Williams, coaches get look at Team USA players

LAS VEGAS — Monty Williams is performing a new role as a USA Basketball Men’s National Team assistant coach, as he has become one of at least five watchful pairs of eyes at this week’s minicamp.

As 28 players took part in timed scrimmages during the second day of camp at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center, New Orleans Pelicans coach Williams joined Managing Director Jerry Colangelo, head coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke and fellow assistants Jim Boeheim of Syracuse and Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls on seats located in the middle of the gym.

“I don’t think anybody who is watching these games, you’re not looking for just one thing,” Williams said. “We’ve seen all these guys play before, except the college guys. I think, for the most part, you just want to see guys, how they play together, if they fit, chemistry, can they pick up the few plays we put in.

“Then, you try to give (Krzyzewski) something that he may not know because we’ve seen the guys more than he has. I just like watching basketball, so it is not a stretch for me.”

Williams was able to help get one of his assistant coaches, Randy Ayers, on to the USA Basketball coaching staff, so there is one familiar face on the bench with him at various times. He also has Pelicans players Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday on the 28-player roster.

“I’ve been in drills with them,” Williams said. “Just around in general you’re going to get to know them a little bit. I’m enjoying watching Jrue play up close. A.D. (Davis), he’s like my little whatever you want to call it. And Ryan … we have really good guys; you enjoy being around them and then to see them in this environment is pretty cool for this organization.

“To me, it’s an easy call (about getting Ayers on to the USA staff). Our staff is so selfless, it wasn’t a big deal. Randy has also coached USA Basketball before, so it made it an easy transition for him. And he knows so many of these guys. I know that if I’m missing something, he’ll help me. So he’s been by my side the whole time.”

There are only two college players — Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Creighton’s Doug McDermott — on the USA roster. Other than that, the 26 NBA players know what the coaches expect of them, according to the Pelicans’ Anderson.

“(Tuesday), you could call it our tough day,” Anderson said. “We played a lot of games, we scrimmaged a lot, we got up and down a lot, and today we mostly played. (Monday) was kind of getting our bearings with how this Olympic game is different, how the international game is different and kind of getting us used to the system.

“(Tuesday), they just wanted us to play, and I think (Tuesday) was a really important day, obviously because it’s a day we’re a little more controlled; we know what we’re doing out there, we know what they expect from us. I think it was a great day of playing.”

From a coach’s standpoint, Day 2 of the minicamp also was a fruitful one.

“It’s good to be around these players, being able to develop relationships in a couple of days with some of these guys I’ve never even spoken to before because I didn’t like them,” Williams said. “Now I can let my guard down a little bit and talk to them a little more, and they don’t think I’m as big of an idiot as they did before. So it’s been cool just to be around other guys.”

Anderson is another Pelican who likes being part of this large group of mainly NBA players.

“We really wanted to break up and play, regardless of who we were guarding or regardless of how the teams were set up,” Anderson said. “And they were pretty equal teams; we had some great runs, like I said.”

But Anderson realizes that a lot of the players he scrimmaged will not be around when the team reconvenes next year for the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Cup from Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Barcelona and Madrid. After that, the squad could be trimmed down even more as the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil draws nearer.

“It is not necessarily a cutting process, but eventually they’ll announce the teams,” Anderson said. “This is more kind of preparing us to get our minds mentally ready for the fact that we could be playing for our country, preparing us to play with the staff.

“And obviously the international game is different from just the NBA. So, a lot of things are getting implanted into us through being here in this minicamp.”