USA Basketball Camp Notes - Week One

by John Schuhmann

July 25, 2006 -- On Tuesday, USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo and Heach Coach Mike Krzyzewski announced the names of the 15 players who will continue to train for next month's World Championships in Japan. The second session of training camp begins Monday, July 31 back in Las Vegas and will continue to have behind-the-scenes coverage as well as the inside story from the players every day.

Until then, let's take a look back at the first week of camp and what we saw behind closed doors.

Points of Emphasis From the Coaches:

Defense - Some man, some zone and they even broke it down to some fundamental ball-you-man drills that some of us remember from grade school. Communication was key as players called out switches and let their teammates know what was going on behind them.

Transition - When the defense creates a turnover or a missed shot, this team wants to run. They want to take the first good shot available because they believe that, with their athletic bigs, they will be able to get a lot of second chances by taking advantage of a defense in transition.

Dribble penetration - Especially against a zone, they want to use their quickness on the perimeter to get into the seams of the defense to create open looks. There are not many (if any) set plays against the zone. The offense is more about finding space in the zone and taking what the defense gives you.

More time with a trainer could be in store if Arenas keeps throwing his body in front of fast-moving objects.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images
Shooting - Everybody on the floor needs to be ready to shoot at all times and take the open shot when it is presented.

More Observations:

Gilbert Arenas is not afraid to throw his body around. On mulitple occasions, he stepped in front of LeBron James or Dwight Howard on a fast break, which is like jumping in front of a runaway train, in order to take a charge. And he did not sacrifice his offensive game one bit. He was the best shooter in camp (once Michael Redd left to get married).

Arenas was not the only one throwing his body around. As a whole, these guys played hard. Every loose ball was a battle and no buckets or rebounds came easy.

Chris Paul with the ball in three-on-three drills is unstoppable, because when he gets around his defender (and he almost always does), there's less help waiting for him.

Whenever the players are lining up for a free-throw, the defensive team is reminding each other to "Get it off the rim." These guys know the international rules and they have the size and athleticism to take advantage of the rule that you can knock the ball out of the cylinder once it has hit the rim.

One of the highlights of the week came on Saturday when, during a scrimmage, Dwight Howard took a dump-off pass from Antawn Jamison and layed it up for an easy two ... until LeBron James came out of nowhere to knock it off the rim, collect the ball and lead a break going the other way.

Carmelo Anthony was easily one of the best players in camp. His jumper was sharp and he was very aggressive in taking the ball to the hole.

Injury report: Kirk Hinrich sat out of Saturday's practice with an injured hamstring. He was back in action on Sunday, but sat out the scrimmage on Monday. Shawn Marion sat out both Sunday and Monday with a sore knee and will not be traveling with the team. Amare Stoudemire looked pretty good and never stopped moving, shooting on the side when he wasn't participating in the scrimmage on the main floor.

Sitting this one out: Michael Redd left after the third day of camp to get married. Chauncey Billups did not participate much during the last two days, as he will be staying home to take care of his new baby.

Projected Starters:

Based on our observations, several guys on this squad derserve to start (and we may see multiple lineups over the course of the summer), but there can only be five on the floor to start that first game. Here's who we think that could be:

Point Guard: When you have a group of guys that are not used to playing with each other, you need a true point to run the show and Chris Paul has been the class of the true point guards in camp. Gilbert Arenas is certainly deserving of a starting spot as well.

Shooting Guard: The man who just may be the best player in the world right now: Dwyane Wade.

Small Forward: LeBron James will be a mismatch everytime he steps on the floor during international competition.

Power Forward: In order to get another shooter on the floor, we think Coach K will go with Carmelo Anthony here, but Elton Brand is definitely a possibility.

Center: Dwight Howard is a beast. He even looks huge standing next to Amare Stoudemire. He threw down two vicious dunks in the span of a minute during Monday's controlled scrimmage and every player we spoke to thought that he's in store for a coming out party very soon. Brand could get the start here as well if Coach K wants to go with a little more experience.