LAS VEGAS – Media time after Day 3 of USA Basketball training camp went a little long, because everybody was watching an extended game of “King of the Hill” between Kevin Durant, Paul George and James Harden.
“King of the Hill” is a three-way game of one-on-one. Player 1 tries to score on Player 2. If he does, Player 2 steps off the floor and Player 3 comes in and to play defense. But if Player 2 gets the stop, he moves to offense and tries to score against Player 3. The game goes on until a player gets five buckets.
That shouldn’t take long, but the trio played the game from several different spots on the floor. (Here’s a vine of a couple of right-elbow possessions.) By the time they were done, they had gone for a good 20 minutes or so, drawing quite a crowd of media, USA teammates, coaches, and other onlookers. And this was after a full practice.
“It was intense,” George said afterward. “At the end of the day, we’re out here to get better. And there’s no better guys for me to go against, for myself to guard than KD and James. And James is quick and low to the ground and KD’s got the length, so it’s good for me, offensively, as well. But at the end of the day, we’re all here to get better and work hard. And I think we took it to another level.”
Yes, that was George giving credit to Harden’s defense. At one point, Harden blocked Durant’s seemingly unblockable shot, getting in some trash talk afterward.
Speaking of Durant and George, they’re the latest USA forward tandem that no other country that can match up with. And by putting them on the same team every day, the U.S. staff is making sure they get time to build some chemistry.
Harden and Durant, meanwhile, are two of only five players in camp with Senior National Team experience. But 12 of the other 15 were here last year for a four-day mini-camp.
The U.S. had no competition to play in last summer. By winning the 2012 Olympics, they automatically qualified for this year’s World Cup and had no reason to send a team to the FIBA Americas tournament. But USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski brought 28 guys to Las Vegas, so they could get to know them and get them integrated into the system.
It was only four days and with so many guys in the gym, none of them got all that much playing time in the scrimmages. But it reduced the learning curve for the whole group and allowed them to hit the ground running on Monday.
“A big thing is their familiarity with me and the coaching staff,” Krzyzewski said Wednesday. “We spent a lot of time trying to get to know them. So, it lends for familiarity.”
And it has paid off.
“We have actually gotten more in in the first three days of this camp,” Krzyzewski said, “than we have our previous three camps.”