Last night, while actively seeking out more compelling options than the Cubs 3-1 loss to Arizona (the old Clue movie was also a worthy choice), my good friend the Chode and I stumbled upon (for the record, this was a fucking phrase before it was a website) the United States’ Men’s Olympic basketball team televising a mini-camp for its potential players. The big names, like LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant, were excluded but there was still two dozen of the league’s top young players, including a few All-Stars. On top of that, the Olympic team’s coaching staff is stacked and Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau was managing one of the two teams. Here’s the full list of players participating in the camp:
Ryan Anderson, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal (injured), Mike Conley, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried, Derrick Favors, Paul George, Gordon Hayward, Jrue Holiday, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ty Lawson, Damian Lillard, Doug McDermott (Creighton), Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons, Larry Sanders (injured), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Klay Thompson, Dion Waiters, Kemba Walker, John Wall, and Tyler Zeller.
All those guys played last night, aside from the college stars and the injured. Even though the scrimmage inevitably had the sloppy feel of something between a summer league game and an All-Star game, it was entertaining as hell to watch a large handful of the best players dunk and defend. Here are some things that stood out to me (and the Chode):
- Kyrie Irving stole the show, scoring 23 points on 6-8 shooting. We’ll have more to come on Kyrie and the rest of Team USA’s stars coming up later today.
- Casual fans might not appreciate guys like Ryan Anderson and Larry Sanders, but it’s nice to see them get deserved recognition at this mini-camp. Anderson’s shooting and rebounding skill set can only be matched by Dirk Nowitzki, and Larry Sanders has worked himself into a wildly exciting and elite rim protector.
- After a short debate, the Chode and I agreed that Tyler Zeller is easily the worst NBA player at the mini-camp. People hate on Gordon Hayward, but he’s quietly become a useful player. I think he’s more valuable to a team than DeMar DeRozan, without a doubt.
- I actually missed this, but Anthony Davis made a nutty play. Check out the GIF:
- Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis look like the elite centers of the future. Davis is obviously a stud, but Drummond was running the floor like a madman and dunks with a purpose. DeMarcus Cousins unsurprisingly flashed a lot of talent as well, but I still think he’s a nutcase. *checks over shoulder for angry Stavster*
- Harrison Barnes had a strong playoffs, benefiting from the Warriors’ shift to small ball. But did he really have that much better, if at all, of a rookie season than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Both strike me as similar players, but MKG has a long way to go on his jump shot. Both guys were displaying their impressive wingspans last night.
- I loooooove Chandler Parsons. Sorry. I hated his guts the first few times I saw him play, but that was because he was destroying Vanderbilt as a player at Florida. By the end of his final collegiate season, I couldn’t help but love the guy. He’s showing in the NBA that he is very capable of defending and shooting at an NBA-starter level. All that for a second round pick–not bad, Dork Elvis.
Check back later today for a look at Team USA’s 2014 World Cup team from Ben Rubin (yes, there is now a basketball World Cup).