LAS VEGAS — There has been a lot of talk around Team USA about who is not at training camp. No Kevin Love. No Blake Griffin. No LaMarcus Aldridge. There’s a lack of traditional big men.
However that’s how the USA has won gold the past four years. At the London Olympics two years ago LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were the primary power forwards. The USA has the athletes and tries to use that to their advantage — crank up the pressure defense, force turnovers and create fast break opportunities.
The level of athleticism gathered together in Las Vegas to open Team USA training camp can’t be questioned. This is a good team — Kevin Durant thinks a very good team.
“Our team is better than that 2010 team I think…” said Durant, referring to the team that won the World Championships four years ago in Turkey (FIBA has since changed the name of the event to the World Cup). But why is this group better?
“Just different guys,” Durant said. “I’m four years better. Steph (Curry) is four years better than he was on that team, we got Kyrie Irving, we got Klay Thompson, we got better players I think. It’s just a different team.
“But that 2010 team was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I think we have a team that’s even better.”
Durant, Curry and Derrick Rose would be the only holdovers from the 2010 team (that team relied a lot on Lamar Odom as a point-forward), but Durant says that’s okay because that core group is improved.
“That four years experience is a lot,” Durant said. “I’ve been in different situations as a player these last four years. Once you see stuff you learn. You learn from your mistakes, you can tell someone else and help them learn.”
Durant is being asked to play a stretch four for Team USA this summer, something he admitted has been an adjustment the first couple days because it puts him in different spots on the floor than he’s used to.
“That’s all I’ve been playing here and it’s difficult, I’m used to playing the three and spacing a lot,” Durant said. “Now I’m setting screens and rolling, kind of initiating my offense from the top and swinging the ball. Just trying to be a guy who can space the floor, shoot it when I get it also be a decoy as well —we got so many good players and you gotta guard everybody.”
And that’s the key to the USA — all 12 guys on this roster still will be elite NBA players. No other nation can roll out that kind of depth and athleticism, that depth of shooters. If the team buys into the system and is selfless, they would be almost impossible to beat.
And maybe they would be better than the 2010 team. But they have a lot way to go to prove it, it’s still a long road to gold.