Sports / Basketball

Unity key to US hoop hopes

By Associated Press In Las Vegas (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-20 07:50

Coach Mike Krzyzewski got his first glimpse at the new-look US national team when camp opened in Las Vegas on Monday, with just two players back from the squad that won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Carmelo Anthony returns for his fourth run at the Olympics, after winning a bronze medal in 2004 and gold in 2008 and 2012, while Kevin Durant is looking for a second gold medal after playing on the London championship team.

Though there are 10 new faces on Team USA, several were a part of the 2014 FIBA world championship team and know what is expected of them.

Making things easier, as it was for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 12-man roster has been set since June, giving Krzyzewski and his staff ample time to devise rotations and focus on the players they knew were coming.

"The angst you go through in that week of determining from 16 to 12 ... that's what takes away from your preparation," Krzyzewski said.

"We have had none of that. That's a huge advantage for these 12 guys who have been completely focused on being on this team. It's really a good advantage."

Krzyzewski said he was pleased with Anthony taking charge the first day, being a vocal leader on what the coach believes could be one of the best defensive teams he's helmed since taking over the national squad in 2005.

He also credited Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins for stepping up as leaders on the opening day of camp.

"It's a new group of guys, so I get a chance to go out there and kind of be a leader and kind of enjoy it," Anthony said. "For me, it's about going over there and having fun, getting that fun feeling back and trying to get a gold medal."

As he's done in years past, Krzyzewski met with the team and staff privately on Sunday night, showing players video clips and delivering a motivational speech about what it means to represent the United States.

With the recent unrest involving civilians and police officers, the message came across even stronger.

"Whenever you get a chance to sit in that meeting and see and understand what we're doing is bigger than us, as basketball players, it gives you chills and puts everything in perspective," said DeMar DeRozan.

"It makes your job easier to go out there and do what you love to do and represent your country."

And as the national team takes on its new look, ushering in a new era, the 69-year-old Krzyzewski is making his final run with the Olympic team.

He led the US to gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics as well as the 2007 FIBA Americas Tournament and the 2010 and 2014 world championships.

Nonetheless, Krzyzewski said the most important thing is to avoid focusing on the milestones he, Anthony and Durant are headed toward and instead aim to maintain a united front with the entire squad.

"All of us need to be in this moment, not in 'this is my last time' or 'it's the third gold medal for Carmelo,'" said Krzyzewski, who has led the Americans to a near-perfect 52-1 since 2005.

"It's 'this team,' and that's what we're trying to do, just be in this moment with this team.

"That's one of the biggest mistakes any competitor can make, to be just in their moment. They're not going to play because it's my last time being the Olympic coach, so I have to coach them like it's my first time.

"We just want to play as well as we can and be worthy of winning the gold, so they'll be worthy of continuing to win the respect of our country and the world."

 Unity key to US hoop hopes

Golden State Warriors teammates Draymond Green (left) and Kevin Durant watch shooting drills during Monday's Team USA practice in Las Vegas. Benjamin Hager / Las Vegas Reviewjournal VIA AP

(China Daily 07/20/2016 page22)

Most Popular
What's Hot