Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Update from Day 2 of Team USA training camp
By Chris Sheridan
Two small news items from Team's USA practice today in New York:
Danny Granger was held out of practice and underwent an MRI at the behest of the Indiana Pacers after x-rays came back negative on the right ring finger he injured at practice Tuesday.
Rajon Rondo was absent following the death of an uncle in Kentucky. He was expected to rejoin the team, which will not practice Thursday, in time for a promotional appearance for Nike on Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall.
Reporters were allowed to watch the final 20 minutes of practice, and we can tell you from that small sampling that Stephen Curry looked a whole lot better than Eric Gordon, who he is presumed to be battling with for a spot on the final 12-man roster. Gordon briefly ran the point and had his pocket picked by UConn point guard Kemba Walker, leading to a breakaway, and he nearly botched a simple pick-and-pop pass to Kevin Durant on the following possession. Curry, meanwhile, stroked one 3-pointer and had a terrific 60-foot underhanded hook pass to Andre Iguodala ahead of the field for a breakaway dunk. (As long as we are singling out Walker, a member of the U.S. Select Team that is practicing against Team USA, we should also mention that Florida State forward Chris Singleton displayed a nice shooting stroke from NBA 3-point range.)
After practice, I spent some time chatting with JaVale McGee, who was cut from the team after mini-camp in Las Vegas but then was invited back when Brook Lopez withdrew. McGee had an interesting story to tell about rifling through the dresser drawers at his grandmother's house when he was a young boy and coming upon the Olympic gold medal was won by his mother, Pam McGee, for the 1984 U.S. Olympic women's team. McGee's aunt, Paula -- the twin sister of Pam -- was cut from the '84 team, and McGee's younger sister, Imani Stafford, 16, won a gold medal earlier this summer for the United States at the under-17 girls World Championship in France."He's trying to do what he can do," coach Mike Krzyzewski said, "and if we don't make the final roster decision here, which I don't think we will, I hope he continues on with us because he'll keep getting better. At that spot, Tyson (Chandler) is really playing well, and you know what Lamar (Odom) will do when he gets into game shape. But if something goes wacky, to have another big guy is not a bad thing. That's where he fits in. He's in the discussion. And when we started camp in Vegas he wasn't even invited. So he's made that much of an impression."
USA Basketball has canceled plans to bring the team to Springfield, Mass. on Friday night for ceremonies at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, where the 1992 Dream Team and the 1960 Olympic team will be inducted. (I interviewed Oscar Robertson and Charles Barkley last week and elicited some colorful recollections from both of them, which you can read tomorrow on the main NBA page.) Team director Jerry Colangelo's explanation: "With all the disruptions here and distractions, if we had gone to Springfield after practice Friday, getting back in the wee hours -- that would have killed Saturday. And we need a good practice Saturday (when the team will scrimmage against China). It would have been great to have the players there, expose them to it and all that. But with all of the stuff going on, it's more important to be ready to practice Saturday. We have a lot of work to do. This is a new group. It takes time, and we can't afford that."
Kevin Love tried to do a little backtracking after telling NBA.com that he felt more appreciated by Team USA than he does with the Minnesota Timberwolves. "I was a little shocked last year to be coming of the bench, but this year is a new year, obviously Al Jefferson is out of there and that will open some minutes for me. (Nikola) Pekovic is there, and Michael Beasley will play some 3 and 4, so hopefully I'll have an opportunity to play more than the 28 minutes I played last year. I'm hoping to play 30-plus and get an opportunity to win a starting job."
The man sporting the most savage tan at camp is assistant coach Jay Triano of the Toronto Raptors, who spent the first nine days of this month in Senegal as part of the NBA's Basketball Without Borders program. He described it as a life-changing event in a country with only one indoor basketball court, said it was haunting to visit the ports on Goree Island where slaves were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, but inspiring to be a part of the outreach efforts. "We went into villages and distributed mosquito nets to hang in some of the homes, because one child in Africa dies every 30 seconds because of malaria. These nets have poison on them that kills the mosquitoes, but they're not educated on it and they don't use them. But we distributed 20-some thousand of them and hung some in homes."
Also, Chris Bosh dropped by for about 30 minutes and spent five minutes chatting with Krzyzewski before departing, but he was not quite so talkative on the elevator at John Jay College when he arrived -- even failing to laugh when it was pointed out, jokingly, that he has quickly become one of the most hated players in both Canada and in every city in the United States except Miami. "I haven't laughed at some of your jokes, either. So that doesn't make him a bad guy. Actually that might make him an authority on which jokes are funny," Krzyzewski said, seizing the opportunity to turn the tables on this particular ESPN.com reporter, who has been a occasional thorn in his side since he took the Team USA head coaching job back in the fall of 2005. "How many daggers did I just hit you with?"