Monroe’s slow feet cost him defensively against a group of quicker and more athletic big men. But he was extremely effective in Thursday’s game, outplaying most of his frontcourt counterparts in the live setting.

Klay Thompson
Thompson ranked among the top five most impressive players during mini-camp, thanks to his ridiculous shooting stroke. That international 3-point line got a workout from Thompson Tuesday. But he shoots it well from all over the floor and is much sturdier and handles the ball better than some of the other “shooters” who were in attendance. There is always room for a specialist of his ilk on any U.S. roster headed for international play.

Dion Waiters
After a spotty showing with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Summer League team, Waiters was much more impressive early this week. He shot it well from the perimeter in scrimmages and showed off his handle while swinging between both guards spots. He even showed some impressive effort defensively. But he shot just 2-for-10 on Thursday and needs to show more consistency over the next 10 months to stay on the radar.

Kemba Walker
Another solid young player who got a bit lost in the deep pool of point guards in attendance. Walker’s a crafty but undersized point guard whose defensive liabilities will keep him from rising up the pecking order at his position.

John Wall
Wall could be the richest man in this group by Aug. 1, if that reported five-year, $80 million deal the Wizards are working on for him is agreed upon by then. Even with his shot still very much a work in progress, Wall’s athleticism and ability to play off the ball and defend at a high level should keep him in the mix. A strong 2013-14 season with the Wizards works wonders for his candidacy for next summer.



FOUR MORE …

Bradley Beal
Rehabbing a right fibula injury, Beal didn’t participate in scrimmages during camp or in Thursday’s Showcase. His jumper looked great on the side court though, and if he has a breakout season for the Wizards, he’s got an outside shot (pun intended) at making next year’s roster.

Larry Sanders
Sanders was the best rim protector in camp and a defense-first big would obviously complement Love well, so he’s got a chance at a trip to Spain next summer. But he turned his ankle during a scrimmage on Tuesday, knocking him out for the rest of camp.

Doug McDermott
The leading scorer from this summer’s World University Games squad, McDermott looked comfortable and shot the ball well in scrimmages on Monday and Tuesday. He’s older than six of the NBA players in camp, but just didn’t match up physically. He didn’t participate in Thursday’s showcase, but will return to Creighton for his junior year with some valuable NBA-level experience.

Marcus Smart
All indications are that Smart would have been selected in the Lottery if he stayed in this year’s Draft, and he showed why in the first two days of camp. He was the youngest player here, but has an NBA body and held his own against the vets. He didn’t participate in Thursday’s Showcase, but could certainly be on a national team roster in five or seven years.



Irving And Davis Make It Clear They’re The Future Of USA Basketball

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LAS VEGAS – Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis likely had spots on next year’s U.S. National Team roster locked up before Thursday night. And if there was any doubt, the two former No. 1 picks likely removed it after their performance in the USA Basketball Showcase, a 128-106 victory for Irving’s White Team.

Irving got out in transition and sliced through the blue defense to the tune of a game-high 23 points (on just eight shots) and seven assists. He was the best player on the floor and made it clear that he’s not only a future National Team member but a star to watch in the upcoming NBA season.

“It’s a pick-and-roll league,” Damian Lillard said afterward, “and he’s really good at breaking guys down one-on-one. So if he has a pick-and-roll, a lot of times he has a big man in front of him and can take advantage of situations. When he gets that screen and has that big man on an island, he’s going to get around him and he can finish at the rim. When you have that type of handle and you can finish at the rim, that’s deadly.”

“I wanted to separate myself, somehow, from this group,” Irving said, “and show what I can bring to the team for next year.”

Playing alongside some other talented bigs, Davis looked like more of a stretch four on Thursday, showing off his ability to step outside and knock down jump shots. That might not be the role he plays with the National Team going forward, but he led the Blue Team with 22 points and seven rebounds. And after earning a gold medal as the 12th man on last year’s Olympic Team, he looks ready to take on a larger role for USA Basketball.

“As good as he was last year,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game, “he’s just stepped it up another couple of levels. And that was exciting to see. He got better throughout the week and put on a heck of a performance tonight.”

This was not a great environment to evaluate anybody’s readiness for international basketball. The two teams played with the international 3-point line and with FIBA officials, but not in a hostile environment or against international defenses. The pace was ridiculously fast (more than 100 possessions each in 48 minutes), with no savvy international guards stopping the U.S. fast breaks with timely fouls. Playing Spain in Madrid for the World Cup gold medal next summer would be an entirely different experience.

So Krzyzewski and USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo won’t be putting extra emphasis on these 48 minutes when determining who will be in their pool of players for the next three years. In fact, what may be more important is what these young players learn from this week and bring to their NBA teams in the fall.

“This was just another day in the life of our group,” Colangelo said. “We’re going to have a lot of time to evaluate the entire week, the game included. And we’re going to be watching each and every one them during the course of the season, because we have a lot of time on our side before we go forward.”

Still, in addition to Irving and Davis, there were a few players who likely enhanced their stock on Thursday, most of them on the winning White Team. Kenneth Faried and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist used their endless energy to put up solid numbers in minimal minutes. Jrue Holiday filled the boxscore with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists. And Mike Conley and Ty Lawson proved to be a cohesive point-guard combo on the White Team’s second unit.

For the Blue Team, Harrison Barnes showed that he’s got the skills to be a small-ball (or international) four man, while Greg Monroe was solid inside with an ability to play off talented ball-handlers.

All of the above will certainly get serious consideration when Colangelo and Krzyzewski create a new pool of 25-28 players in January. From that pool, teams for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics will be selected, though names can always be added or removed from the list. The pool will be made up of players that participated in this week’s camp, USA Basketball veterans, and a few other players who couldn’t participate this week.

“It’s a very fluid pool,” Colangelo said. “Guys are going to keep developing.”

The experience they gained this week will surely help them do that.

Live From Las Vegas: It’s Showtime From USA Basketball’s Blue-White Showcase





LAS VEGAS – Over the course of three days, in countless drills and scrimmages, players are bound to have a few shining moments. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what has happened during USA Basketball’s Men’s Senior National Team mini-camp.

All-Stars like Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday have stood out, as have reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, Olympic gold medalist Anthony Davis and talented big man DeMarcus Cousins.

With 28 young stars from around the league gathered here for evaluations by USA Basketball’s brass, there have been plenty of pleasant surprises as well. Gordon Hayward, Klay Thompson, Derrick Favors, Kenneth Faried, Mike Conley, John Wall and others have stood out as USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski continue the vetting process for roster sports for the roster for next summer’s World Cup of Basketball next summer in Spain.

All-Stars and two-time gold medalists Kevin Durant and Kevin Love are already on board for 2014. (LeBron James, on the other hand, will not be around next summer and remains something of a mystery for 2016.)

Tonight’s Blue-White Showcase at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center (9 p.m. ET, NBA TV) will give us our first glimpse under the bright lights as to who might join Durant and Love in USA Basketball uniforms next summer and perhaps beyond.

Roster spots are limited. And no one game or performance will be used as the basis for any players’ candidacy. But is there a better way to gauge how these guys will perform under extreme circumstances than seeing them in game-like conditions?

We’ll have eyes on all of the action from courtside (four to be exact, mine and those of my main man and NBA.com’s John Schuhmann) from opening tip until the final buzzer.

We’ll share our thoughts of what’s going on and you need do the same below — (again, the action tips off at 9 p.m. ET on NBA TV)

FOURTH QUARTER

– White team shines through in the end with balance and superior energy and effort from their bigs in a 128-106 win. The USA Basketball talent pool is overflowing with talent these days. Kyrie thanks the fans at the end, which is fitting since this was his show tonight.

– If you’re looking for a player who changed his stock dramatically from scrimmages earlier in the week to tonight’s game, it has to be Kidd-Gilchrist and Holiday. They didn’t really distinguish themselves earlier in the week but they’ve both been really good in this Blue-White Showcase. I expected more from Cousins and would have loved to see more minutes for Favors, who was solid all week in scrimmages.

–  All five starters for the White team in double figures in scoring. Their balance has been impressive. Coach Monty Williams is aiming for bragging rights over Blue team coach Tom Thibodeau. Williams better get this one because his Pelicans will only get two cracks at the Thibodeau’s Bulls during the regular season. And I’m betting the Bulls will be favored in both of those contests.

–  We have to start talking MVP now with just under eight minutes to play. Kyrie is a no-brainer right now. He leads the White team with 20 points and six assists, and those numbers should climb in the next few minutes. He’s been a cut above the rest of the point guards in this game. Easy argument for him being the best player on the floor tonight.

White team is just too good in all the right spots. Blue team can’t stay in front of their point guards consistently enough to keep them from doing work with the dribble drive.

THIRD QUARTER

– By the way, White team lead stretched to 89-79 in the final minutes of the quarter with Conley-Lawson leading the way.

Harrison Barnes, who has looked really good tonight, highlights Anderson with a nasty smash while floating to his left through lane on his way to the basket. Still can’t see Barnes coming off the bench in Golden State this season. Mark Jackson is going to have to do some serious tinkering with his rotations with Barnes, Thompson, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala all in the mix at the same time. Once they get it down they’re going to be a monster crew on both ends of the floor.

– Tons of intriguing combinations on the floor tonight for both sides. White team has a Mike Conley-Ty Lawson backcourt that is doing work right now. Their mismatches have opened up the floor a bit for Ryan Anderson, who has knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers (and he’s 3-for-3 on the night so far). Blue team is countering with a John Wall-Kemba Walker backcourt that isn’t flowing at all. All eight of the point guards here this week were instructed to forget their normal designations and concentrate on just playing in the backcourt. Some of these guys have no problem doing that while others are continuing to struggle with the concept.

Dunk of the night goes to the Air Force (Nathaniel Mills of Douglasville, Ga.) who was honored with 5:05 to play in the third and showed off his hops by nailing a Dominique Wilkins-inspired windmill in full fatigues and combat boots. He got some post-dunk love from Carmelo, too.

Faried and Holiday have some nice chemistry working for the White team. Holiday has five assists and Faried 11 points and seven rebounds. Versatility kills in this type of environment. The fact that Holiday works efficiently with either hand and is a much better and more physical athlete than he appears to be on the hoof,  He just as good off the ball as he is with it in his hands, something that will come in handy this season in New Orleans.

I see you Monroe. He gets his shot blocked by Jordan on a flat-footed jumper from the wing. He got the ball back and spun baseline past Jordan for a smooth layup that draws oohs from the crowd. Monroe has been solid tonight, extremely solid for a guy who struggled a bit at times during the week.

– Schuhmann’s head is going to explode if Davis takes another 18-footer. Haha. I love his confidence and he absolutely needs that shot as a part of his repertoire going forward. He’s 6-for-8 from the floor right now and leads the Blue team with 12 points with 7 minutes to play in the third.

Proof that you just never know how these things will play out once the lights come on: George missed his first six shots of the night before draining a corner 3-pointer. He was clearly the best player on the floor during scrimmages earlier in the week. But tonight he’s struggled to get on track.

SECOND QUARTER 

Surge from the Blue team at the cuts the White team’s lead to just 53-51. We’ll have fireworks in the second half for certain.

Carmelo Anthony is in the crowd an gets a shoutout from the PA announcer and some jumbotron love. White team still in control with a 50-42 lead in the final three minutes of the first half.

– Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was sort of quiet during the scrimmages on Monday and Tuesday. But the things he does well (hustle, defend, find-the-ball instincts, etc.) are on full display as the White team takes control of things here in the second quarter. He’s the sort of utility player that comes in handy during international competition. You just wonder how long it’s going to take him to improve his shot to the point where won’t be a liability on offense?   

Pistons boss Joe Dumars is sitting behind the scorer’s table at midcourt with prized power forward Josh Smith as they watch Monroe and Drummond do work in the showcase. Nothing but smiles.

White team takes the lead 42-38 with 5:59 to play behind Kyrie doing the Blue team dirty off the dribble. He was clearly the best point guard here this week and arguably the best player in camp. This showing so far tonight is just validation of what we’ve seen all week. He leads all scorers with 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor.

– Kyrie is just ridiculous. He keeps blowing by his man and getting into the teeth of the defense. The fact that he can finish at the rim with either hand makes him even more dangerous. He’s the first man in double figures tonight with 13. He can get whatever he wants out here. Ridiculous.

Cousins is such an enigma. One second he’s blowing by Drummond with a great first step to the basket and drawing a foul. The next he’s pouting because he ran the floor and didn’t get the ball. A guy with his attitude issues is going to be a tough sell on any 12-man team selected to represent the U.S. in any international competition. There are too many guys in the program who can do similar things that don’t bring that extra stuff.

FIRST QUARTER

– Blue team is up 30-23 after the first 12 minutes. Davis leads the Blue team with 8 points. Lillard has 7. Irving the leads the White team with 8 points, Jordan has 6 and Faried 5.

 It took Faried all of nine minutes to grab six rebounds to go along with his five points. His motor runs in ways that these other guys just can’t match. Even when he seems physically overmatched he wins his individual battles around the rim on sheer hustle. Works the same way with FIBA rules as it does in the NBA.

 Klay Thompson is left open twice moments after entering the game and drains a step-in jumper and a 3-pointer off of a long rebound. Seriously, someone on the White teams needs to make sure he is not left open.

 Nice point guard battle shaping up here. Lillard drains a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer and Kyrie answers with a driving layup on the other end and the foul. These two guys could fight it out for a spot on the team next summer to go to Spain.

 Blue team opens the game on a 8-0 run while the White team turns it over time after time.

Greg Monroe’s work in the post is subtle but effective. He’s a smart big man who always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

 White team starters are Irving, Holiday, George, Faried and Jordan. Blue team starters are Lillard, Waiters, Hayward, Monroe and Davis.

 Chris Paul, with Lil’ Chris by his side, is headed to the arena to see the action as well.

PREGAME

 George takes home top honors in the unofficial dunk contest during pregame warmups. He nailed his signature windmill cuff dunk three different times, each one better than its predecessor. Andre Drummond, DeAndre Jordan and Holiday   joined him on the White team’s spectacular warm up line with some crazy dunks of their own.

USA Basketball: It’s Too Early To Count LeBron James Out For The 2016 Olympics





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – As LeBron James said during the playoffs when asked about his potential participation in the 2016 Olympics, “that’s a long time from now.”‘

That’s three years from now to be exact, which is why it is far too early to count James out of competing in a fourth straight Olympics with the USA Basketball program he helped rebuild.

Despite reports to the contrary, James hasn’t informed anyone at USA Basketball about his intentions for 2016. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo made it clear during this week’s mini-camp that he will give James and the other veteran stars who have competed previously space between now and then, the door will remain open for the future.

James, who already owns two gold medals and one bronze, could play in his fourth Olympic games that summer. But that would be after three more rigorous years of trying to add to his championship haul in the NBA. James has led the Miami Heat to back-to-back titles, earning consecutive Finals MVP awards, and will have endured considerable wear and tear to his body if he continues on his current and torrid pace.

There is also the potential for an exhausting free agent summer after the 2013-14 season, provided James opts to test the market after next season.

But again, so much can go on between now and 2016 that it’s nearly impossible to speculate about who will or will not be willing, able and available in three years. No U.S. male has ever played on more than three Olympic teams ( LeBron is one of only three players to participate three times. Carmelo Anthony and David Robinson are the others.)

“I’m sure all of these guys think they know what’s coming down the line and what they’ll be doing,” said an Eastern Conference executive who is in town this week for USA Basketball’s mini-camp for the Men’s Senior National Team. “But they should know better. Derrick Rose is the cautionary tale for all of these guys. It all depends on where [LeBron] is that year. How healthy is he? How tired might he be from grinding his way through the playoffs? You just never know.”

Kevin Durant and Kevin Love have already committed to participate in the World Cup of Basketball next summer in Spain and will surely be a part of the pool for 2016, provided they are healthy. Durant said there are several other stars from the team that won gold at the London Olympics last summer, he mentioned Russell Westbrook and James Harden specifically, who are interested in joining them.

When asked specifically about James, he said he hadn’t spoken to him about it. “Those guys are older,” he said and then laughed. “Their time is precious.”

Colangelo’s declaration that Durant is the “face of the program going forward” was acknowledgement of the obvious; he’s just 24 and has a larger window than James or any of the other older and more established stars. It was not an indication that James, Anthony and any of the other veteran stars are done with USA Basketball.

In 2016 James could very well play a role similar to what Kobe Bryant played in London. Bryant served as the elder statesman of the group and its leader, while stepping aside offensively and allowing Durant, Anthony and James to serve as the catalysts on the floor.

In the immediate aftermath of last summer’s gold medal run, the rumblings about U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski‘s run being over began percolating. Months later an announcement on his replacement was expected. But he had a change of heart and reaffirmed his commitment to the program and the process for the long-term. Simply put, things change. And Coach K’s influence on James in three years could be significant, if they decide his services are vital to the U.S. cause.

Plus, it’s hard to walk away or even take a step back when the U.S. is in the midst of reestablishing its dominance on the world stage. And the fact is, no one has a crystal ball. No one knows for sure who will be available for competition three years from now.

There is a ton of talent on display here this week and there will be even more NBA stars vying for spots on next summer’s team that will compete in Spain. There’s no doubt that the competition for roster spots will be fierce three years from now in an Olympic summer.

USA Basketball’s pool of talent should be as deep as its ever been, given the way the program has been reconstituted under Colangelo and Krzyzewski. New faces will pop onto the radar as more established ones move on or fade out of the program. There are All-Stars involved in the program that might never make a 12-man roster for a competition. But the surplus of talent will remain, with or without James included.

“The [three] things for all these guys; it’s contract, family and health. And any personal stuff is the reason we have the pool [of players],” Krzyzewski said. “Because anything that can happen human, can happen to Kevin Durant or Kevin Love. That’s why you need more than the main 12 guys. It’s worked well, it’s worked very well, so far.”

Young Stars Look To Make An Impression At USA Basketball Showcase

 

LAS VEGAS – Summer hoops continues Thursday on NBA TV (9 p.m. ET) with the USA Basketball Showcase, the culmination of a four-day mini-camp that brought 28 young players into the program that has won two straight Olympic gold medals and 50 straight games.

USA Basketball Showcase – Blue Team
No. Player Pos
46 Harrison Barnes SF
36 DeMarcus Cousins C
42 Anthony Davis PF
41 DeMar DeRozan SG
37 Derrick Favors PF
31 Gordon Hayward SG
22 Damian Lillard PG
62 Greg Monroe PF
34 Klay Thompson SG
51 Dion Waiters SG
26 Kemba Walker PG
50 John Wall PG

Twenty-four of the *28 players will take the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday, split into two teams that will be coached by Men’s Senior National Team assistants Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams.

* Not participating: College players Doug McDermott and Marcus Smart, as well as the Bucks’ Larry Sanders (who turned his ankle in a scrimmage on Tuesday) and the Wizards’ Bradley Beal (who is rehabbing a right fibula injury and has only participated in drills).

With only 40 minutes of game action, the average player will see less than 17 minutes of playing time, which might make it tough for some to make a strong impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who will be watching courtside.

But Colangelo and Krzyzewski won’t be making any roster selections in the wake of this mini-camp. The next step in the process will be to create a pool of 25-35 players from which to select teams for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain *and the 2016 Olympics in Rio. That won’t happen until next Spring at the earliest and they will be keeping tabs on the entire group during the course of the 2013-14 NBA season.

* If the U.S. wins gold in Spain next summer, they automatically qualify for the Olympics and won’t need to send a team to the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament. If they don’t win gold next summer, they’ll need to field a team in 2015 and finish in the top two at the FIBA Americas tournament to qualify for the Olympics.

USA Basketball Showcase – White Team
No. Player Pos
24 Ryan Anderson PF
20 Mike Conley PG
25 Andre Drummond C
33 Kenneth Faried PF
29 Paul George SF
27 Jrue Holiday PG
23 Kyrie Irving PG
35 DeAndre Jordan C
32 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF
21 Ty Lawson PG
39 Chandler Parsons SF
28 Tyler Zeller C

That pool of 25-35 will be made up of USA Basketball veterans, players from this group and a few others that weren’t able to participate this week because of injuries. On Wednesday, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love — who each played in 2010 and 2012 — committed to playing next summer in Spain. And there will likely be other vets that join them.

So there are precious few roster spots available for the players at this camp. Many of them — though they’re stars with their NBA squads — will never play for the National Team. It’s a numbers game and Colangelo and Krzyzewski just have too much talent to choose from.

Of the 24 players who will see action on Thursday, three have the inside track to roster spots next summer. Paul George and Kyrie Irving are simply the best players in camp, while Anthony Davis has USA Basketball experience (at last year’s Olympics) and the skill set needed from U.S. bigs.

Seven of the 24, including Irving, are point guards, who could all be competing with Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams for roster spots down the line. Though point guards also play shooting guard in this system, the wings and bigs we see on Thursday certainly have a better shot of making it to Spain or Rio.

This is still a tremendous opportunity for everyone involved, including fans who want to see some high-quality, competitive hoops in the middle of the summer. There’s no better basketball being played in July and even if they aren’t eventually selected for the National Team, these players are making the most of their week in Vegas.

“You just try to take as much advantage of it as you possibly can,” Chandler Parsons said, “learn from it, take it back to your city and try to have a good season next year.”

Report: Wall, Wizards Close On Extension



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LAS VEGAS – John Wall is still in the formative stage of his NBA career but the Washington Wizards believe the best is certainly yet to come for their star point guard. The next step, of course, is working on a long-term extension for Wall, a process that has progressed rapidly.

The two sides are reportedly close to a deal for five years and $80 million. Wall, who is in town this week for USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team mini-camp,  and the Wizards could have the deal locked down by Aug. 1, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

The sides have until Oct. 31 to come to an agreement on an extension or Wall would be a restricted free agent during a loaded summer of 2014. But that’s a scenario the Wizards are clearly trying to avoid by offering Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, a monster deal.

Wall, 22, dazzled the second half last season, returning from a knee injury to average 18.5 points, 7.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the final 49 games of the 2012-13 season. Wall is the linchpin to the Wizards’ franchise revival and the this sort of contract is proof that the Wizards are convinced that he is indeed the franchise player they thought he was when they drafted him.

Hayward, Favors Fully Prepared For Leadership Roles With Young Jazz



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LAS VEGAS – Ask anyone who has knocked around USA Basketball’s mini-camp this week to name the player who has raised the most eyebrows and Gordon Hayward‘s name will come up. The Utah Jazz swingman showed up here this summer with a simple game plan and the perfect blueprint of how to execute that plan.

“They just want you to play hard and compete in everything you do,” Hayward said. “This camp is full of stars, so you’re not going to impress anyone trying to showboat or do anything spectacular. Everybody in this gym has seen it all plenty of times before. [U.S.] Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski lays it all out for you from the start. And if you listen, it’s pretty simple.”

Simple is the opposite of what awaits Hayward and Jazz big man and fellow mini-camp participant Derrick Favors when they get back to Salt Lake City for training camp. No longer are these two lottery picks from 2010 going to operate in the shadows. They’re going to have to step into leadership roles for a young Jazz team that saw seven free agents depart for other destinations this summer.

Hayward will be the team’s leading returning scorer next season after averaging a career-high 14.1 points while logging 27 starting assignments. Favors is the second-leading returning scorer (9.4 points to go along with his 7.1 rebounds in just 23.2 minutes), after starting just eight games while playing behind Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

They will be the foundation for a green starting five that also includes Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and rookie point guard Trey Burke. Hayward, 23, will be the oldest member of that group and the most seasoned. It’s a role that Hayward seems more than ready to handle, based on his showing here this week and on the Select Team that worked out against the star-studded crew that won gold at the London Olympics last summer.

“He’s been very impressive,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo. “He’s a very impressive player. He knows how to play. He’s aggressive. He can shoot the ball. He’s made a mark in both camps, last year and this year.”

The same goes for Favors, who has spent most of his time this summer in Salt Lake City under thew watchful eye of Jazz great and Hall of Famer Karl Malone. It’s been summer school that Favors, an Atlanta native, says is absolutely necessary if he’s going to realize his potential sooner rather than later.

“There’s no hiding anymore,” Favors said. “I had to tell my mom and my family back home that it was important for me to stay [in Salt Lake City] and put in the work. I couldn’t let myself get home and get too comfortable. There is so much riding on this summer and this season for myself and [Hayward]. I don’t know what they’ve told him but I know I’ve got be ready to go right now. It’s on me and Enes to hold it down up front now that Al and Paul have moved on.”

Hayward’s looked more like the college star he was at Butler during his time here this week than he has the role player he was asked to be in his first three seasons in the league. His ballhandling, slashing and athleticism have been on full display. He’s more than held his own on defense, too, sticking out in this talented crowd on both ends regularly.

“That’s what you love about things like this,” said Favors, who will team up with Hayward on the Blue team in Thursday night’s intrasquad showcase at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. “I know how good he is. I’ve seen him do this stuff in practice every day. But it’s been funny to talk to some of these other guys and see how impressed they are with Gordon this week.”

Hayward said he’s sticking to the plan this week and making sure to ready himself for the increased role he’ll play for the Jazz when summer school is over.

“It’s something Coach K talked about on the first day,” Hayward said. “You have to adapt, adapt the way you play and be a versatile player. Out here, you know, you’re just one of the guys. But when you get back to your respective teams you’re going to be a more dominant player and have a much bigger role. They want me to be more of a leader next season and Derrick and I have talked about it. We’re excited about it. It’s going to be a challenge for us. We’re both naturally quiet guys so we’re going to have to be more vocal and get on guys when we have to. But it’s time, it’s time for us to be the leaders.”

After A Day To Adjust, Thompson Likes International Line, Ball

LAS VEGAS – Over the last five years, there have been only two players who attempted at least 500 3-pointers in a season and made at least 40 percent of them (see table below). They both played in the Golden State Warriors’ backcourt last season.

Stephen Curry set an NBA record with 272 threes and Klay Thompson wasn’t far behind. Warriors coach Mark Jackson called them the best shooting backcourt of all time and it’s hard to argue.

Curry was a member of the 2010 World Championship team that won gold in Istanbul and is definitely in the mix for the rosters that will go to Spain for the 2014 World Cup and to Rio for the 2016 Olympics. Thompson, meanwhile, is here this week trying to make an impression on USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

He certainly made an impression on Tuesday, hitting several threes during scrimmages. And the U.S. could certainly use a guy who can do that against zone defenses that pack the paint. But that performance came after making the adjustments that every NBA shooter must make when they transition to international ball.

The first is a shorter (by 19 inches) 3-point line. The second is a different kind of basketball, made by Molten and with extra panels.

Thompson actually likes both differences.

“It’s mid-range,” he said of the international arc. “The first day, it takes some getting used to. But after the first day, it’s like going back to college. It’s so much easier.”

And the ball?

“It just takes a day to get used to,” he said. “It’s a different kind of feel, but I like the ball. It grew on me.”

He guessed he shot 20 percent on Monday and closer to 80 percent on Tuesday. But he also knows that to make the national team roster, he’ll have to do more than just knock down shots.

“If I rebound, hustle and defend,” Thompson said, “I think I’ll be good to go.”

He’ll get one more chance to do that on Thursday, when the 24 healthy NBA players in camp will take part on the USA Basketball Showcase, which will be televised on NBA TV at 9 p.m. ET.

At least 500 3-point attempts at 40 percent or better, NBA history

Player Season Team 3PM 3PA 3P%
Mitch Richmond 1995-96 SAC 225 515 43.7%
Dennis Scott 1995-96 ORL 267 628 42.5%
Reggie Miller 1996-97 IND 229 536 42.7%
Ray Allen 2001-02 MIL 229 528 43.4%
Paul Pierce 2001-02 BOS 210 520 40.4%
Peja Stojakovic 2003-04 SAC 240 554 43.3%
Damon Jones 2004-05 MIA 225 521 43.2%
Kyle Korver 2004-05 PHI 226 558 40.5%
Ray Allen 2005-06 SEA 269 653 41.2%
Peja Stojakovic 2007-08 NOH 231 524 44.1%
Rashard Lewis 2007-08 ORL 226 553 40.9%
Jason Richardson 2007-08 CHA 243 599 40.6%
Stephen Curry 2012-13 GSW 272 600 45.3%
Klay Thompson 2012-13 GSW 211 526 40.1%

USA Basketball: Durant, Love On Board For World Cup Of Basketball 2014





LAS VEGAS – If they only had the 28 players on this week’s mini-camp roster to choose from, the decision makers at USA Basketball would have plenty of talent for next summer’s World Cup of Basketball competition in Spain.

The beauty of what’s been built under the watch of managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski is that they have plenty of other NBA superstars eager to claim a spot on the roster for the summer of 2014. All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kevin Love were the first two do so, making it official at the end of Wednesday’s mini-camp practice at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

Durant and Love won gold medals in Turkey in 2010 and in London in 2012. They’re aiming to repeat that feat in Spain next summer and will do so as cornerstones of a team that won’t take complete shape until a year from now. They are the first of what could be several other returnees from London to make the commitment for next summer, though Miami Heat four-time MVP LeBron James is not expected to join them.

“I’m excited for this opportunity, to play for Coach K again and to get to play with some of these guys I’ve played with in the past,” said Durant, who suggested that Russell Westbrook and James Harden have also expressed interest in joining the crew that will play in Spain next summer. “This whole program is first class. And I want to be a part of it. We’ll see, hopefully we get some more names added to the list and some of these great young guys out here as well.”

There was a buzz in the gym from the start Wednesday with Durant and Love, two seasoned All-Stars, observing all of the 25-under mini-camp stars from seats between the two courts. Colangelo and Krzyzewski knew Tuesday night that Durant and Love were on board.

“Kevin [Durant] told us [Tuesday night], ‘Coach I wanted to come here and look you in the eye and tell you what I’m doing.’ I get chills thinking about it … a guy of his stature and his accomplishment, for these two guys to come here shows what they think of the program and the people involved. To do it face-to-face, we appreciate that very much.”

Colangelo referred to Durant as “kind of the face” of the USA Basketball program going forward, a distinction Durant will likely carry through to the 2016 Olympics as well.

“Kevin Durant coming out like he has and saying I’m going for it and I want to play, is a tremendous statement,” Colangelo said. “He’s his own man. I understand guys talk and influence one another. But Kevin is going to be the face, he’s going to be a leader going forward and I think others are going to respond because of his presence.”

That’s why the, the impact of Wednesday’s announcement, speaks to the continuation of Colangelo’s larger plan, which was to turn national team work into a privilege and a duty that all players covet and not the drag or burden it appeared to be for many members of the previous generation of stars.

“It starts with infrastructure,” Colangelo said. “You have good leadership in place and then you lay the ground work and then you ge the guys to buy in and then it starts to snowball. And right now, I mean where it was,no one really cared. So it’s totally flip-flopped to a point now where I get calls from guys during the [NBA regular] season from guys saying, ‘How am I doing? How am I playing?’ And that’s kind of neat. My job is to keep encouraging all of them.”

Peer pressure works as well. When the elite stars invest their time the way James, Durant, Love and so many others have in recent years, it becomes a movement among the players. There is a prestige involved with the program now that wasn’t there as recently as a decade ago. An invite to a mini-camp this summer could turn into a roster spot one day, if not next summer maybe in a few years.

“Listen, not everyone is going to be on our team,” Colangelo said. “That’s impossible. It’s a numbers game. But I think these guys that come through our program, at every level and certainly the Select Team, they are better players for it and better people for the experience because they are being exposed to this environment, which I think is very healthy for all of them.”

New Crop Of Bigs Vie For USA Spots

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LAS VEGAS – In the last two Olympics, the starting forwards for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team were Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. In the 2010 World Championship, the starting forwards were Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala.

As the U.S. has gone undefeated in those three major competitions, they’ve started just one traditional big man — Dwight Howard in 2008, Lamar Odom in 2010 and Tyson Chandler in 2012 — and had just two others on their roster. Though the numbers made it clear last year that the presence of one of the bigs on the floor was critical, only two of them were in the rotation.

One of the two was Chandler, who is probably done playing international basketball. The other was Kevin Love, who was also on the roster in 2010 and could be back for next year’s World Cup in Spain.

At this point, more than 13 months before the World Cup tips off, absolutely nothing is set in stone. A couple of bigs that aren’t at this week’s mini-camp — Taj Gibson and David Lee — are still in the mix. So there could be as many as three and as few as one roster spot available for the 10 bigs that are here.

One of those 10 is Anthony Davis, who was the 12th man on last year’s Olympic squad. He was raw then, didn’t make a big impact as a rookie with the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans), and said this week that he’s not guaranteed a roster spot next summer. But USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had good things to say about Davis on Tuesday.

“He’s had some experience, real early, last year with us,” Colangelo said. “He observed and he learned a lot, just playing with the guys he did. I can see growth and experience and maturity already in him. And you can kind of project him out. He could be a tremendous shot-blocker in the international game.”

We’ll have to wait and see how Davis does in his second season in the league, but his experience, potential and skill set make him the likely frontrunner among this week’s group of bigs. With his athleticism, his ability to protect the rim on defense and finish at the rim on offense, he’s the prototypical USA Basketball big man. With stars in the backcourt and in those forward positions, those are the kinds of skills that are needed from the guys who will play the five spot.

Colangelo doesn’t want to think that specifically just yet. This week is just about seeing what guys bring to the table, and the selection process will wait until next summer.

“It depends on who your nucleus might be,” he said. “It’s way too early to know what our nucleus is. That’s why we have to continue to look at all the bigs. And then when the time comes, when we have to select those who we want to bring into camp next summer, it’ll be based on what kind of complementary players we have.”

It will also be based, in part, on how these guys do with their NBA teams next season. And since most of the group is so young – seven of the 10 are 23 are younger – one or more just might have a breakout year and prove to be better than Lee or Gibson by next July.

“Some of them just have more growing to do,” Colangelo said. “They’re young bigs. And of all the positions in basketball, it takes them longer to get where they can be.”

This is the first exposure to Colangelo’s program for most of this group of bigs. In addition to Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors were here last year as a member of the Select Team that practiced against the Olympic Team. But the rest are new.

The rest = Ryan Anderson, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Monroe, Larry Sanders and Tyler Zeller.

Maybe one or two of those names might get a trip to Spain next year, because there’s a possibility that Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski take four bigs instead of three to the World Cup. Better safe than sorry, especially if one or two hasn’t played in a major international tournament before. For Krzyzewski, the lack of bigs on last year’s roster — a result of injuries more than anything — was a concern.

“We were actually really vulnerable in London, because Tyson was our only true center,” Krzyzewski told NBA TV before camp opened. “We were vulnerable in the fact that then we had to use LeBron, Carmelo and Kevin Durant as guys who would have to guard the fours and the fives. And since you only get five fouls, we were vulnerable in that one of those guys could get in foul trouble.”

So it’s good that they have a deep group here in camp this week. It’s a little difficult to envision any of the 10 as a starting center on a U.S. National Team, but things could certainly be different a year from now.