Men's National Team Begins Minicamp With Eye Toward 2016 Olympics
There will be a noticeably different pace to the proceedings as the USA Men’s National Team descends on Las Vegas for a three-day minicamp.
A little more than a year ago, a roster that would win gold in the FIBA Basketball World Cup was forged inside the walls at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center. This week 34 of the country’s best players will gather under the same roof, but with the Rio Olympic Games still a year away the practices this time around won’t be nearly as intense.
“If we had competition we had to prepare for it would be a different story,” said USA Basketball Chairman and National Team Managing Director Jerry Colangelo.
“We want to spend more time with the players celebrating our journey and keeping things in perspective as we move forward.”
That perspective goes back a decade to when Colangelo took over and brought in many others, including coach Mike Krzyzewski, with the charge of returning USA Basketball to the unquestioned top.
“We set out to create a new culture and create a situation where players once again were proud to represent their country,” Colangelo said. “We also had to win back the respect of the world basketball community.”
Evidence of the first goal’s success is in this week’s roster, which can be seen Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET on NBA TV’s NBA Real Training Camp: USA Basketball Presented by Jeep or Thursday at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 for the USA Blue versus USA White exhibition game at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Some of the players, like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, have been around just as long, if not longer, than Colangelo and Krzyzewski. Others like Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving are in the process of taking over the reins and camp will also feature players like Jimmy Butler, Mike Conley and Victor Oladipo who have experience and plenty of talent.
Not everyone on the roster will be able to participate in camp. Some are injured or trying to recover, but they all wanted to come and be a part of the group. Part of that is recognizing the honor of being one of so few men selected and seeing the benefit of being around so many players of similar or even greater ability.
It’s also a credit to the commitment level Colangelo has asked of players. Being a part of the organization is about more than showing up when it’s convenient, and celebrating the ongoing commitment from some of the world’s best players will have a large role in camp.
“We can look back and say we’ve accomplished a great deal, but it’s about keeping things in perspective,” Colangelo said. “Celebrating the moment and the brotherhood we’ve created, and a sign of commitment going forward.”
When they look forward, players will realize that the light nature of this camp is an outlier. Making the final roster for a competition is extremely hard work and when they get together again next year there will be no time to spare.
“The bottom line is, when the next NBA season is over, it’s only a few weeks later when we will report for camp,” Colangelo said. “So we need to hit the ground running in July next year.”
As for winning back respect, the Men’s National Team is currently on a 63-game winning streak that includes five gold medal runs. From regaining favor with this country’s best players to regaining the dominant position in the world, it’s been a good run for the Men’s National Team.
Before they gear up for another chase for gold, they’re taking some time this week to reflect on the journey to the top and what it will take to stay there.
“When you’re climbing the mountain to recapture something, that’s one thing,” Colangelo said. “Defending the next time around is another, and now it’s maintaining. We recognize, we appreciate, we respect the other teams and we take nothing for granted.”