USA Basketball Men's National Team crushes USA Select Team, 97-78

August 10, 2019

By Kweku Turkson

Las Vegas --  What, me worry?

Despite more than a few anxious moments during the week when the younger, lower-profile Select squad (helmed by long-time NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy and Gonzaga's Mark Few) got the best of the Senior team, the "big guys" squashed all doubt -- at least for the moment -- by absolutely destroying the Selects in Friday's intra-squad game, 97-78.

The difference in the guard play between the two teams was glaring, as Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, and to a lesser extent, De'Aaron Fox, all took turns making life miserable for the Select's Jalen Brunson.

Curiously, former G-League guard Derrick White, who more than held his own throughout the week, played limited minutes on Friday. This likely made more sense after the game when it was announced that White, along with big man Marvin Bagley III of the Sacramento Kings, had both been called up to the Senior team roster moving forward. To make room for the two, USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo announced that Thaddeus Young and Bam Adebayo had been cut from the squad.

"Well, it's a beginning, a new tournament," said coach Gregg Popovich. "Another World Cup, in this case, the FIBA World Cup. I think our guys are making progress, they haven't played together before, but they've shown great effort, doing a good job, in a lot of different ways, just trying to get used to each other, and form a team. So, we're still in those early stages and trying to get together and figure out how we want to play, and learn about each other. So, tonight was another step."

Selects' Fox sly on the Senior squad

Although originally slated as a member of the younger USA Basketball Select team, Sacramento Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox was soon tabbed as a member of the Senior team, and the quicksilver southpaw out of the University of Kentucky showed why he was easily the quickest player anytime he stepped on the floor.

The challenge for the mercurial third-year player will be how quickly and comfortably he is able to learn to change speeds by either utilizing his otherworldly pace or reigning it in to keep the opposition off balance.

Donovan Mitchell poised to explode

Donovan Mitchell showed throughout the week that pound-for-pound, he is the most freakish, athletically gifted, and explosive player on either roster. He seemed to be able to uncork reminders of that next-level athleticism at will, just to remind anyone that may have forgotten what kind of athletic feats he is capable of at any given moment.

However, Mitchell also displayed a perhaps underrated, yet definitely still developing acumen and understanding of the game. Perhaps sensing this, Coach Pop also inserted him into the rotation at point guard at various times throughout the game, including a couple of stretches during Friday night's intra-squad scrimmage.

Mitchell touched on the topic after the game, saying, "I think the biggest thing, as far as my reads go, is just slowing down a lot of times -- especially my first year or so, just kind of going, and trying to make a read out of that.  I think now just being able to understand where the big is at, understand where the help is coming from, and not always being in a rush. That's one thing I'm really starting to work on, as far as coming off pick and roll.  Even in transition, not always going 100 miles per hour, being able to change pace, and find the open guys, not just score, as well."

Tatum displays accurate stroke

On Friday night Jayson Tatum displayed the same improved stroke from long range that he had been showing off all week, aggressively and effectively making three out of his five three-point attempts.

Four of a kind / See ya Kyrie 

Speaking of Tatum, he combined with Walker, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart to make the Boston Celtics the NBA team with the most players on the USA Basketball roster. The three incumbent Celtics at various times throughout the week could be seen cutting up with their newly-acquired All-Star point guard, as all three seemed to go out of their way to praise their new teammate as being selfless, low maintenance, and a "true pro," for whatever its worth (hint, hint Kyrie Irving).

Kemba takes charge

Throughout the week, it was clear that whether he wanted it or not, Walker has almost by default assumed the role of Alpha Dog.  It actually makes sense, when one considers that other than PJ Tucker and Brook Lopez, the humble UConn product is in fact the elder statesman on this iteration of Team USA.

Walker never seemed to be without a smile on his face throughout the week, and as he has been wont to do throughout his nine-year NBA career, Walker demonstrated that he simply has the ability to get to any spot on the floor, whenever and however he wants.

Loose Balls

  • Guards Kyle Lowry (thumb) and Marcus Smart (quad contusion) were inactive. The team will likely make at least two more cuts within the next week, as Team USA has 10 days to get the roster down to 12 players.

  • Friday's starting lineups for the intra-squad scrimmage: Coach Popovich's starting five consisted of Kemba Walker and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jaylen Brown and Khris Middleton in the frontcourt, and Myles Turner in the middle.  Coach Jeff Van Gundy countered with a starting unit of Jalen Brunson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mikal Bridges, Jonathan Isaac, and Marvin Bagley III.

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