USA Basketball National Team Blue-White Game Preview: Nuggets players hope to leave impression

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

After a grueling week of training camp for the FIBA World Cup, USA Basketball’s first test comes against the USA Select Team at the T-Mobile Arena on Friday night. Mason Plumlee (USA) and Torrey Craig (Select) are on both sides of the contest and will be looking to leave a lasting impression in the exhibition game. 

The World Cup in China is just three weeks out, USA Basketball head coach Gregg Popovich will be looking to see how a relatively new group of Stars and Stripes players handle national team duty.

"It’s our responsibility to not only become the best team we can be but it’s the way we conduct ourselves and the USA on our shirt is what it’s all about," Popovich said Monday. "It’s beyond the Hawks and the Spurs and the Clippers and so on. That takes a backseat to this because we are representing a lot of people and we have a huge responsibility not only for the country, to do this in a classy manner, but to continue the success that USA Basketball has had for the last 12 years. That’s a big responsibility."

Scrimmages throughout the week have been extremely competitive with Jeff Van Gundy’s Select Team stealing a few games off the main squad. With 16 players fighting for 12 spots, a letdown on Friday could seal the fate for a few players on the team.

Here is what to watch for on Friday: 

Can Plumlee’s national team experience be an asset?

Five years ago, Plumlee took advantage of a strong showing on the Select Team to earn a spot on the USA Men’s Basketball Team – the 2014 World Cup winners. That experience could prove invaluable for Popovich in his turn as USA head coach. 

"It was different invite in 2014," Plumlee reflected to Tuesday. "The first time I was on the Select Team and I played well in the scrimmage, so they called me up. This time I'm with the older group...You have a chance to make the team and figure out how to contribute and make other guys play well -- find a role on the team." 

READ MORE: Popovich: Plumlee is the "ultimate teammate"

The transition from league basketball to international basketball isn’t always an easy one and having a player like Plumlee could help the staff with a relatively young USA team. 

The Torrey show

Craig isn’t a household name outside of Denver, but he has an opportunity to introduce his stellar defensive play to a national audience on Friday night. 

Craig has been quietly impressing coaches and players on both the USA Men’s Basketball team and the Select squad with his rugged play and vocal leadership. Brooklyn Nets’ forward Joe Harris called him a “Bulldog” and Van Gundy said the Select Team is “blessed” to have him on the team. 

READ MORE: Craig draws rave reviews at USA Basketball training camp

Friday’s game gives Craig an opportunity to impress fans and give Popovich a potential option for future international tournaments. 


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