USA Men's National Team Gets on the Court
Many of the faces on the floor at the start of the 2010 USA Basketball Men’s National Team training camp were fresh, and the 20 players who participated in the team’s first training session in Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon wasted no time trying to prove themselves. After a team meeting and autograph session Monday night, the 2010 USA Basketball Men’s National Team got down to business today at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
The team’s ultimate goal: reclaim the FIBA World Championship gold medal. The immediate goals for all 19 players: earn a spot on the 12-player roster that will compete in the World Championship in Turkey from Aug. 28 to Sept. 12. During the first session of the USA Men’s National Team’s training camp on a hot-and-muggy afternoon in Vegas, the USA men worked on offensive drills, shots and a myriad of other basketball-related drills before scrimmaging against the 2010 USA Select Team. Despite being without the services this week of Robin Lopez and USA National Team veteran Amar’e Stoudemire, the USA’s practice remained fiercely competitive – especially when the college kids got on the court. We were there to document all the drives, dishes and swishes during the first practice and have everything from audio from Stoudemire on his injury and Coach K after practice, to photos and comments from the coaching staff and players.
USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University):
I’m really excited to be back here. There is a lot of planning that goes into all this. Today is kind of a historic day for USA Basketball. This afternoon we will have 40 guys on these two courts, 20 of them collegiate players. The only other time we ever had collegiate players was in 1992 with the Dream Team and they came in and just scrimmaged. But nothing like this has ever happened before so let’s make it work. We’ve had two good meetings and it’s going to be unique. We are going to bring in college kids and use two courts to get more reps for all the guys. The college kids have been here for an extra day. What they do is get stuff that Spain might do, Argentina, Greece, etc, offensively and defensively.
On the challenge and motivation:
It’s the World Championship. There is not a guy playing in the NBA who has won a World Championship. The last time we won a World Championship was in 1994. Also if you win it gets you a bye into the Olympics. But the main thing is to win a World Championship. Around the world there are 24 teams that compete for this. There are only 12 that compete for the Olympics. The world thinks this is pretty good and we are part of the world. We should look at it like they are looking at it. That is what we have learned over the last four years.
On the personnel of players:
These five days are extremely important for us to evaluate. What we need to do is figure out a core eight or nine players and who compliments those eight or nine in style. The guards are one of our strengths. The ability to put ball pressure on for 40 minutes is important. We will be looking at different combinations. On the staff:
Having the staff back together is huge because that is the main continuity. That’s the thing that other countries had over us all the time is that level of continuity. Now we have familiarity.
USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo:
On Amar’e Stoudemire being not allowed to play:
Being advised by the Knicks that they were not going to allow Amar’e to play – a little late in the process, be it as it is – he will not be able to play. And he’s disappointed. We’re disappointed. But the team has the right to pull him like they did because of the lack of insurance coverage and his pre-existing injury situations. So, we just move forward
On the first day of training camp:
I liked the competitiveness very much. Just as a sight, the junior/senior college guys that came in here pushed our guys pretty well. And that made for a very strong opening session. I think we learned a lot today, and it’s indicative of what we can expect the rest of the week.
Do you think the competitiveness is because the players know it’s a wide-open roster?
No question about it. I think all the players here feel they have a shot to make the team because they’ve been told that. And I think that creates a very competitive situation. And I would expect it’ll pick up as the week progresses.
Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets):
Day one of the journey. I feel great to be here. This is something that I have always wanted to do as far as representing my country and trying to win a gold medal. I’m just trying to help these guys win and lead the team the best that I can. A lot of these guys haven’t experienced this before. I’m sure a lot of them will be leaning on me. I’m here for them.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder):
I can’t do the things I did for Oklahoma City here for the USA team. It’s out the door. I got to tone it down a bit, sacrifice a little bit more and be a leader. One thing that stood out to me from the coaches was that there isn’t one guy who is the face of the team. It’s all of us going out there and representing the U.S. That’s what I really like. Not one guy on the last team was the face. Kobe wasn’t, LeBron wasn’t, everybody was equal. I’m happy to be a part of something like this here.
Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers):
This is an honor to be on the court with these guys. There is so much talent out here and so many guys that can play. So many great coaches out here too. It’s an honor to be with them as well. This is fun. At the end of the day it’s just a game. Whenever you get to do something like this to represent your country is a tremendous opportunity.
On the USA’s first practice:
It went well. Everyone is pretty focused and played hard. I don’t think the coaches had to call on us to go hard. Pretty intense right from the get-go. I think everyone had fun. Of course it’s going to be competitive since there are so many great players on the court at one time. And the college select team came in and did a great job.
Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics):
I am definitely honored to be selected to tryout and represent the country. I am very excited but I haven’t made the team yet so I don’t want to get too excited.
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
How do you feel after the first day of training camp?
I think I’m feeling good. Just playing, just trying to play hard and trying to get people in the game. I’m trying to get aggressive on defense and push the ball, because that’s what they want me to do.
Is the game different at all with the international rules?
It’s totally different. It’s a way more aggressive game whenever they put their hands on you. So, if anything, it fits me. It’s to my advantage. I’m an aggressive player. I think that one of my biggest strengths is driving, and I think it’ll help me. After the first session, how do you feel about the rest of the week?
It’s looking pretty good, man. Hopefully I’ll make the team. I’m playing hard, just trying to get my team going, and that’s about it.