Luke DeCock

Time is tight as Team USA practice begins – DeCock

Coach K on relying on older players to bring along young talent

Team USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski talks with reporters about using older players to help bring along the many young players on the team.
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Team USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski talks with reporters about using older players to help bring along the many young players on the team.

The United States men’s basketball team for the Summer Olympics gathered as a group for the first time Sunday night. The gold-medal game, where these 12 players expect and are expected to appear, is a mere five weeks away.

That made Monday’s first practice at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center more than a getting-to-know-you affair. Time is of the essence, especially on a team that has only two players who have competed in the Olympics before, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. The first of five pre-Olympic exhibitions, against Argentina in Las Vegas, is Friday.

“Until we leave the country, after Houston (against Nigeria on August 1), this is like a continuing training camp,” Duke and U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’ll find out a little bit more. The main thing we want to avoid are injuries. That’ll be the worst thing that can happen to us.”

Injuries are the reason this team is the least experienced, and perhaps the least talented, of the three Krzyzewski has coached in the Olympics. A long list of players who would otherwise be expected to compete dropped out because of surgery, recovery and fatigue. But Krzyzewski said what this team lacks in veterans it makes up in enthusiasm and defensive intensity.

“The main thing is how excited we are to represent the United States,” Krzyzewski said. “We have six new guys who haven’t played on any of the (national) teams.”

VIDEO: Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski talks about his coaching future, including coaching USA Basketball, during a press conference Thursday, March 3, 2016.

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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