I’ve never really understood watching scrimmages. I mean, I do it a lot. I’ll watch basketball pretty much at any level. But the players are just so removed from the effort level we find most enjoyable to watch. That level, if you’re wondering, is a Game 7 in the playoffs in the semifinals or higher.
A scrimmage is, by its very definition, practice. It’s simply a final practice round in a game simulation. It’s one thing when it’s a team that is competing for spots on a roster, fighting, dying, working hard every play. It’s a very different thing when it’s an international team scrimmage in a non-Olympic year.
The Team USA scrimmage Saturday night showed us a handful of things that are relevant. Some we knew, some we didn’t.
- Team USA is small. Jeff Green played significant minutes and while he’s unlikely to make the roster, no bigs outside of Tyson Chandler made an impact. Unless JaVale McGee makes a huge jump and makes the roster. But considering his inexperience and resume, that’s hard to argue for. Brook Lopez’s game is dependent on post-scoring, but in the trapezoid, in a guard-heavy set, it’s hard to find that spacing. Team USA is going to have a hard time against the bigger international teams.
- Kevin Durant is great. You know what we needed to see from Durant as we look to him to take the reins of our country’s team in international competition? It’s not dominance. This is a scrimmage. It’s the “man among boys” effect. We needed him to look like he was simply better than the rest in every way, that he didn’t even need to try. Andre Iguodala looked like if he efforted, he could be on the floor with this team. Kevin Durant looked like he could go at 50% and still dominate.
- The guard competition is fierce. O.J. Mayo looked terrific, but his defensive liabilities may keep him off-squad. Chauncey Billups looked marginal, but will probably make the roster based on experience. Derrick Rose looked terrific, somehow faster than he was previously. Rajon Rondo looked sloppy and disinterested. And all of them are worthy of inclusion on the team, along with Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
- Rudy Gay had one of his best games as a professional, which says a lot about Rudy Gay.
- Lamar Odom managed to get lost in a Team USA scrimmage game. Only Lamar.
Cuts will be made, Curry will likely go for shooting, Mayo will likely stay home for size, and Kevin Love is more respected on Team USA than in Minnesota. Strange things afoot as the team prepares for Turkey.