Posted Jul 18 2010 10:09AM
The Redeem Team brought Olympic gold back to the United States in 2008. But with a chance for Team USA to win the FIBA World Championship for the first time since 1994, every member of that squad is taking this summer off. So USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and Men's Senior National Team head coach Mike Krzyzewski have a new challenge, to win the World Championship for the first time in 16 years with an entirely new group of players.
The journey begins Monday, when 21 players convene in Las Vegas for the start of training camp. Over the next six weeks, Colangelo, Krzyzewski and the rest of their staff will be working to choose a roster, formulate a game plan, and get 12 guys prepared for what should be a pressure-filled 16 days in Istanbul.
Before it all gets started, NBA.com spoke with Colangelo about his latest challenge with Team USA.
NBA.com: Without any returnees from 2008 and with a whole new group of players, where is your confidence level in respect to the World Championship?
|2010 Team USA Roster|
Jerry Colangelo: We're excited about a new group. We've got some veterans, but we have a number of young, aggressive, hungry guys who are excited about the opportunity. So on one hand, that may sound more challenging, but there's also an excitement about doing it again with this other group.
NBA.com: Two years ago, the team's identity was a very aggressive defensive team that flourished in transition. Can you have that same identity with this new group or will there need to be a new game plan?
Colangelo: I think it may be a different look, but exactly what that is remains to be seen. That's what will come out of the camp session, not only in Las Vegas, but also in New York. The entire period of time leading up to the World Championship, including playing exhibition games in Spain and Greece, will not only determine who's on the roster, but will also have a great deal to due with how we end up playing. We do believe it will be a different look, but that remains to be determined.
NBA.com: Can Kevin Durant be a leader with this group?
Colangelo: He's one of the outstanding players in the game today, without question. I've been saying that he's the whole package and I believe he is. Some people lead verbally, some people lead by just a presence, others by performance. And he's evolving. He's still developing as a young man. He's 21 years old.
Chauncey Billups gives you veteran backcourt leadership for certain. When you look at some of the headliners, with Amar'e [Stoudemire], Lamar Odom, Chauncey and Durant to begin with, and then you add someone like Rondo, who had an outstanding year and playoff performances, that's just giving you a few names. We're going to see it unfold very shortly, and that anticipation and excitement is what gets our juices going too.
NBA.com: Still, most of these guys haven't been played internationally on the senior level. Billups, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler were on the team for the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament, but the only players with senior-level experience against the whole world are Stoudemire and Odom, who played on the 2004 Olympic team that won bronze in Athens. Is that a concern?
Colangelo: There are always unknowns when you have an inexperienced group of guys, first of all, playing together under different circumstances. But I don't think it's anything that can't be overcome. Many of them have international experience on different levels.
|2010 USA Schedule|
NBA.com: Carmelo Anthony was basically the starting power forward for you from 2006-2008 and another NBA small forward, LeBron James, played some four as well. Do you think Durant can play some four for you?
Colangelo: He can play two, three or four. But again, how that's going to play out in terms of combinations remains to be seen. Those are the things we have to determine during these two camp sessions. We'll have a lot of flexibility. As an example, Chauncey can play the two as well as the one. You have certain players who can play certain positions, so you may see different combinations.
NBA.com: You brought up Billups and his experience. Obviously, that's going to be critical. But beyond him, you have a lot of young and talented point guards. What will separate them in your mind? What are you looking for from them?
Colangelo: We want them to be themselves. We want them to obviously play to the level they're capable of playing. We're looking for the best group to complement one another. It's true that there are a number of outstanding point guards. And how it plays out, that's what life is all about, the competition.
NBA.com: Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry. It will be great to watch those guys compete for roster spots.
Colangelo: The one thing I would add to that is we don't have any specific game plan to cut to 12 necessarily at the end of the Las Vegas camp. Our plan right now, tentatively, is to have 15 or 16 players with us in New York. And it could be more than 12 when we leave. We don't have to cut down to our 12-man roster until 48 hours before our first game in Turkey.
So we're anticipating we may have some issues with decisions. That's a high-class problem though.
NBA.com: Even with the point guards, I assume that shooting is critical, because you need as many shooters on the floor as you can have.
Colangelo: I think that's an important point. You can never have too many shooters. It's a real premium in terms of international play. So those who can shoot the ball have a real opportunity to make an impression and earn a spot. It goes beyond just shooting the ball, but that's a quality that we certainly need to have plenty of.
NBA.com: Do you feel like the five days in Las Vegas and the week in New York is enough time to prepare?
Colangelo: The difference this time around is we're looking at the entire period, up until we play our first game in Turkey, as our training camp. Even after we leave New York, the games and the practices are all going to be part of preparation for us.
NBA.com: What else is different from 2006, as far as your approach?
Colangelo: Four years ago, we were just building infrastructure and starting from scratch. Four years later, we have a lot under our belt and the infrastructure's in place. The names and faces may change, but the infrastructure, which is so critical, is in place. So when we get to Las Vegas, it's not like a new experience. And for many of these players, who have been there with our Select teams to scrimmage against the former group, they've experienced that already. The structure, the people, the coaching staff, management, it's all in place. So we're way ahead of the game.
NBA.com: What kinds of things have you tweaked along the way?
Colangelo: A lot of things. You continually do that. You always want to do things better. I don't think we'll ever get to a point where we say we have it nailed down. And that includes all the junior teams. We're the defending gold medalists in 16, 17, 18 and 19 year old and unders. So the pipeline is pretty solid right now. And we're excited about the group we have with us this summer. There's reason for a lot of optimism. It's a different set of circumstances now than it was four years ago, when we were starting from scratch.
NBA.com: Are you happy with the number of guys you have in camp, or would you have wanted a couple more than 21?
Colangelo: We're fine with it. It's going to be very difficult at some point in time, because we can only go with 12. We're just excited and ready to go.
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