Day 2: Roundup Competition and Intensity Mount
Las Vegas, Nevada
• Video: Coach K Wired For Sound
• Video: Derrick Rose Alley Oop
They kept coming in waves, groups of five subbing in off the bench like a line change in hockey. There’s little rest to be found at USA Men’s National Team practice as the team continues to add plays and intensity while preparing for next month’s World Cup in Spain.
The second day of practice started without the Select Team in order to give the top guys more court time to build and expand on Monday’s first practice at the Mendenhall Center on UNLV’s campus. By the time the full compliment of both teams were there for the scrimmages, the National Team took turns in groups working to run the plays they spent the past two days learning.
“Today was one of those days where you let the dust settle and you see more of everybody’s game,” said assistant coach Monty Williams. “Put some more structure out there and I thought it worked pretty well.”
While there was some on-court instruction on Monday, the players and coaches agreed that Tuesday was much more focused on those sorts of specific sets. It took the extra day to let a little of the pageantry wear off and get closer to a normal practice environment.
“Coach (Mike Krzyzewski) did a good job of getting guys into playing quicker and I think it settled everybody down,” Williams said.
A lot of eyes again focused on Derrick Rose, who practiced with the Blue Team alongside James Harden and Damian Lillard, among others. Everyone is looking for any small health clues and constantly asking Rose about his knee but the Chicago Bulls guard said he feels good and is more focused on developing as a player than monitoring his health. Krzyzewski agreed, saying that there was no drop-off from day one to day two from Rose.
“It was at a high level yesterday so for him to play at that level and then play at it again shows that he’s worked real hard,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re very, very pleased.”
Victor Oladipo hit a 3-pointer in the last seconds of the day’s final scrimmage to lift his Select Team over the White Team, a shot that will likely be avenged in the coming days. Everyone out on the court is highly competitive and as the National Team continues to add wrinkles the practices and scrimmages should only get more intense.
“It was a lot better today and I expect the same for the rest of the week,” said 2012 gold medalist Anthony Davis. “When guys start figuring out where they’re supposed to be in the plays, it’s going to definitely pick up. It’ll start being more fluent and guys are going to start just playing basketball.”
While the National Team was getting into its rhythm during the first hour of practice, 2010 World Championship gold medalist Rudy Gay was on the sidelines pulling crossover moves on a 5-year-old.
Gay dropped by to watch some of practice with two-time Olympic gold medalist Chris Paul and Paul’s oldest son, Chris Paul Jr. Paul Sr. was busy catching up with USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and others while Paul Jr. was more interested in trying to steal the ball from Gay or making a basket through the hoop Gay made with his arms.
Current training camp participants Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Rose were Gay’s teammates on that 2010 World Championship team.
The Ol’ College Try
USA Basketball invited two 2014 draft picks to join the Select Team during this training camp, and so far Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott are making the most of the opportunity.
Smart, especially, has been turning heads during the scrimmages. The Select Team’s job is to make the National Team better and Smart is doing that with tough defense and matching shot-for-shot on offense. He was one of the most impressive guards on the court both days regardless of team, which is saying something considering he has yet to play an NBA game.
“It’s incredible and such an honor,” Smart said of training camp. “It speaks volumes about how much we’re liked by the USA Basketball organization.”