Intrasquad Scrimmage Awaits National Team as Las Vegas Training Camp Comes to a Close
With the fourth and final Las Vegas training session wrapping up Thursday at Mendenhall Center on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, all that’s left for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team in Las Vegas is tomorrow’s Blue vs. White intrasquad exhibition game.
But there was still plenty of work to do. Similar to the past couple practices, four sets of drills ran in the gym. Assistant coach Ime Udoka helped with post-ups, Steve Kerr worked with more assortments of motion offenses, Lloyd Pierce ran three-on-three pick-and-roll coverage while Jay Wright ran half-court sets for different types of down, drag, and flare screens.
The drills were more or less similar to the ones that were run all week. The focus of everything seemed to just get familiar with each other — a primary focus of camp.
As the Select Team started filing in, the National Team players were partaking in more repetition with catch-and-shoot drills from the perimeter to floaters and mid-range.
With four of his Boston Celtics players participating with the National Team, Brad Stevens took in practice with his two children amongst the packed crowd with participants of the USA Basketball Fantasy Camp.
Having already been ruled out this week, Marcus Smart ran the treadmill to keep his calf loose during the first half of practice.
Unlike the past two days of scrimmage, the National Team dressed in gray jerseys, as the Select Team sported the navy blue jerseys.
The National Team coaching staff started the first scrimmage small going with Donovan Mitchell, Jaylen Brown, De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and P.J. Tucker. The Select Team countered with Derrick White, Pat Connaughton, Torrey Craig, John Collins and Jarett Allen.
Within the first few possessions, it was evident that the defensive zone schemes that the coaching staff has been emphasizing with the players seemed to finally translate to actual game play. The National Team converted a string of consecutive defensive stops to create easy offense and jumped out to an early 6-0 lead.
“Today was a bright spot for our team,” said Kyle Kuzma. “Starting on the defensive end is where you can really see the cohesiveness and chemistry really building. Today we did a great job of trusting each other and that is going to continue to build over time.”
The scrimmage standout from the past couple days, White, started off slow, missing several open mid-range shots and trying to force passes through the National Team’s stout zone. Collins showed some of the athleticism from the Select Team when he swatted away a Tucker layup attempt.
As well as the development seemed to grow on Day 4 of training camp, there were still instances of still trying to figure things out.
In reference to the differing FIBA rules to the NBA, head coach Gregg Popovich pointed out, “We are running drills and working at it. Like the shell drills we ran today we had to get everybody in the lane because we aren’t used to it. There isn’t any defensive three seconds, so you just drill it. Some things you don’t have an opportunity to take care of until you get there. Most things that we’ve seen in the past we will work on before we get there. We’ve all watched all the teams and all the games through the last Olympics.”
Joe Harris added, “The way that we’re doing stuff out here, is very similar to how I play already. Pop talks a lot about guys play offensively 0.5, making decisions in 0.5 seconds. Whether that’s catch the ball shot, catch the ball get off it, you’re not catching it first instinct is to dribble. That’s not going to fly with FIBA just because there are so many people packed in defensively.”
At about the 2:44 mark, Jalen Brunson hustled and dove for the ball in front of his coach Jeff Van Gundy. Anyone could see the excitement and joy Van Gundy displayed with Brunson’s grit.
Tatum then ended the first scrimmage with a fadeaway bank shot to help the National Team take the first scrimmage 25-19.
The National Team decided to go with a more traditional look to start the second and last scrimmage with Kuzma, Myles Turner, and Harris joining Mitchell and Fox in the starting lineup. Van Gundy and assistant coach Mark Few ran out the same starting five as they did in the first scrimmage.
As he’s done on several occasions around this brief week, Mitchell got his team firing on all cylinders as he was essentially the floor general that gave his team a nice 17-5 cushion at the midway part of gameplay. The drills that were run earlier came into full effort as the National Team guys ran fluid, efficient aspects of their motion offense with decisive and precise passes to open shooters on the wings and corners. A barrage of 3s soon followed and essentially wrapped up the final scrimmage for the National Team with a 31-19 win.
During the second scrimmage, Olympic and World Cup gold medalist Anthony Davis showed up briefly and conversed quietly with several officials and players before departing.
Although the players have only played as a group together this week, both players and coaches had positive things to say about their progress, and are optimistic for the future.
“They’ve played better and better every day,” Van Gundy said. “I thought they played a lot harder and more physical the last two days, and I think it really showed. They had one great run today where they were terrific defensively, and they turned it into transition offense, that was impressive.”
Harris and Brook Lopez had noteworthy thoughts on how the week of practices has helped them get to that next level.
“We got to get used to playing with each other, trying to buy in to what Pop and the staff is trying to get out of you,” Harris said. “The last couple days we had a tendency to be too unselfish, and he even told us before practice today, that at the end of the day obviously I want you guys to play unselfishly moving the ball, but I want you guys playing aggressive. Make a play for yourself, make a play for your teammate, and we did a better job of that today.”
“The team’s camaraderie already impressed me from Day 1 to see the level of improvement in that area the past three days has been pretty astounding to me,” said Lopez. “On court, offensively with the basketball stuff, we’ll obviously work hard but I think that stuff is going to take care of itself with us having the intelligent, talented guys that we have. It’s also important for us to come together off the court, as well.”
The USA Basketball Blue vs. White intrasquad exhibition game starts at 7 p.m. Pacific and runs on NBA TV live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The exhibition will also be streamed live on Twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/nba.
The 15-member USA Blue Team will feature USA National Team World Cup training camp members Bam Adebayo; Barnes; Brown; Kuzma; Lopez; ; Mitchell; Mason Plumlee; Tatum; Tucker; Turner; Kemba Walker; and Thaddeus Young . Additionally, USA Select Team members Fox and Harris will suit up Friday for the Blue Team.
The 11-member USA White Team includes Select Team players Allen; Marvin Bagley III; Mikal Bridges; Brunson; Collins; Connaughton; Craig; Jonathan Isaac; Jaren Jackson Jr.; Mitchell Robinson; and White.
Harris expects more of the same with tomorrow’s exhibition game compared with how practice has transpired this past week.
“A lot of the same with what we’re been doing these past couple days. Just because it’s a game, doesn’t mean a lot of this stuff is going to change for us. We’re still trying to get used to playing with one another. It’s just going to be getting in the arena in front of more fans, but a lot of this stuff is going to stay the same.”
Sam Yip is a freelance contributor to on behalf of .