Posted Aug 8 2010 11:48AM
There are no more breaks. After a two-week layoff, the U.S. National Team will reconvene in New York on Monday for the next phase of training for the 2010 FIBA World Championship. And they'll be together for the next five weeks, hoping to fly home from Istanbul on Sept. 13 with a gold medal.
The team will be all over the New York area this week, practicing in three different locations, opening in the World Basketball Festival at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday (6:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV), and playing its first exhibition game against France at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
The team accomplished some things in its first week of training in Las Vegas, but the losses of Amar'e Stoudemire and David Lee caused the staff to change its identity in the first few days. And there's still a lot to be done before the World Championship begins on Aug. 28.
The team will depart for Madrid for the next phase of training on Monday, Aug. 16. Here's what needs to happen before this week in New York before the team's departure.
Develop chemistry by formulating a rotation
When it came to lineups, the week in Las Vegas was about experimentation. And the USA Basketball Challenge was a split-squad scrimmage, with the roster's best players on separate teams. But a core group of eight or nine did emerge from camp.
Now, head coach Mike Krzyzewski must begin to focus in on a rotation and allow that group to spend more time on the floor together, learning each other's tendencies and getting comfortable with their roles. The Senior Team will again scrimmage against a Select Team of college stars, so the staff will have the opportunity to focus on what lineups work best.
|U.S. National Team|
|Roster as of Aug. 8|
By the time the Olympics began two years ago, the U.S. Team's core had logged a lot of minutes on the floor together, with three of the five starters having played together the previous two years and all five having started together at the FIBA Americas tournament in 2007.
This team won't have that kind of experience together, but this week can go a long way in developing the chemistry it'll need to be successful come Aug. 28. The 34 combined turnovers (compared to 36 assists) in 40 minutes of action in the Showcase was evidence that what this group needs most is to get to know each other a little better.
Add more plays
The staff kept things pretty simple offensively in the Las Vegas camp, running just a handful of plays, heavy on on-ball screens. They'll look to add more this week in New York, and may need to put in more of their offense in the next eight days than they originally planned.
Assistant coach Mike D'Antoni, who has been the man in charge of the offense, is dealing with a back issue and will not be traveling with the team to Europe. So he's got just one week left with the players.
The team will look to run as much as possible, but it will also need to find plays that it can count on in half-court situations. It will likely need to add a play or two to get Kevin Durant the ball where he likes it best, as well as actions to free up shooters for when it needs three points.
Get in basketball shape
It was clear in Las Vegas that most of the players hadn't played much basketball since the NBA season ended. So USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo sent the players home with instructions to come to New York with sharper games and in better physical shape.
This team wants to play fast and aggressive, taking advantage of its speed and athleticism. Substitutions will come quickly and often, but at this point in training, the staff can't be wasting time on conditioning.
At some point before Aug. 26, the roster must be cut from 15 to 12. And Colangelo has hinted that the team might leave New York with one or two cuts still to be made. But at this point, not everyone is on equal standing.
"Certain players were told that they're right on the bubble and that New York is really very critical and important to them in terms of making the final roster," Colangelo said when the roster was cut from 19 to 15 after the week in Las Vegas.
We know one of them was Brook Lopez, who decided that he hasn't recovered enough from a bout with mono and withdrew his name from consideration on Wednesday, bringing JaVale McGee back into the mix. But since he was cut in the first place, it's clear that McGee is on the bubble and that carrying just one true center on the roster is a real possibility.
At least one guard (Eric Gordon, Rajon Rondo or Russell Westbrook) and one forward (Danny Granger or Jeff Green) will also be sent home before the World Championship tips off. But guys still have time to earn their way onto the roster.
"There are still a few spots that are open in our minds," Colangelo said, "and therefore there will be some real competition for those last spots."
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