LAS VEGAS — One started to get the feeling that it was the end of a good four days at the USA Basketball national team minicamp and Showcase when New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis was seated at the postgame news conference with USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski on Thursday night.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving was the fourth person sitting at the table, as he led the White team to a 128-106 victory over the Blue team, which was led by Davis’ 22 points and seven rebounds.
Davis, who was Krzyzewski’s lone player here this week from the 2012 Olympic gold-medal winners, was the first topic of conversation for the legendary coach.
“As good as he was last year, he’s just stepped it up another couple of levels,” Krzyzewski said. “And that was exciting to see. He got better throughout the week and put on a heck of a performance tonight.”
“I think the camp went really well. A lot of guys showed up and competed,” Davis said. “Usually, when you go to camp, it’s not just USAB (USA Basketball), but guys really don’t compete and don’t take it as serious. For guys to show up and actually compete the way they did and make each other better and play together is an excellent thing, and you could see it on the floor tonight.
“Guys just played hard, shared the ball, hustling, playing defense, and you don’t see that, especially in the summertime. So, for the guys to do that, I really commend them.”
Davis and the Blue Team lost the Showcase game, which was played in front of 9,513 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center, to Pelicans coach Monty Williams and the White Team, which included the Pelicans’ Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday. The White Team had a 53-51 halftime lead, while Davis had a team-high 10 points at halftime.
“We (the three Pelicans) were pretty good tonight,” Williams said. “(Davis) was all over the place; at the rim, shooting jump shots, he was active on defense. Ryan was Ryan (nine points on 3-for-3 3-point shooting). He was knocking down shots. He made good plays around the basket. And Jrue (12 points, seven rebounds and five assists) was pretty good. He was running the floor, playing off the ball with Kyrie (Irving).
“I tried to get all three of them on the same team, but (Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who coached the Blue Team) wouldn’t bow down to my trade. I thought they did a good job outside of their comfort zone (against players) they haven’t played with for awhile.”
Holiday was one of those Pelicans who was glad to be with Team USA at the minicamp and showcase this week.
“It was fun,” Holiday said. “Again, you’ve got the best competition here. I know the guard play here was awesome. It was pretty competitive every single day.
“What did (Davis) have, like 20-something? That’s the franchise of the team. We’re all going to piggyback off that. He already has a gold medal. Obviously, moving forward, I know he wants to win, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Davis wasn’t the only fellow Pelican Holiday was impressed with this week.
“I tried to get him (Anderson) some more 3-pointers, but they’re switching on him so much,” Holiday said. “I mean they’re switching off of everybody. That 3-point shot, I don’t think he’s missing.”
Anderson went 3-for-4 in total field-goal shooting in the showcase.
“I pick up on things,” Anderson said. “I’m taking little pieces of each player’s game and just seeing how I can implement that into my game. These guys are some of the best players in the world, and it’s just fun playing alongside of them. They’re competitors.
“It was just a really fun week, but I’m going to take a lot knowing that I still have to work on a lot myself. It was a great chance to play with these guys, too, because now I know what I have to do in a game to stop these guys or what I need to add to play against this player. So it was a great week of competition.”
Williams also said the whole experience added up to a good four days.
“I’m coaching for my country and it’s basketball, so this, to me, is a win-win,” Williams said. “And in this atmosphere, around these guys, it’s pretty cool. From that standpoint, you can’t help but learn. You see different schemes. You see guys in different situations. You’re always competing against these guys, and now you get a chance to coach them, so it helps you become a better coach.”