2014 USA 3x3 National Championship
Colorado Springs, Colo.
May 9-11
2014 USA 3x3 National Championship
Colorado Springs, Colo.
May 9-11

Guards Showcase Variety of Positive Attributes At USA Men's National Team Mini-Camp

July 23, 2013 • Las Vegas, Nevada

One of the most discussed storylines so far during USA Men’s National Team mini-camp has been the noteworthy list of guards.

The list includes two NBA Rookie of the Year award recipients, last year’s NBA steals leader, a trio of 2013 All Stars, a pair of players who captured National Championships in college and more.

While all the accolades each guard carries are nothing short of magnificent, the first two days of mini-camp have seen each floor general distribute the ball somewhat more than they’re accustomed.   

“It’s completely different,” Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. “But it’s certain things that you have to sacrifice to be a part of something like this.”

The adjustment of not being asked to score as much isn’t the only major difference the guards have noticed. Some have adapted to playing different positions.

“It’s an adjustment because I feel like sometimes we have to play the 2,” Washington Wizards guard John Wall said. “Sometimes you have to play the 1. Sometimes you have to play the 3. You never know what you’re going to play.

“You just have to go out there and compete. And if you’re a basketball player, you can play any position. That’s how I see it.”

Although every basketball player likely will admit they enjoy scoring, most point guards experience their biggest thrills from dishing and facilitating.

“I look to pass first and distribute first because if I can distribute then it’s just going to open up things for me to score,” stated Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, one of just two collegians among the 28 players competing in the mini-camp. 

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters added, “You just want to make the right pass. If a guy is open just get the ball up. Play smart and play the right way.”

Thus far at the practice sessions, the players have spent the first hour going through drills and instruction while the final hour shifts toward scrimmaging. Even though it’s only a short amount of time to process the presented information, the guards have appeared to handle everything with little trouble.

“As a pro, you’ve got to be used to that stuff,” 2013 All Star Kyrie Irving said.

Luckily for Jrue Holiday, he envisions his role during mini-camp being similar to the role he’ll have on his new NBA team, the New Orleans Pelicans

“In New Orleans, I think I may be expected more to pass,” Holiday said. “We’ve got Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, all scorers. I’m kind of a pass-first point guard, so I guess passing and not really scoring, that’s kind of easy for me.”

USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski said that he informed the guards when they arrived Sunday that when he was coaching Olympic floor generals Chris Paul and Deron Williams he worked to instill the concept of working closely together and only being concerned of what was best for the team.

“What we told all those point guards, we told them the story of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and we said that both of those guys played together and they are both outstanding point guards,” Krzyzewski said. “They also had to play differently because they were playing with Kobe, LeBron, Durant. And so, don't come in and everybody try to be a point guard. Try to be a guard. And you are seeing Kyrie and Damian Lillard play together, so we are looking at how they can adapt. We are watching how they adapt. I thought today, not just those two guys, but all of them did a really good job.”

Lillard understands where Krzyzewski is coming from.

“For me, it’s natural because I don’t play the game selfish,” Lillard said. “I want to find guys, and I want to make the next guy look good, and that’s how USA Basketball has been successful.”
   
As camp has now reached its midway point, the guards will look to continue battling and attempt to make positive impressions toward the USA Basketball coaches. And whether they shine the remainder of the way by dishing off no-look assists, taking command of huddles or knocking down baskets when their team needs them most, the group has clearly established themselves as top point guards for a multitude of reasons.   

“This is what we all signed up for, to play against one another,” Irving said. “It’s a long list of point guards, and we’re all the best on our respective teams, and we all bring something different to the table.”