Day 3 Roundup: Pleased With Progress
Las Vegas, Nevada
• Video: Paul George Wireless
• Photos: Day 3 Gallery
The play developed so beautifully and quickly built so much anticipation in the gym that the scorekeeper put two points on the board while Kevin Durant’s alley-oop pass attempt was still sailing towards Anthony Davis.
Alas, this is practice and not everything goes to plan. Davis’ finish would have been a thunderous one-hand slam but he couldn’t control the ball and the points were erased from the scoreboard at the Mendenhall Center on UNLV’s campus.
Still, that was one of the first plays of Wednesday’s scrimmage, which wrapped day three of the USA Men’s National Team’s training camp. The sets and instruction coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff have been doling out are starting to take hold and the 19 players competing for 12 spots are starting to resemble something closer to a team than a collection of talent.
“It’s about a process and building each day and getting better,” said Stephen Curry, who joined Durant and fellow guard Derrick Rose on the 2010 World Championship gold-medal team.
It’s not like every player has been playing consistently their best, but across the board the coaches are happy with the progress. And considering the World Cup in Spain doesn’t start for another month, the organization leaders know there’s time for everything to fully round into form.
“Very pleased with the intensity level and the effort has been great,” said managing director Jerry Colangelo. “We’ve had players up-and-down like yo-yos during the three days but you expect that.”
After each practice, Colangelo said, he and the staff gather to evaluate that day’s workout and discuss any changes to their expectations or evaluations of individual players.
“I can promise you that each day there’s a change,” Colangelo said.
Sometimes that’s good news for a player and sometimes it’s not, but it’s all a part of the evaluation process as USA Basketball works towards finding its best group of 12. That doesn’t mean the best 12 players, either. Colangelo again emphasized that they’re trying to put together a team, not an all-star team, and the players know that.
That’s why Durant has talked about getting everyone to buy in defensively, and why after Wednesday’s practice Rose said he’s working to learn the other players’ tendencies and where shooters want the ball. Those are the things that both help the players make the roster and that will help that roster during competition in Spain.
And while that’s the ultimate goal, the players are enjoying this day-to-day process as well. Guys like guard Kyrie Irving have an almost omnipresent smile and they’re clearly enjoying being together.
“It’s a pleasure to come out here and compete at the highest level,” Irving said.
Before he got down to the business of coaching at the USA Basketball Fantasy Camp, Kentucky coach John Calipari had some catching up to do.
If there was still any question that Calipari’s players succeed at the next level, the answer is on the National Team roster. Four of his former players — Memphis’ Rose and Kentucky’s Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall — are competing for spots on the roster. Davis and Rose already have gold medals from the Olympics and World Championship, respectively.
Calipari spent time talking to all four of them at various points after Wednesday’s practice. Calipari said it was clear that Davis and Rose benefitted from the USA Basketball experiences, and now he’s hoping for the same from Cousins and Wall.
“Being a part of this absolutely helped them do what they’re trying to do with their careers,” he said.
People would line up around the corner for tickets to the series of post-practice one-on-one games that took place on one court at the Mendenhall Center.
Durant, Paul George and James Harden took turns rotating in for one possession at a time. A made basket meant you kept the ball and the next person jumped in for their turn on defense. A defensive stop meant you took over on offense.
The assembled media, coaches and even several other USA Basketball players crowded around for a good view. While it’s impossible to say which of the three technically won, it was even more difficult to walk away and come up with a player who could prevent any of these guys from taking gold.