Pelicans proving to be a force at Team USA mini camp
Team USA Basketball is well underway in Sin City, as the Men's National Team Mini-Camp enters its second day, but this year, there are an unusually large number of faces from the Crescent City filling the gym.
The New Orleans Pelicans are tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers for most invited players: each team has three men representing. For New Orleans, it's Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday.
Pels head coach Monty Williams is an assistant with Team USA under 2013 National Team head coach and Duke University's Naismith Hall of Fame mentor Mike Krzyzewski.
New Orleans lead assistant coach Randy Ayers and head athletic trainer Jon Ishop are also participating.
These six men make up the largest group representation of any NBA team.
"It's certainly a great opportunity. We look at this as a stepping stone for the organization, for us as a team and the city. To have this many people represented in USA Basketball, it's a cool deal," says Williams, whose family is also in Las Vegas, cheering on the Pels.
Last summer, Anthony Davis won a gold medal with Team USA before he ever played in an NBA game. This summer, he returns more savvy and seasoned: "A lot of great talent here, a lot of great guards, and to have Coach Monty and Coach Ayers here, Ryan and Jrue: that's always great to have some guys from the organization here. It's just great so far, we're making each other better, learning new things and that's always a plus."
Williams is enjoying watching Davis' growth: "He's not hesitant about throwing himself in the fray. Last year, he wasn't scared, but he didn't know what to expect. We had to push him out there."
None of the Pels players seem to need much pushing this year. Ryan Anderson took an evening to be a live guest performer in Criss Angel's magic show, but then began working his own magic tricks on the court from the three-point line.
"Ryan has a skill most bigs in the world don't have. He's 6'10" and he can shoot the ball from half court and stretch the floor. He makes other players better just be being out there. He has a great shot at making it," predicts Williams.
Although Anderson is impressing, he does have to overcome the challenge of succeeding under FIBA Rules, not the NBA ones. Although every Team USA player must make the adjustment, Anderson's prolific three-point shot could be one of the elements most affected by the international rules.
The three-point line in international play is much shorter, set at 20 feet, 6.25 inches from the basket. The NBA three-point line is 22 feet in the corners and 23 feet, nine inches at the top of the arc.
"It's tough - the balls are different. The line is closer. That should be easier for me, but I actually like the long distance shot," says Anderson, who also adds he's feeling good and just wants shots to drop.
This mini-camp is also the first opportunity for Jrue Holiday to get acclimated to his new team and vice versa.
"Anthony Davis is a freak athlete, and Ryan Anderson can knock down that three ball. I'm just excited honestly to get my assists up," Holiday says, as he sits with his knees iced down after the first practice.
Holiday was fourth in the NBA in assists last season at 8.0 per game.
"I didn't realize how big he was until I met him yesterday! I have a number of impressions, but the best thing is he's a good kid. He looks you in the eyes - what more can you want," says Williams.
The USA Basketball Men's National Team Mini-Camp runs through July 25.