Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard continued to compete at USA Basketball's Las Vegas Minicamp on Tuesday.
The Day One round-up from Monday is right here.
USAB opened up the practice to the media for much longer on Tuesday compared to Monday, and the scrimmages carried on deeper into the afternoon than we anticipated.
Lillard played very well. His performance wasn't flawless but he is answering a number of questions. Was he mentally and physically ready to compete with the NBA's best young point guards? Yes. Would he be as confident on this stage as he was last season? Yes. Is he capable of finding success without the ball in his hands? Yes. Does he look better as a play-maker when surrounded by high-caliber shooters and talented big men? Yes. Is his defense coming along? It would seem so. Does his personality fit in with USA Basketball's general approach? Absolutely.
USA Basketball has made it clear -- over and over and over again during the last two days -- that selections won't be made based off of this camp. That said, if the rest of Lillard's week -- plus the portions of practice that haven't been open -- are going the same way as what we've seen, he should be in the mix for consideration on the 2014 FIBA World Cup team roster. He's certainly not hurting his chances.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski repeatedly said on Monday and Tuesday that he would not directly address individual players, apparently so as not to skew expectations or show favoritism. However, he did seem to let a little something slip on Tuesday when asked about the loaded point guard crop, which also includes Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies), Jrue Holiday (New Orleans Pelicans), Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Ty Lawson (Denver Nuggets), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State Cowboys), Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats) and John Wall (Washington Wizards).
Here's what he said...
What we told all those point guards, we told them the story of Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Both of those guys played together and they are both outstanding point guards. They also had to play differently because they were playing with Kobe [Bryant], LeBron [James], [Kevin] Durant. Don't come in and everybody try to be a point guard. Try to be a guard.
Seeing Kyrie and Damian Lillard play together. We're looking at how they can adapt. We're watching them, how they adapt. I thought today -- not just those two guys -- but all of them did a really good job.
Krzyzewski clearly caught himself as that answer unfolded, tossing in the clarification that he wasn't speaking only about Irving and Lillard at the end so that he would stick by his own rule. Still, those were the first two names that came to mind to prove his "adapting" point. When you look at the above list of point guards and gauge them based on how helpful they will be off the ball, Irving and Lillard both stand out because of their offensive skillsets and range.
This wasn't some grand revelation from Krzyzewski but it was noteworthy, especially because Irving is viewed by everyone here as a total lock for 2014.
Here's a partial transcript of some of Lillard's post-practice comments via this video from Molly Blue of The Oregonian.
How was Day Two?
It was fun. We played a little bit longer games. We had more players on our team, so it was closer to a real game. It was a lot of fun. Everybody played pretty hard.
How did you play?
I thought I played well. I played a lot off the ball because they talk a lot about two point guards on the floor for the National Team. I want to be flexible... be a versatile player, play point guard, play off the ball if they need me to. I want to be able to defend on and off the ball. Today I wanted to focus on defense, defend a little more physical, be more active and I thought I did that pretty well.
Talk with Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau
I want to find out as many ways as I can to lead a team. He's been talking to me a lot about that since I've been there. I've asked him how [Derrick] Rose has gotten better about it, what type of things has he done. He shared a few of those things with me.
Adjustments to being here
A lot of us are better players on our teams. With the level of talent that's around us, we have to find a way to be effective other than just scoring the ball and dominating the ball. I think everybody has done a great job of finding other ways to be effective.
Areas of improvement this summer
I've worked on my conditioning a lot. Making floaters, being consistent with jump shots. I want to get my percentages up, threes, pull-up jumpers.
Did your personal goals change after strong rookie season?
Kinda. I've always had big goals for myself. Things started to actually happen, winning Rookie of the Year, playing a lot of minutes, some of the records that I had, everything seemed a little more real, a little more possible.
Your goals now
I want to make this team. I want to lead my team to the playoffs. I want to win a championship, that's what we play for. There's a lot of things I want to do. I could go on and on. Make the All-Star team.
OK, now for a round-up of other coverage.
First off, big thanks to Jail Blazer Pride for transcribing this NBA interview with Lillard. Give it a read.
John Schuhmann of NBA.com writes...
In speaking with NBA TV over the weekend, coach Mike Krzyzewski said that one of the things they'll be looking at is how all the point guards mesh on the court and "adapt to a few different roles."
Two-point-guard lineups aren't just a necessity because of the numbers here in Vegas or even the lack of star shooting guards in the NBA. It's a big part of the identity Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo have developed with USA Basketball over the years. They stress speed and athleticism and that starts on defense, where the guards are asked to put pressure on opposing ball handlers. So we've seen Chris Paul and Deron Williams share the floor in the Olympics and Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook play together in the 2010 World Championship.
Lawson on Lillard: "He was killing today. You can see he's been working on his games. His shot's smooth. He's a great player. I like playing with him."
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports...
"That's what I'm focusing on, my defense," Lillard told CSNNW.com. "I want to show them that I can do it all. Not just score the basketball, but play on both sides. Whatever my team needs from me, I want to be able to provide that."
"I'm just paying attention to details and learning how to use certain angles," Lillard said. "Last season was a learning experience for me. Now I know what I need to work on and I'm just trying to improve at it everyday."
Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com writes...
As you well know by now, Damian Lillard is in Las Vegas trying to get into the mix for one of USA Basketball's coveted roster spots for the World Cup and eventually the Olympics. By all accounts, he's playing well, too. But is he playing well enough to earn one of the 12 spots on the roster?
It's going to be extremely difficult in the near term. Point guard is probably the most talented and deep position in this country right now.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports on Twitter...
Klay Thompson had a strong shooting day at Team USA camp in Vegas. Ty Lawson made some noise, too. Ditto for Lillard, Kyrie and P-George
Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com with a massive photo gallery.
OregonLive.com also has a large photo gallery.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter