Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard wrapped up the practice portion of USA Basketball's Las Vegas minicamp on Wednesday.
Wednesday's practice didn't consist of much except some walkthroughs and an extended media session. That was to be expected, I guess, after the long scrimmage work on Tuesday.
The big headline of the day came from an impromptu press conference during which Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, both veterans of the 2010 World Championships and 2012 Olympics, announced that they will compete in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
This week's minicamp will conclude with an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. PT.
Here are the rosters...
USA Blue Team
Harrison Barnes, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Damian Lillard, Greg Monroe, Klay Thompson, Dion Waiters, Kemba Walker, John Wall
Coach: Tom Thibodeau, Chicago Bulls
USA White Team
Ryan Anderson, Mike Conley, Andre Drummond,Kenneth Faried, Paul George, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ty Lawson, Chandler Parsons, Tyler Zeller
Coach: Monty Williams, New Orleans Pelicans
Here's a transcript of Lillard's post-practice comments via the following video shot by Molly Blue at The Oregonian.
Not a lot of people get the opportunity to come out here with all these high-level players and compete against them, play with them, make friends, get to know people from being around them a lot. It's a blessing to make it to the NBA but to be able to experience something like this, it's an honor to be here.
What did you work on today?
Today I learned some stuff about spacing. We ran some of the offensive sets they put in. Something as simple as turning my back and going off the pick-and-roll. Hesitation to freeze the big man. Some things that probably would have taken me awhile to learn if i hadn't come here because all coaches approach the game different.
How do you stack up with other point guards?
I'm as good a point guard as anybody here. That's just me, not judging it off anybody else. I think I can compete with anybody here. There's a lot of good point guards here, there's two All-Star point guards here, probably some others that could have been All-Stars. The fact that I could come here and compete against them, learn a few things that I don't have in my game, it's helpful for me.
What does it mean to have Kevin Durant and Kevin Love commit to the 2014 FIBA World Cup team?
If we were to make the team, we would know we have guys that have experienced the World Cup, won a gold there, won a gold at the Olympics. Having the leadership from those guys willing to come back to do it even though they don't have to, it would be helpful during that experience.
Your approach to making the team
It ain't over until it's over. When they tell me I didn't make the team, that's when I would say alright. Until then, I don't really have much to say.
I have no idea [when I would find out].
What did you do today?
We just went over sets, shot a little bit. That was it. We warmed up, ran through plays, ran through our stuff, kind of full speed. Got some shots up. Did some pick-and-roll stuff and that was it.
Scrimmage on Thursday
I just want to be as versatile as possible. Play some point guard, get off the ball a little bit, show I can defend, compete. Whatever team I'm on, I want to show that I can win it.
Now, for a round-up of other coverage.
Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports...
"The West is going to be tough just like every other year," Lillard told CSNNW.com. "But I think one thing that we have is chemistry. We got a year together and we got veteran guys that we brought on our team that can help. A lot of teams are going to be better because of trades and the people they signed, but they still have to mesh. Just like last season with the Lakers, on paper, people thought they were going to The Finals. Everything isn't always perfect on the floor like it is on paper. We're going to compete regardless."
The franchise's floor general, who is calm and mellow in the first place, would appreciate it if critics follow his composed lead and put the [overreacting to Summer League] to a halt.
"It was their first time for a lot of those guys," Lillard explained. "It was tough. A lot of the teams in the Summer League had players that have been in the league for a while. We had a few players that been in the league but I think everybody just wanted to do the right thing. Everybody wanted to play well. We just struggled a little bit."
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports reports...
During a portion of Tuesday's scrimmage, Irving and Lillard were paired in the backcourt, a potentially intriguing combination. Just a year ago, Lillard hit the NBA scene with a tremendous performance in the Las Vegas Summer League. Now, he is competing for a spot on the U.S. team.
"They're not always going to need me to score," said Lillard, the 2012-13 NBA rookie of the year who averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists last season. "Me being able to share the ball, knock down shots and make plays is what's going to get me on the team. I don't play the game selfish. I want to find guys and make the next guy look good, and that's how Team USA has been successful."
Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com reports...
Lillard has also benefitted from one-on-one coaching from some of basketball's most respected defensive minds while participating in the mini-camp, including Team USA assistant and Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who has praised both Lillard's performance on the defensive end.
"To me he had a terrific rookie season, said Thibodeau. "Love his demeanor. I think he's got the qualities that will allow him to continue to improve and develop (defensively). I think all of these players, as they move forward, they all learn from their experience. He's got a great body, he's got good feet. I think the more he concentrates (on defense), the better he's going to get at it. He's a very impressive player."
"When a guys comes into the league there's a big adjustment," said Thibodeau. "You have to learn the league, you have to learn the team and you have to run your team. So there's a period of adjustment. The way he handled that was remarkable. He did a terrific job for (the Trail Blazers). He's done a lot of good things and I'm sure he's going to continue to do a lot of good things. He asks great questions, he works hard, he puts a lot into each and every day and he'll continue to improve."
Jody Genessy of the Deseret News writes...
"It's a challenge to do everything that comes with being an NBA player off the floor," Lillard said. "That's pretty tough."
On top of that, Lillard said it's a balancing act "being responsible for a team" while not giving "the wrong vibe" to veterans and overstepping bounds.
"You don't want them to think you know everything or think that you're trying to take over the team, anything like that," he said. "So you want to gain their trust."
There's more to it, he added.
"Then just stuff on the floor," Lillard said. "You've got to tweak your game to where you can be successful being yourself but understanding that it's tougher because of how the league is, how big guys are, how athletic they are."
Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk reports...
"They're looking for us to play hard," Lillard said. "For guys to have each other's backs, to be team players and do what it takes to help your team win."
And how about that lack of hands-on coaching?
"They're pulling guys aside giving pointers, and when we huddle up they're saying things to the team," Lillard said. "But for the most part, they're not turning us into robots. They're letting us have a lot of freedom and seeing what we can do and what guys can bring to the table."
The Columbian writes...
It was an early wake-up call for Damian Lillard.
"Who else is up on this early morning in Vegas," the Blazers guard tweeted at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Such is life for those taking part in a four-day camp for Mike Krzyzewski's Team USA.
While the rest of the NBA is resting or otherwise preparing for the upcoming season, a select group of young players is getting a taste of international basketball.
With Lillard's precocious talent comes demands. The upside of the Team USA experience far outweighs the risk for Lillard, but Blazers fans should be wary of too many rigors being put on their young superstar.
Sean Sweeney of DIME Magazine has a look at Lillard's patriotic shoes.
Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com has another photo gallery.
USA Basketball produced this video feature of Lillard mic'd up during practices.
The Blazers have video reactions from various players to Lillard.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter