Day 3 of National Team Training Camp Sees Intensity Remain High While Team Chemistry Continues to Develop
Coach K Stops By As Men’s National Team Training Camp Moves Into Day 3
Some notable faces showed up to watch the USA Basketball Men’s National Team on the third day of its pre-World Cup training camp Wednesday at the Mendenhall Center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus.
Among the visitors was former USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski and some members of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, including USA Women National Team member Kelsey Plum and Australia's Liz Cambage.
The practice opened with new U.S. coach Gregg Popovich participating in warm up stretches that included squats, shoulder stretches, calf stretches and others.
The team then moved into a five-minute full-court set with three offensive players passing and running down the floor, with one person finishing at the rim. The two non-shooters received a baseline pass to take a catch-and-shoot wing three pointer.
Next the team broke out into four half-court sets, with players rotating every five minutes.
Assistant coach Ime Udoka led a group of players in post-up drills at the top of the key, with the offensive player improving to either shoot over the defender or go around him.
On the other side of the court, assistant coach Jay Wright led a group in a two-on-two drill. The focus was on the pick-and-roll action, with Wright coaching the players on how to either attack the defense offensively or counter on defense.
Running adjacent to Wright’s drill, assistant coach Steve Kerr worked through different plays out of the five-out motion offense.
Assistant coach Lloyd Pierce ran his drills across from Kerr. While three players moved the ball around the perimeter, four defenders played a match-up zone defense, where the on-ball defender would play tight while his teammates behind him would deliver a help-side man-to-man defense, thus confusing the offensive players.
Towards the end of this roughly 20-minute drill, the Select Team started to arrive at Mendenhall to square off for another day of scrimmages with the National Team. Unlike Tuesday’s scrimmages, no other drills were held on the other side of the gym as all of the National Team players took part in the three scrimmages.
In their gray jerseys, Trae Young, Pat Connaughton, Torrey Craig, John Collins and Jarrett Allen started for the Select Team opposite of Donovan Mitchell, Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown, Kyle Kuzma and Myles Turner.
Within a minute, Craig took a shot to his eye during a rebound attempt and had to leave the scrimmage.
“It was just a finger poke in the eye,” said Craig, who returned for the second scrimmage. “It’s a little blurry but should be good by tomorrow. I’ll be good for the rest of the week.”
The Select Team seemed to start off sluggish and found itself in an 11-3 hole. Guard Derrick White rallied the troops and helped cut the lead to 15-10 with under two minutes left, but the slow start was too much as the National Team took the first scrimmage 21-12.
Select Team coach Jeff Van Gundy switched up his rotation in the second scrimmage, starting Young, Allen, White, Jonathan Isaac and Mitchell Robinson. The National Team countered with Mitchell, Walker, Kuzma, Joe Harris (from the Select Team roster) and Bam Adebayo.
The Select Team seemed to find its groove in the second scrimmage. Trailing by four, Collins stole the ball and converted a three-point play to give the Select Team a 19-16 edge. From there, the game came down to the wire. With about four seconds left, Kerr called a timeout to set up a play. After De’Aaron Fox inbounded to Khris Middleton, the Texas A&M alumni took a desperation pump fake that faked out White. White then fouled Middleton as he was shooting a desperation fade away three. To make matters worse, the foul was directly in front of Van Gundy, who looked like he was ready to smash his clipboard. Middleton knocked all three free throws to end the second scrimmage in a draw.
In their third and final scrimmage, both teams started to get in a groove. Van Gundy bought Craig back in the starting lineup to join the starting rotation of Young, Issac, Jalen Brunson and Marvin Bagley III. Kerr and the National Team went with another altered rotation of Mitchell, Walker, P.J. Tucker, Harris and Adebayo.
Mitchell came out assertive, knocking down two quick threes and leading the National Team to an early 12-4 lead. Near the end, both teams started to catch fire and traded baskets. Tied at 24, the Select Team had another chance to win a scrimmage for the second day in a row, but White pulled up from straightaway and missed the go-ahead game-winner to end the third practice with another draw.
“I think the Select Team has been really special,” Lopez said. “Just coming out and giving their all each and every game. They really gave it to us yesterday, and they haven’t backed down. That’s going to be huge game helping us prepare for the World games.”
Outside of the two draws, the two elder statesmen on the roster, Plumlee and Lopez, noticed the changes from today’s scrimmages compared to yesterdays.
“There’s a willingness to do what the coaches want, so there was a little hesitation yesterday,” Plumlee said. “Today I think guys were playing more free, just being aggressive, attacking, a little more pick and roll on offense, but we’ll get better day by day.”
“We just came out with a right mentality,” Lopez added. “We realize what happened yesterday and we came out just trying to be more aggressive, be tougher, and not make things as easy for them.”
Marcus Smart sat out of practice because of tightness in his calf and will be re-evaluated next week.
Thursday marks the fourth and final training camp practice in Las Vegas, with a USA White vs Blue exhibition matchup at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.
Sam Yip is a freelance contributor to on behalf of .