Making Their Case

Monroe, Drummond left strong impression on Team USA officials, Pistons feel

As established NBA stars with open invitations to return to Team USA for next summer’s World Cup sign on, it might leave no more than a handful of open berths for the 28 players who gathered last week in Las Vegas hoping to catch the eye of USA Basketball officials.

It behooved all of them to make the most of their opportunities to impress. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond did just that, Pistons assistant general manager George David said.

“I thought both guys were able to show the USA Basketball staff the reason they were invited,” David said. “Greg was able to show, as a post player, his great feel for the game – for passing, for making the right play. He showed his ability to post up and create scoring opportunities for himself.

“I thought Andre did so, as well. He had a great presence on the floor and was able to show what he could add through his ability to play above the rim. What I was hoping for was each guy to be able to demonstrate what they do best and basically show why they got the invitations. I came away with tremendous pride for what both of them were able to do in the week, not only in the game, but in the week. I told both of them they should feel good about themselves for what they showed.”

Through practices and the scrimmage that wrapped up the four-day minicamp, coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff tailored lineups that trended small, with many NBA small forwards spending time at power forward and several groupings that featured two point guards. That made minutes hard to come by for the big men. Only Anthony Davis (27) and DeAndre Jordan (23) played more than the 18 minutes Monroe received. Drummond played 13 minutes, while Kenneth Faried and DeMarcus Cousins logged 16 minutes, Tyler Zeller 14 and Ryan Anderson, auditioning for a role as a stretch four, played 13.

Both Pistons made the most of their time. Monroe scored 10 points to go with six rebounds, two assists and a steal. He made a handful of eye-catching defensive plays, especially early in the game to stake his team to a lead, then did all of his scoring after halftime. Drummond finished with 11 points, six rebounds and a blocked shot.

David and Joe Dumars watched the week unfold on a few levels, on the one hand rooting for Monroe and Drummond to put their best foot forward to enhance their chances to be selected for Team USA – either in next summer’s World Cup or beyond, including the 2016 Olympics – and on the other envisioning how the experience would bring them back to the Pistons as improved players.

“From a selfish standpoint – from strictly the Detroit Pistons standpoint – one of the things I thought was great was Greg having to spend the week playing against some of the top power forwards and having to face multiple types,” David said. “The game was a culmination for him of getting a chance to play against those guys all week.

“He had an outstanding first quarter defensively with what he was able to do against some of those fours. He impacted the first eight or nine plays of the game defensively, in one way or another. We couldn’t have picked a better scenario for Greg over the week than to play against some of those power forwards for USA Basketball.”

Monroe and Drummond also got to play together extensively in practice, furthering their familiarity with each other as they prepare to start the 2013-14 season as Pistons starters.

While Monroe’s appeal to USA Basketball is his offensive versatility, particularly the possibilities his passing and feel for the game open for the gifted scorers Team USA can put around him, Drummond likely was auditioning for the role Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler have played on recent national teams: defensive dominator. He and Jordan, another who fits that mold, were on the same team with Jordan starting and putting up 10 points and nine rebounds in his 23 minutes.

“I thought Andre got even more and more comfortable as the game developed,” David said. “When you saw him go back in the game in the second half, he took off and made some great strides. I thought he impacted plays, altered shots, rebounded the ball. I thought he did a little bit of everything well. More than anything else, his presence, his size around the basket, stood out.”

While a handful of other national teams are gold medal threats in any international competition, no country can compare to the United States for depth of talent. That makes the competition for a Team USA berth keener and allows the decision-makers to consider fit and chemistry as well as pure talent. David said Monroe and Drummond impressed away from the court as much as on it.

“I talked to a number of people with USA Basketball’s staff who said they were tremendously impressed as people and how they conducted themselves,” he said. “For how Greg and Andre were around the staff and the players, they were tremendously happy.”