LAS VEGAS—Bulls point guard Derrick Rose isn’t the only person with Chicago ties participating in USA Basketball’s training camp this week.
Besides Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a USA Basketball assistant and Select Team player Doug McDermott, the Bulls’ first-round draft pick, there’s also USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo, both of whom are Chicago natives. In addition, Perspectives Charter School graduate Anthony Davis, formerly of the South Side, is perhaps the team’s marquee big man, with the likes of Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge declining invitations.
Despite being one of the youngest national-team hopefuls, Davis, an emerging star with the New Orleans Pelicans, already has a gold medal to his credit—before his rookie season in the NBA, he was on the 2012 Olympic team in London—and is using his national-team experience to his advantage during practices at the Mendenhall Center on the campus of UNLV.
“I kind of know what they want, what’s the idea of USA Basketball and the purpose behind it. So I kind of feel like that veteran guy, but at the same time, I’m a young guy in the league, so I’m still trying to learn different things and figure some things out,” Davis said. “When I talk to guys about different situations, they definitely listen and they give me information, as well, in different situations and I listen. So I think that each guy on this team has the ability to be a leader. I haven’t been selected yet, but by being that veteran guy, they’re kind of coming to me for a lot of stuff because I kind of know what’s going on.”
Experience, versatility give Rose an edge
Rose’s own USA Basketball experience as the starting point guard on the 2010 national team that won the FIBA World Championships is also coming in handy, according to Krzyzewski. Along with 2010 teammate Stephen Curry of Golden State, Rose may already have a leg up on younger point guards like Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Portland’s Damian Lillard and Washington’s John Wall.
“To have Stephen and Derrick be a part of a championship—Derrick was a starter,” Krzyzewski explained. “That helps because we know each other and they know what to expect from me and they’re four years older, they’re better, because Derrick wasn’t as good as we was then. He was becoming Derrick and I think he can give us that now.”
Furthermore, the fact that Rose’s ability to not only run the show, but also play off the ball aids him, as the national team’s coaching staff views backcourt players as simply guards and doesn’t necessarily use them in traditional NBA point-guard roles in FIBA competition.
“We can’t look at them just as a point guard. We have to look at them as guards, just like we’ve looked at Westbrook, Paul and Deron Williams on the same team,” Krzyzewski said. “You can’t necessarily do all your traditional point guard stuff. But we have outstanding guards there will be some good, tough decisions to make as a result of that.
Thibodeau added about the squad’s versatility: “I think that’s a strength of a lot of our point guards, the fact that they can play other positions. You can play them together. You can play Derrick at the two, Damian Lillard at the two, Steph Curry at the two. We look at them not necessarily by traditional positions, 1-5. It’s more he’s a guard, he’s a wing, he’s a big. You have Durant who can play four positions. You have Paul George who can play four positions. When you have that type of versatility, it adds a lot to your team.”
Rose taking everything in stride
While there’s been much hubbub about Rose’s return to the court, the Bulls superstar, as could be expected, isn’t getting overly excited.
“The feeling is good, but at the same time, I’ve been playing against some of these guys almost my whole life, played against some of these guys when I was younger, and I had a chance to play against them when I was in college and the NBA, so we’ve been playing together for a long time and playing against each other for a long time. To actually be on the same team as these guys it makes the game easy, so I can’t complain,” he said.
However, he does have some goals he wants to accomplish while on the floor, such as being a team leader, as one of the more accomplished players in Las Vegas.
“For sure. I think that’s going to help us next year on our team with the Bulls. Being more vocal, talking to the guys, inspiring guys when I’m on the court. I don’t talk as much, but I’m starting to pay attention to that and see if I can use that to change the game,” Rose explained. “When I’m playing, whatever the game needs, like I said I’m trying to play to the game. I’m just happy to be out here, be happy to be getting back in a rhythm, and trying to make the team.”