On this day, Coach Mike Krzyzewski initially went with a USA White team starting five of Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan in the backcourt, alongside Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant. The lone big, DeAndre Jordan, began on the bench before checking in later. That meant the Blue Team was headed by Kyle Lowry running the point, with Klay Thompson and Jimmy Butler on the wings, and Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Boogie Cousins rounding things out.
The team of younger Select players seemed ill-equipped to deal with some of the defensive pressure thrown at them by the vets, as both Devin Booker and Zach LaVine were forced into multiple turnovers. Even more alarming however, was the play of Lakers point guard and second-year man D'Angelo Russell, who made multiple careless, unforced, and head-scratching turnovers.
As with the first day of camp on Monday, this practice was far more than just a relaxed shootaround, as the overall atmosphere was quite competitive. While each court was in use, fans, retired players, former coaches, current college and NBA Coaches, and still-active players alike were treated to a constant barrage of high-level performance on the basketball court.
All-Star performer Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls seemed intent on making a statement to all observers, coaches and players alike, as he barely missed a shot during the entire two-hour plus practice session.
Whether he was matched up with one of the "Young Bucks" off the U.S. Select Team, like Victor Oladipo, Jabari Parker, or LaVine, or against one of his teammates on the U.S. Men's Olympic Team, the outcome seemed to be the same, as Butler proved to be Jimmy "Buckets," unleashing a barrage of pull-up jumpers, aggressive forays through the lane, and tough contested baseline fadeaways, and on this day at least, Jimmy made them all.
While the sheer efficiency and ease of Butler's performance was somewhat surprising, what wasn't a shock was the awe-inspiring athleticism put on display by the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan. Nor was the brute aggressiveness of DeMarcus Cousins unexpected.
Of equal note was the sheer number of NBA luminaries in attendance, whether it was Grant Hill chatting with Fred "Mad Dog" Carter, or Kenny "The Jet" Smith hanging with Harrison Barnes, or a number of current players arguing with former players on the state of modern training camps and the advancements in training and recovery making players "soft." Throughout the Mendenhall Center, there were a number of captivating scenes taking place, often all at once.
Post Practice Spotlight: Grant Hill
Following the spirited workout at UNLV, we were able to catch up with former Team USA Standout, perennial NBA All-Star, and former Duke All-American Grant Hill, who offered his take on the atmosphere in training camp thus far:
"There's a collegial feel here, everybody's together, working for one common goal, and that's a credit to Jerry Colangelo, Coach K, and their vision for this program, building a culture and a team, so today was a good day. Obviously they know, and their staff knows, sort of the process and the steps to get them ready for the Olympics."
When asked if any of the current generation of NBA stars have admitted to borrowing different aspects of his game, he responded:
"The younger generation are too young to remember, but Melo, LeBron, some of the older guys are old enough to remember when I was doing my thing in the 90's. And that's the beauty of the game, you see some of these Select team guys, they've all watched Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James so we're all influenced by those that come before us that we watched during our formative years. That's the beauty of the game; you learn from, you're motivated and inspired by certain players and to see these young guys over here today, these Select Team guys some new faces to the NBA, to see those stars of the future it's very comforting."
He also added that if, or when he is selected for enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, he would "definitely be going in as a Piston."
Like a boss.
By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com