LAS VEGAS (AP) There was no LeBron James or Stephen Curry.
Nor were there any signs of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant or James Harden.
Most importantly, there weren’t any injuries.
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The U.S. men’s basketball team ended its minicamp with an exhibition that felt like a light-hearted pickup game, a much smoother ending than last summer, when Indiana Pacers All-Star Paul George broke his leg after crashing into a backboard stanchion.
Sacramento Kings All-Star DeMarcus Cousins scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the White team to a 134-128 victory over the Blue team.
”I feel so good about these four days … I thought our guys really responded tonight (with) a lot of effort (and) enthusiasm, they had fun,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ”They all want to be a part of USA Basketball. We had so many guys who could not play, for a variety of reasons, but even those guys throughout the week were at practices even when they weren’t supposed to. Everyone did a little bit more than what they were supposed to do and they all fit well under the USA umbrella.”
While the NBA’s biggest names either opted not to play in Thursday’s scrimmage, or weren’t officially cleared to participate, those who did take part played cautiously – and understandably at times timidly – and still entertained those fans who braved a rare summer thunderstorm in Las Vegas with several highlight-reel slam dunks by some familiar names.
Mason Plumlee added 20 points and 11 rebounds for the White team, while Andre Drummond led the Blue team with 27 points and 16 rebounds. Victor Oladipo added 25 points.
Los Angeles Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin, whose first three field goals of the second half were one-handed, monster slam dunks, said Wednesday he knew the scrimmage would be ”a little bit more laid back” after what happened to George.
”Injuries are a part of the game; obviously we feel horrible about what happened to Paul, he’s such a good guy,” said Griffin, who finished with 15 points, 13 in the second half. ”We never want to see that happened to anybody. But you can’t play with that in the back of your mind as a basketball player. It’s just a part of the game.”
Now, Krzyzewski and USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo have the daunting task of selecting the 12-man team that will represent the U.S. in the Olympics in Brazil. Colangelo said after Thursday’s game the squad will not be named until after the 2015-16 NBA season, around the draft at the end of June.
”We made a decision, our staff, that rather than having a minicamp in the true sense of the word, and bring 18 or 20 players here, and then ask six or eight or 10 to go home – that didn’t sit well with us,” Colangelo said. ”We’re going back to our game plan of ’08, when we actually announced our team before we started our camp.”
After announcing the team, Colangelo said, there will be a two-week break for the players before the national team begins preparations for Rio.
The national team, which is currently riding a 63-game winning streak against international competition, is aiming for a third straight Olympic gold medal.
”The culture has been established, and it’s been a good one,” Krzyzewski said. ”A lot of people talk about what Jerry has done, or what the coaching staff has done. Really, the primary reason we have a great culture is because we have great guys, and they’ve been committed.”