A look at the USA Basketball Showcase
LAS VEGAS – The Men’s National Team capped what managing director Jerry Colangelo called a terrific week with its USA Showcase that was high in turnovers (34 combined) and long-range shooting (a combined 24-for-51 from three-point range).
Kevin Durant earned Player of the Game honors for his 28-point performance on 10-for-17 shooting to lead the White team to a 114-96 win over the Blue squad, which featured Russell Westbrook (14 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals) and Jeff Green (11 points, eight rebounds).
And now comes the hard part for the USA Basketball committee.
Colangelo said the roster will be trimmed to 15 players by Monday with players being notified no later than then, and he also said there’s a good possibility they will take all 15 to Europe, where they’ll play exhibition games against Lithuania, Spain and Greece before the World Championship begins on Aug. 28.
What we learned from Saturday’s exhibition is that Team USA will have no shortage of athleticism, shooting or guard play.
“We said we’re going to be athletic and guard-oriented and that gives the coaching staff opportunities to get a lot of things done,” Colangelo said. “We’re unconventional, which is the best way to describe it.”
Eleven different players connected from behind the arc with Eric Gordon netting four treys and Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo each hitting three.
Asked how much zone defense Team USA could expect come Turkey, coach Mike Krzyzewski said he anticipates to see teams pack it in more and play man defense with zone principles.
“And that’s what our NBA players, who are learning to be international players, have got to learn, is that that help side comes over and it stays there,” Krzyzewski said. “I liked the way we tried to distribute the ball, though. We have a couple of things against a zone that we’ll be good. I think we’ll expect more of a pack-it-in man to man against us. We can really change ends well and that’s got to be one of our strengths before they ever set up their defense.”
Krzyzewski thought this team came together more than he expected this week, especially with roster cuts looming.
Said Durant: “Once we started to learn the defensive concepts and offensive schemes, we got that down and guys started to get comfortable each day. I think we’re all looking forward to going to New York and I think these next couple of weeks we’re all going to stay in contact and try to build that chemistry every day.”
HOW THE THUNDER FARED
Here’s a look at how the Thunder trio performed on Saturday:
Statistics: 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting, five rebounds, two assists
Highlights: Durant wowed the crowd with an array of dunks, long-range shots (2-for-3 three-pointers) and playmaking. He even initiated the offense on several possessions. The committee said Durant was a lock to make the team long before camp began, but he still gave max effort in the scrimmage. Team USA utilized him in some of the same ways the Thunder does, particularly in running him off high screens for midrange jump shots. His two assists were real gems and both were to Tyson Chandler. The first saw Durant thread a bounce pass to Chandler in the post and the other was a quick alley-oop lob.
Statistics: 14 points on 4-for-10 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, three steals
Highlights: Westbrook did his thing. He sped things up, he slowed things down. He penetrated and kicked and he got to the free-throw line (6-for-8). Krzyzewski liked how Westbrook has experience playing off the ball and we saw that often on Saturday; he never hesitated in taking his man off the dribble and pulling up for a jump shot. On defense, there was several possessions where Westbrook picked up his man close to full-court, which is something he said the coaching staff emphasized throughout the week in an effort to take time off the shot clock.
Statistics: 11 points on 5-for-13 shooting, eight rebounds, one assist, one blocked shot
Highlights: Green used his versatility to stretch the floor offensively and guard multiple positions defensively. Whenever Durant was in the game, Green drew him as a defensive assignment. Green also spent time guarding Chandler down low. While Green’s jumper wasn’t on, he was relentless in attacking the rim and had several put backs. Green was quick to react on several plays, including one in which he whipped an outlet pass the length of the floor to a streaking Kevin Love and another when he scored off a turnover in the backcourt.
ON THE COURT
For those who are interested, I tracked a few different lineups the coaches put out there tonight. With all the talented point guards in camp, the lineups obviously were very guard heavy.
Blue squad lineups:
-Chauncey Billups, Brook Lopez, Jeff Green, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay (starting lineup)
- Rondo, Gay, O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love
- Westbrook, Green, Billups, Mayo, JaVal McGee
- Westbrook, Green, Gay, Mayo, Love
- Westbrook, Green, Gay, Billups, McGee
-Westbrook, Rondo, Mayo, Love, Lopez
White squad lineups:
-Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Lamar Odom (starting lineup)
- Durant, Odom, Iguodala, Rose, Gordon
-Durant, Curry, Rose, Iguodala, Tyson Chandler
-Durant, Curry, Odom, Iguodala, Granger
-Durant, Rose, Gordon, Odom, Gerald Wallace
A CHANGE OF PACE
Playing with a different basketball is one of several changes Team USA can expect come the World Championship, which is why every player in camp will head home with a FIBA regulation basketball. FIBA basketballs are made of synthetic leather and are a half inch less in circumference from the leather NBA basketballs.
IN THE CROWD
There were several NBA players at the game, including Thunder guard James Harden, who sat adjacent to the Blue squad’s bench. Also in attendance were Utah guard and Olympic champion Deron Williams and Khloe Kardashian, wife of Lakers forward Lamar Odom. First-year Nets coach Avery Johnson sat in the media seating.
Contact Chris Silva