USA Basketball has assembled more than two dozen players for a Las Vegas minicamp. (Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS -- Last summer, USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski lavished his star Olympians, particularly LeBron James, with praise. This year, Krzyzewski is operating under a self-imposed gag order when it comes to evaluating players at Team USA's 28-player minicamp.
"I'm not going to talk about any individual player, really throughout the whole [camp]," he said Monday, the first of three practice days ahead of an intrasquad scrimmage Thursday night. "It's not my goal to highlight any one guy from this. You can talk to anybody, but I'm not going to do that."
This would seem to be mostly an issue of timing. As no roster decisions need to be made until next summer, more harm than good can be done by positive or negative assessments from Krzyewski right now. It's sort of a no-win situation: He could raise a player's hopes, deflate someone's confidence or have his appraisals misinterpreted or blown up.
The entire Team USA staff seems to be in information-gathering mode, and there's no real sense in offering initial conclusions when the experiment is just getting started.
"This is just another look-see," chairman Jerry Colangelo said. "We have the next NBA season to continue to watch before we make any determinations about who is going to be asked to come back."
Although Krzyzewski wouldn't tip his hand about particular standouts -- minicamp participants include Kyrie Irving, Paul George, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday and John Wall -- he and Colangelo were both happy to discuss the bigger-picture philosophy that will govern the 2014 FIBA World Cup roster. A significant part of that picture: incumbent Team USA players who are not in attendance this summer.
"There are people who have served, to put it in a military context, who are in a different place because we know them," Krzyzewski said. "There are veterans who you wouldn't necessarily invite here. There may be one [or] five. ... We're hoping a number of guys that have played will continue."
That list of younger players might include Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Toronto’s Rudy Gay, Houston’s James Harden, Minnesota’s Kevin Love and Chicago’s Derrick Rose.
Rose, the 2011 MVP, is a wild card after he missed the entire 2012-13 season following knee surgery. He won a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship, and Colangelo confirmed that Rose would be in the mix for future USA rosters.
"It's really up to him," Colangelo said. "We're waiting for him to come back physically and emotionally and see how he does this year. There are a few others. Steph Curry, he's not here, but we very much consider him a candidate. Maybe [Warriors forward] David Lee. There are a few others who aren't here that would be considerations."
In building its national team, USA Basketball will continue to value players' versatility and ability to play multiple positions. It will also look to round out the roster with players who fill niches.
"It will not be the 12 best players," Colangelo said. "It's going to be what we think will make up the best team. If you look at the 2008 team in Beijing and the team that won in London, [the final three spots] were role players, guys who had a specific role to come off the bench and make a specific contribution."
The four least-used players in London were big men Tyson Chandler
and Davis and guards Harden and Andre Iguodala