US basketball team bonding in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS (AP) Brotherhood, chemistry and camaraderie. Those three words have been used repeatedly during the U.S. basketball team's first four days of practice.
It's those things that will help bring together the final 12-man roster for the squad that will compete in the FIBA World Championships in Spain.
''A lot of guys make it to the NBA and that's a fraternity,'' Golden State guard Stephen Curry said after practice Thursday at UNLV's Mendenhall Center. ''But this is a selective fraternity - guys that have been able to wear a USA jersey and play competitive international basketball.
''Brotherhood is a good term.''
Curry, who won a gold medal with the team that went 9-0 in the 2010 World Championships, will likely have his passport stamped, along with fellow returners Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. Add in James Harden and Anthony Davis, who both joined the team that won the 2012 Olympics, and coach Mike Krzyzewski has the core he needs to build around.
Krzyzewski has said all week that this year's team is not about choosing from a group of individual NBA All-Stars, but rather finding the right personalities that will blend and complement the core he's had intermittently the past four years.
''We may even have in our minds who the 12 guys are, every day you evaluate,'' Krzyzewski said. ''But it'd be crazy to make a decision like that right now.''
Krzyzewski said his first priority is filling the big-man void created by the recent withdrawals of Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge.
''We have to have more than Anthony Davis,'' Krzyzewski said. ''All the big guys have shown good stuff here. A lot of the big guys mesh in with the scoring talent on the team. Obviously, you have Harden and Curry, Rose and Irving ... Durant, (Paul) George. How do the big guys mesh in with that? And what style are you going to end up playing has a big factor.''
DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Kenneth Faried are competing to join Davis. They'll have their chance to display their talent Friday night in the Blue-White Showcase at the Thomas and Mack Center.
''We have a lot of great high-character guys here who have great chemistry with each other, just from being in the NBA,'' Davis said. ''I think a lot of guys get along here and they're willing to pass the ball. That goes along with having that chemistry.''
Durant, who USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo called the face of the national team last summer, said he doesn't envy Krzyzewski. Durant, Harden and George have spent roughly 20 minutes after practice the past two days going through 1-on-1 drills, while delighting onlookers in the facility.
But the 2014 league MVP said it has been the time spent away from the court that has been invaluable.
''Getting to know each other's tendencies on the court, talking on the bus, in the breakfast room and the meetings - we're building that camaraderie, and that's what you need,'' Durant said. ''We've got all the talent in the world, it's the mental end we need to take care of as far as having chemistry, teamwork, sacrifice and I think we're getting it.''
George said the sense of brotherhood among the camp invitees was established before they even hit the floor, when they all met for a meeting Sunday night at team's host hotel, the Wynn. Krzyzewski and Colangelo delivered a speech and showed them a video of previous teams celebrating after gold-medal victories. The Indiana forward said he came away from the meeting understanding the importance of representing the United States and coming together as one unit.
''You're not only representing yourself, you're not only representing the U.S., you're representing one another,'' George said. ''Us being ambassadors of the NBA and the U.S., we have to carry that well. We rely on one another and we hold one another accountable for all of our actions.
''It's all about pulling for one another. At the end of the day, we're all we really have, going over to Spain and playing for a Gold medal. So we got to make sure that everybody feels confident and comfortable, knowing that we got each other's backs.''
Said Harden: ''The individualism goes out the window. It's about team effort, it's about one goal - and that's winning a world championship.''