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Monday, August 11, 2014
Korver in unlikely position with Team USA

By Nick Friedell

Doug McDermott speaks with pride while discussing the ascension of Kyle Korver's career in recent years.

The 33-year-old Korver, who is on his fourth NBA team in 11 seasons, is coming off the best season of his career and is in the mix to make the Team USA roster for the FIBA World Cup later this month in Spain.

Kyle Korver
At 33, Kyle Korver is the oldest player on the Team USA roster.
And to think Korver, who is the oldest player in Team USA's camp, almost walked away from the game a few years ago.

"It's so cool," said McDermott, a Chicago Bulls rookie and fellow Creighton alumnus. "I think it just shows how much work he's put in. Three or four years ago he was thinking about shutting it down. He kind of changed his body, changed the way he works, and here he is so it's really cool to see."

Korver, who set an NBA record last season by hitting a 3-pointer for a 127th straight game, appears to be enjoying his time on Team USA more than anyone. The Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter has put a lot of work into his game in recent years and he is at the point in his career when he can appreciate it more than ever.

"It's kind of cool that [this opportunity] kind of comes more towards the end," said Korver, who shot an NBA-best .472 from 3-point range last season. "This is my 12th year coming up and I've never really been a part of stuff like this so it's kind of special to me. I take it serious. I'm trying to do this thing. Not that I see this as the end; I'm going to keep trying to grow and get better, but it's kind of a cool thing that it happens more towards the end than at the beginning. I'm not like the young guy here who they see down the road they're going to throw him in the mix."

No, he's not. But he is the guy Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski likely will count on to space the floor and knock down shots. Krzyzewski reiterated last week that Korver has a solid chance to make the final 12-man team and would be a great veteran presence for the rest of the younger players. Korver's presence on Team USA would also make one of Krzyzewski's assistants -- Korver's former coach with the Bulls, Tom Thibodeau -- very happy.

Thibodeau fell into an old rhythm during Team USA's training camp two weeks ago in Las Vegas, barking at Korver on different defensive sets, a familiar routine that both got a chuckle from as the week progressed.

"It's great," Thibodeau said of being able to coach Korver again. "Still doing the same things. I got to yell at him. It just brings out the best in me."

Thibodeau always knew that he could yell at Korver because the veteran could handle it. Not every player can, which is why Thibodeau appreciates the chance to see Korver again.

"You can't ask for a better guy," Thibodeau said. "I'm really happy for him. Just the way he's worked himself into being here. He's had a great career. He's the ultimate teammate. He really is. He's a great pro. He can fit into any situation and make the team better, and he's a great guy."

Korver, who averaged 12 points in 33.9 minutes per game with the Hawks last season, credits Thibodeau with making him into a more well-rounded player and lifting his game to a new level. He's excited about Thibodeau doing the same for McDermott, who was picked 11th overall by the Denver Nuggets before being traded to the Bulls on draft night.

"Like early on in my career I wish I would have had someone like Thibs to show me how to play really good team defense," Korver said. "That would have helped me a ton in my career. I feel like a lot of the success I've had the last couple years is because of what I learned in Chicago. I felt like there's a lot of things that came together for me the last couple years, but being there with Thibs and learning how to play defense and being in an awesome, championship-caliber culture was really big for me. So Doug's going to get that right now. Right at the very beginning [of his career]. And it's only going to do great things for his career."

McDermott aspires to have the type of successful career Korver, who was a second-round draft pick of the New Jersey Nets in 2003, has had. McDermott, the reigning national college player of the year, looks up to Korver and speaks of him like an older brother.

"He's such a good role model for a guy like me," McDermott said. "Especially since he's already been in Chicago. It's a great guy to look up to because he's a great pro. He went to the same school as me. We have a lot of the same interests. So it's great having a guy like that."

McDermott isn't the only one who feels strongly about the example Korver has set over time. His teammates and coaches in Chicago always respected the way he worked and the time he put into getting better, all of which has culminated in a chance to make Team USA.

As Korver makes his way back to Chicago for the next phase of Team USA's training camp this week, he continues to live by a basketball mantra that has served him well over time.

"I've always felt like the better the players are around me the harder it is to guard me and the better I am," Korver said. "These are really good players so I feel like there's a great opportunity if they choose to go this way. I don't consider myself an elite superstar player by any means. I've always tried to be an elite teammate, though. Like a really, really good teammate. If you're going to build a team, you'd want me to be on it.

"That's like my goal, that's like my biggest goal. Just to be invited to this when they're trying to put together the best possible team in the NBA, I feel like I take it seriously because that's what I work for. I don't know what direction they're going to go, but I'm going to go out here and try to knock down my shots and work hard and it's fun."