Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard participated in the first day of USA Basketball's 2013 Las Vegas minicamp on Monday. He is wearing jersey No. 22. The minicamp will continue with two more days of practice before it culminates in an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday.
Click here for a brief overview of the minicamp, which is essentially an opportunity for chairman Jerry Colangelo, coach Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of USA Basketball's coaching staff to get a look at younger players in advance of the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Lillard is one of 28 players (26 NBA players plus two college guys) invited to the minicamp. The 2013 Rookie of the Year is part of a deep point guard field that 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 (Wizards).
Media members were allowed to watch a brief portion of practice on Monday. When the doors opened, Lillard was matched up against Wall in a five-on-five full-court scrimmage. During the brief period we watched, he knocked down multiple jumpers and took a charge on defense.
Note: Krzyzewski refused to answer questions about individual players on Monday and said he would maintain that same approach throughout the camp.
Here's a transcript of some of Lillard's post-practice Q&A with media members. Below, some links to other coverage.
What happened today?
We went over some sets, some defensive things, and after that we played. We're all here to compete against the better young players in the league, it was fun.
How did it feel?
It felt good. Everybody wants to do the right thing. That's a great start for us, when everybody wants to make the play for the next person. I think that's why the USA team is so successful and it's good that everyone is bringing that attitude.
How's your conditioning?
Pretty good. I haven't played pick-up as much as I usually would over the course of the summer because of how busy it's been but I have had a chance to work out a lot. That's helped me a lot, being able to work out a lot.
You were off the ball during the open access period playing alongside Ty Lawson
We played four games. The first two and a half games I played the one the whole time. They wanted me and Ty to get out there a little bit together so at the end Ty was out there and I was out there. You'll see it all the time with the USA team, they have two point guards on the floor. I want to be able to play both sides.
Growing up, could you ever imagine playing for Mike Krzyzewski?
I was more concerned with getting to the NBA. I never thought for a second that this would come, let alone this quickly. It's a great opportunity, it's a blessing for me to be here. I just want to learn and keep competing.
Playing for coach Krzyzewski
I know that he gets the best out of his players. He's run a really successful program at Duke. If he's able to come up here with the best players in our league, and manage their egos, and get them to win gold medals at every Olympics, why not come in and do whatever he asks me to do?
How motivated to make the USA team for World Cup and Olympics?
Really motivated. I want to be one of the better players in this league, that's who will be on this team, that's who will be competing in the Olympics. I'm here to put my best foot forward and make that happen.
Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports on Twitter...
A few names I've heard as Day 1 standouts from Team USA camp: Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, DeAndre Jordan AND collegian Doug McDermott
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports...
"Trying on the actual USA uniform at my hotel last night was when it hit me that I made it. I had to take a picture of that moment. I was like, 'This is Team USA.'"
"First of all, he's a terrific player," [USA Basketball chairman Jerry] Colangelo told CSNNW.com. "He had an outstanding rookie season. He belongs here and deserves a lot of consideration because I think he's going to get better and better."
"It's where you want to be when you want to be one of the better players in the league," Lillard said. "But my career with the Trail Blazers, getting into the playoffs, winning championships, stuff like that is what will validate things. But it's nothing like putting on a uniform and representing your country."
Mike Tokito of The Oregonian reports...
"It'll be a whole season between now and next summer," Lillard said after Monday's practice. "I want to compete against these guys so when I go back to my team, I'll be a better player, and also give myself a chance to make the (national) team."
"The main thing I tried to do is just play my game," Lillard said. "I'm naturally unselfish, so I realize the ability everybody around me has, so I was willing to give it up and let them make plays, too. A lot of times that ball ended up coming back to me, so it's a lot of fun playing with all these guys."
Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com had a piece with Lillard reflecting on his 2012 Summer League experience.
"It was a cool experience," said Lillard of his 2012 Las Vegas Summer League performance. "I was excited about having the opportunity to prove myself and really perform. And I had a lot of fun. I was able to show people I was worthy of that pick, that I was going to be a finisher."
The Blazers have a nice photo gallery.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter