With the USA Basketball Men’s National Team in Houston, Jimmy Butler and DeAndre Jordan took it upon themselves to give the team a flavor of their hometown.
On the flight from Chicago to Houston, Butler wanted to put a Houston twang on the music playlist. Did he play some of the city’s legendary hip-hop artists or maybe even music from Houston-native Beyoncé? No. Instead, Butler blared -- and loudly sang along to -- his favorite country music songs.
“I’m all about country music,” said Butler, a native of nearby Tomball. “It gets on my teammates’ nerves because I literally know every word.”
Butler listed Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line as some of his favorite artists and said he fell in love with the genre at Marquette when he first heard Tim McGraw’s 1994 hit, “Don’t Take The Girl.” Not all of Butler’s teammates are a fan of his musical taste.
“There’s a time when we want to hear Jimmy’s playlist,” DeMar DeRozan said with a smirk. “And there’s a time we don’t want to hear it.”
As the most seasoned veteran, Carmelo Anthony is usually in charge of the team’s playlist but has been generous enough, on occasion, to let other teammates have a turn. After Butler’s dip into country music, however, Anthony said he plans to revoke his privileges.
“I gave him an opportunity, and he blew that opportunity,” Anthony said. “I’m taking it back. I’m taking my speakers back, I’m taking my playlist back -- I’m taking everything back.”
Even Jordan, who was born and raised in Houston and attended nearby Texas A&M, admitted he doesn’t appreciate country music to the same extent as Butler. On Saturday night, Jordan invited the entire team over to his house for a home-cooked meal. When pressed about what was served, Jordan plead the fifth, not wanting to get anyone in trouble.
“Oh, my gosh,” Jordan said. “Probably some stuff we shouldn’t have been eating. We had some soul food. The great thing about this team is, these are guys who, three months ago, I never would have invited to my house. These guys are like my brothers now.”
Kevin Durant followed Jordan’s lead and neglected to get into the details of the savory meal but did say that Jordan has become one of his best friends on the team.
“Did he say that? Aww, man, I gave him a hundred bucks to say that,” Jordan said. “He’s a good guy.”
Jordan said the two have put both their NBA rivalries and college rivalries aside for the summer in their quest of a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Durant -- who attended the University of Texas at Austin the year before Jordan was at Texas A&M -- said he’s also looking forward to seeing friends in Houston before the team’s Monday night exhibition game against Nigeria.
There’s one thing about his hometown that Butler said he won’t miss when the team heads to Brazil later this week -- the heat. The first thing he said when stepping off the plane into the 96-degree, 84% humidity, 107-degree heat index was, “It’s hot, it’s hot, it’s hot.”
“I try not to come back to Houston very often during the summer for that exact reason,” Butler said. “It’s entirely too hot. It is way too hot in Houston.”
REMEMBERING THE FALLEN
More than two dozen special guests were on hand for Sunday afternoon’s practice at the Toyota Center in Houston. Wearing red Team USA shirts, the men, women and children were part of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), which is a support organization for people who have lost loved ones in the Armed Forces.
Since becoming the USA Men’s National basketball coach in 2006, Mike Krzyzewski and his staff have made military outreach a point of emphasis for the program. NBA Senior VP of International Basketball Operations Kim Bohuny said former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey was instrumental in establishing the relationship between TAPS and the team.
“It really hits home because these families have sent loved ones to represent our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Bohuny said. “Our players are representing our country in a different way, but it’s a great way for them to get involved and tell these family members how much they are appreciated.”
Before the exhibition games in each city on the USA Basketball Showcase, a few TAPS children serve as “anthem buddies,” who stand with players during the national anthem, and ball kids. Krzyzewski and assistant coaches Jim Boeheim and Tom Thibodeau spoke with TAPS before practice and answered questions, and the family members met the players after practice.
“To have those kids in every one of the cities we’ve been in and to get to know them helps you get a better feel for who you’re representing and what you’re doing,” Krzyzewski said.