Day Two All About Uniting
The question seemed a little ridiculous to Draymond Green. Sure, his Golden State Warriors recently suffered a difficult NBA Finals defeat to Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers, but no, Green said, he didn’t plan on giving Irving a hard foul during USA Men’s National Team practice.
“For what? I’m with him. We’re together,” Green said. “I might hard foul somebody for him.”
It might be hard for some to grasp, but to the players it all makes sense. They’ve exchanged pro rivalries for national camaraderie, and even after a brutal playoff run with plenty of off-court shenanigans it’s easy for them to flip the switch at training camp.
“I’m happy we’re in this setting as teammates,” Irving said. “All that competition that we had during the season and the pride of playing for our respective organizations and our cities goes out the window. (We’re) representing something bigger than all of us, and that’s our country.”
More than half of the USA Men’s National Team roster reached last month’s NBA conference finals. Only one of them, Irving, ended up with the championship all were striving for, yet the pursuit of another gold at the Rio Olympic Games makes the transition to competing together feel seamless.
Part of that is a credit to the program culture that USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski have built and maintained since 2005.
“What we want to do is create an environment where players feel comfortable, they feel this is family and they want to be here because there’s a lot of good that comes from it,” Colangelo said. “It’s being a part of a united effort with USA across the chest. I think the concept of representing your country has really taken hold and sunken in with all the players.”
Another Warrior, Klay Thompson, certainly feels it. Thompson has worked his way up through USA Basketball, winning a gold medal on the U19 team in 2009 then playing for the USA Select Team and participating in a Men’s National Team minicamp before winning another gold at the 2014 FIBA World Cup.
Now he’s ready to band together for an Olympic gold, a journey he plans to completely soak in starting with the opening ceremonies.
“That’s going to give me butterflies, and I can’t wait to see 60,000-plus people there, so many countries around the world,” Thompson said. “It’s really a blessing and that’s why I was so eager to do this. Not a lot of people can say they’re an Olympian, and it’s something I won’t take for granted.”
Much like the first day of summer camp, Monday’s practice at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center was a bit hectic.
“There’s enthusiasm, excitement, hard work, but maybe not the execution to be able to take in what we’re trying to teach,” Krzyzewski said. “Today, we still had those other qualities but we had a lot of teaching and we got a lot of our system in.”
The coaching staff worked on a lot of in-bounds situations and offensive sets with the USA Men’s National Team, then brought in the USA Select Team to run through some of what they just learned while also getting plenty of live action. All told, Krzyzewski felt it was a great learning day, and on deck Wednesday is a lot of work in zone offense/defense while possibly giving the guys a little rest.
“We have to be careful, we can’t keep having hard days,” Krzyzewski said.
During each of the five stops on the USA Basketball Showcase presented by Verizon, USA Basketball and Kaiser Permanente will host youth fitness clinics. The first one took place on Tuesday at a nearby Boys & Girls Club, and it was led by 1968 Olympic gold medalist Spencer Haywood, who still has the USA Basketball record for most made field goals (64) during a competition.
Designed to help teach local kids the importance of fitness and a healthy lifestyle, participants from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada spent the afternoon running around and learning how basketball can play a role in their health. Clinics will also take place during the USA Men’s National Team’s visits to Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago and Houston.