Focus on Fundamentals At Men's National Team Training Camp
• VIDEO: Team Photo Shoot
USA Basketball turned up the intensity in practice Friday at the Quest Multisport Complex in Chicago to prepare for game conditions.
The Americans will meet Brazil at the United Center Saturday night.
The emphasis through the first part of the 2 1/2-hour practice was on offense. The last half of the practice was all about defense. Assistant coach Tom Thibodeau led an advanced defensive coaching session that would have been similar to Albert Einstein teaching a class in physics.
USA Basketball’s emphasis on fundamental basketball is essential against a tough, experienced team like Brazil. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski pointed out that the Brazilian team is long on talent and athleticism, and that NBA stars Leandro Barbosa and Tiago Splitter represent the tip of the iceberg.
“They are a really good team and they are capable of winning,” Krzyzewski said. “We have a lot of respect for them and their coaching staff. This is a legitimate team that is going to be a contender for the FIBA World Cup.
The USA team is still loaded with talent, experience and confidence.
Olympic gold medalist James Harden believes the U.S. depth will be a big factor tomorrow night and throughout the international competition.
“If you look around this team, you see players who are so athletic and can do so many things,” Harden said. “Steph Curry can shoot the ball, Derrick Rose can take the ball and drive and so can Kyrie Irving. We have a lot of firepower from the guard position, and our frontcourt guys are solid as well.”
Harden modestly left himself out of the conversation, but he had a sharp performance shooting in practice and was aggressive on the defensive end as well.
“The point is we have a lot of guys who can get the job done, and I don’t think there is going to be pressure on any one player,” Harden added.
Rose agreed with Harden, saying he didn’t think his burden was going to be any more significant than any of his teammates. “I don’t feel like it’s on my shoulders,” Rose said. “I’m going to do my part and whatever is asked, but this team is really talented. I don’t feel a lot of pressure.”
Rose has had two bouts of season-ending knee surgery since the 2012 playoffs. He again is moving with speed and explosiveness, and has no fears of suffering another injury.
“I know that I’m going to be fine,” Rose said confidently. “I have worked hard, and I feel good. I am just trying to keep it moving, stay positive every day and do everything consistently.”
USA Basketball is counting on young center Anthony Davis to step up and give the team a solid front-court presence. Krzyzewski may opt to emphasize his backcourt talent, and that may leave Davis as the only big man on the court at times.
“I am glad they have confidence in me,” Davis said. “It’s all about playing defense, going to the boards hard and taking advantage of the offensive chances that I get. I have to be ready, because that’s my job.”
But while perhaps the best-known names among the USA National Team are backcourt players, it would be a mistake to sell front court standouts like Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Kenneth Faried, Andre Drummond, Mason Plumlee, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward short. This is an unheralded group that can provide power, speed, athleticism and scoring. All of them have a chance to help the American team establish a front-court presence.
This version of the USA National Team may not have the superstar power of the 2008 and 2012 national teams, but it is filled with an intriguing blend of experienced and up-and-coming stars who are prepared to write their own legacy.
USA BASKETBALL ALUMNI VISITS
Steve Smith, who won gold as a USA player on four USA teams including the 2000 Olympic and 1994 World Championship squads, was in attendance at the USA practice… NBA free agent Shawn Marion also stopped by the Quest Multisport Complex to take in some of the USA training. Marion was a member of the first USA Basketball National Team program in 2006-08, and was a member of the 2004 bronze medalist Olympic team, the 2002 World Championship squad and the 2001 Goodwill Games team… Another observer at practice Friday was Chicago native and Whitney Young H.S. star Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, who will take to the court for Duke in 2014-15, has already earned four gold medals in international competitions helping USA Basketball teams win the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit, and also capture gold medals at the 2103 FIBA U19 World Championship, 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship and 2011 FIBA Americas U16 Championship… New Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder was also in the stands watching Jazz star Gordon Hayward. Snyder served as an assistant coach with the 2003 USA Pan American Games team.