Reporting from Las Vegas -- In breaking from the previous form of the first three days of training camp, the USA Men’s National Basketball Team had a light practice on Thursday afternoon in their final day of preparation before their 2016 debut against Argentina on Friday night in an exhibition game at the new T-Mobile Arena right on the Las Vegas strip.
In yet another move that could rightfully be seen as indicative of the level of pleasure that Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski has had with his team’s energy, effort, cohesiveness, and competitiveness, the team went through a no-contact workout that lasted a little less than two hours.
On this day at least, the five players that logged the most minutes together were the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving at the point; Golden State’s Klay Thompson at the other guard spot; Thompson’s newly-minted teammate on the Warriors, Kevin Durant -- who split time with Paul George -- at the 3; Carmelo Anthony at the 4; and DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins at the pivot.
In speaking with some of the coaching staff, they seemed to intimate that along with Thompson, George, and Durant, Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan would also be heavy in the rotation for minutes at the wing spots.
Post-Practice Notes: Fresh Ink
There was definitely more of a festive atmosphere in the air during Thursday’s practice session. This was perhaps partially due to the fact that DeAndre Jordan was celebrating his 28th birthday.
We got a chance to speak with him immediately following practice, and when asked what was the best birthday gift that he received from a teammate, the heavily-tattooed Texan proudly showed off a portrait of the late music legend Ray Charles that he said had just been finished a few hours prior to the beginning of practice.
This fresh ink came courtesy of Kevin Durant, who sprung for it for his teammate. Durant also got some new artwork of his own on his calf -- a portrait of the late, great Tupac Shakur, directly above a logo for the Wu-Tang Clan.
One-on-One with 'Melo
On a more serious note, we also had a chance to sit down and speak at length with New York’s Carmelo Anthony, who shared some of his thoughts on the increasing regularity with which some high-profile athletes are willing to speak out on social injustices.
When I asked him if anyone tried to talk him out of sharing his thoughts on such issues that are dominating the airwaves in our country as of late, he stated that nobody had, and that even if they had tried, “we are beyond that point," said Anthony. "Or at least I am. I couldn’t allow myself to sit back silently anymore on something that affects us all. It really affects us all, even though we are athletes, we’re still human beings. These things going on in our communities affect us all.”
He also did not shy away from lending his support to a number of WNBA players and teams that have recently spoken out against officer-involved shootings of African-American men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Minnesota, saying that he didn’t agree with the league’s decision to fine players for wearing black warm-up shirts and voicing their displeasure with the issue of police brutality currently plaguing our country.
“I don’t see no reason to fine them,” Anthony said. “If anything, you should want to support them. A bunch of teams did it. Everyone has their own freedom of speech if they decide to use the platform. I don’t see no reason for anybody to get fined. We did it . . . with Trayvon Martin. The NBA did it. The NBA was very supportive. I don’t see any difference in this matter. Right now the players have a very strong stance in what they believe in right now. I don’t think anyone should be fighting that at this moment.”
He also revealed his plan to organize a meeting in LA.
“We’re still organizing things,” said Anthony, before noting that he wouldn’t “call it a town hall . . . more like a conversation. We just want to get some local politicians, youth, kids, adults, officers, teachers, community leaders and athletes just getting out there and having this conversation and this talk.”
Anthony finished by stating that while he didn’t believe that he, or anybody else had all of the answers, he did think that if both sides were able and willing to “hear each other out, more positivity will come about.’’
By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com