Dave McMenamin of NBA.com wrote:
Here’s some of what I’ve seen:
# We’ll start with the news. LeBron guaranteed gold to TIME Magazine, which was all the buzz on Thursday. James didn’t back down from his statement. “I’m one of the team leaders of this team, I speak highly of this team and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he explained. His teammates didn’t look at the statement as a burden. “I don’t see nothing wrong with it,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We back him 100 percent. I’m not going to say he’s wrong for doing it or anything like that. We’re with him. We back him.”
Jason Kidd joked, “We have a LeBron on the team?” before adding, “I love his confidence, I love his work ethic, I’ll go to battle any day with him so, if that’s the way he feels, we all feel the same way.”
In other LBJ news, James told reporters that his right ankle feels better after suffering a mild sprain on Tuesday, but he “probably” won’t play against Canada on Friday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). “I’m going to see how I feel,” James said. “I feel good today. I didn’t do any contact drills, but it felt good. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.”
# Derrick Rose, Chicago’s No. 1 pick who only played two games in the Orlando Pro Summer League before bowing out with tendonitis has been strong all week, especially at using his handle to get into the lane and finish around the rim. The Grizzlies’ O.J. Mayo has also shined, but primarily at shooting the ball from the outside. I joked with NBA Entertainment producer Andy Thompson last night that if you could combine their games they’d be unstoppable. “They’d be Chris Paul,” Thompson quipped.
# Speaking of rookie guards, the Sonics’ Russell Westbrook played with the Select Team today, donning a jersey with No. 41 on it. He had been a guest at practice the last three days watching from the stands, but apparently somebody decided to give him a uniform. J.R. Smith also has a jersey on after being a bystander the rest of the week.
Select Team coach P.J. Carlesimo said that Mayo had to go home after Wednesday and Blazers rookie Jerryd Bayless was hurt with a lingering hand injury from summer league so he appreciated Westbrook and Smith helping out.
“Only got to play one day with Russell and with J.R. we really couldn’t take a chance and put him out there, due to the fact that he’s unsigned, but they helped us when we put the stuff in on five-on-five” Carlesimo said. “Russell got to play a little bit which was good because we would not have been able to scrimmage today, we didn’t have enough guys and they helped us out.”
Other roster moves on the select squad included Kevin Love leaving after Monday after not being able to participate because of a sore Achilles’ tendon and Andre Iguodala paying his own way to show up even knowing full well beforehand that he wouldn’t be playing because like Smith, he too hasn’t signed a new contract yet.
Also, the Sonics’ Jeff Green did not play on Thursday.
# The senior team and the select squad played two 12-minute games today. Previously the two teams had only engaged in five-minute scrimmages. The senior team blew the select guys out in the first game and the young guys toughed out the second game thanks to a big jumper by Rose to put them ahead by two possessions with 11 seconds left.
“We needed that, we wanted to beat them fair and square all week,” Kevin Durant said. “I think the people at that scorer’s table have been messing with the score a little bit, so we wanted to beat them fair and square. That was a big-time shot by Derrick, we needed that.”
By my count, the senior team had a 7-3-2 record against the select group. Two of the five-minute scrimmages ended in ties.
When I asserted to Kobe Bryant that the young guys had given him and the senior group some tough games, he corrected me: “Tough quarters.”
LeBron thought that the competition was very healthy for the team. “We’re not going to blow out the opposing team every night,” James said. “We have to have that type of quarter one time where it might not go so well for us. So, we have to be able to react.”
Legend has it that Jamal Mashburn was on the select squad that played the Dream Team back in 1992 and Mash and his crew actually beat Bird, Magic, Jordan and Co. a few times. Mashburn still brags about it to this day. My point is, don’t think that the U.S. can’t win the gold because they dropped a couple five-minute games to the whipper snappers. It will serve them well at the Olympics in the long run.
# I did the whole who’s who in the stands on Tuesday and here’s an additional list of college coaches (Jay Wright, John Thompson III, Bob McKillop, Billy Donovan), notable names (Myles Brand, Doug Collins) and one superstar, (Denzel Washington).
When CP3 noticed Washington keeping a low profile on the sidelines while hiding under a baseball cap he gestured for Denzel to come out onto the court and shoot. Washington declined.
“Don’t you got game?” Paul asked. “Not anymore,” Denzel laughed.
# After struggling with his shot the first couple of practices, Houston’s Luther Head found his stroke. The same can be said for Redd who was in full knock-down mode on Wednesday and Thursday.
# Any doubts about Dwyane Wade’s health have been erased from my mind after seeing him dice his way to the bucket on foray after sweet foray. Speaking of D-Wade, I look at him as the team’s x-factor. I think the starting lineup is solid as can be, but Wade and Paul coming off the bench should be able to wreak havoc on opposing second-unit backcourts.
# I had the pleasure to sit next to Nevada state assemblyman Harvey Munford on Thursday who was drafted by the Lakers in 1972 after playing power forward at the University of Akron and then Montana State. After talking hoops with him for more than an hour I came to recognize his highest form of praise is calling a player “steady.” He bestowed the label on Anthony, Bryant and Wade.
# Every day at practice, the senior team tries to complete a drill where the goal is to make 120 buckets in 4:15. Three guys run down the court throwing outlet passes until the lead guy streaks in for a layup. The other two guys receive a pass to shoot a jump shot from the next three guys waiting to start down the other end. U.S.A. made 116 on the first try, their best total of the week, but decided to run it back-to-back because they didn’t reach the 120 mark. They finally reached it – and then some – with a 137 on their second try and it really was a nice moment as all of the coaching and support staff and fans in the stands broke into a hearty ovation.
# Speaking of Florida's Billy Donovan being in the gym on Thursday, I wonder if he feels a twinge of “What if?” whenever he sees Dwight Howard throw down a dunk? He has to, right?
# I asked Durant about his 62-point summer league game at Barry Farms down in D.C. and he described the level of competition as pretty legit. “There’s some overseas guys playing over there, a couple of former NBA players, people that played at Georgetown, Maryland … guys like that,” Durant told me. He said he didn’t know how many points he had as the game was going on. “I guess I just got going. I got some easy baskets, free throws, hit a couple threes … It’s sort of like Rucker Park. We were just out there having fun and after a while it got competitive and we were just out there going back and forth.”
Also, Mike Krzyzewski sort of hinted that he has a couple of guys in mind as replacements should anything happen to the players on the roster and Durant is considered to be one of those guys who could fill in. The possibility is causing him to keep schedule clear. “If that comes up, my summer is always open. If that ever comes up, man, I’m there.”
# The Hawks’ Al Horford on his former teammate Josh Childress signing a deal to play in Greece: “I’m not happy about it. I wanted him to stick around. He contributed a lot to our team but, you know, it was his decision and he felt that’s what was best and all I can do is wish him good luck.”
Atlanta fans need not worry about Big Al following Childress across the pond. “We talked about it, but at the end of the day, in the NBA you’re playing against the best and you’re living here in the United States,” Horford said. “I couldn’t imagine living outside of here and playing somewhere else. At the end of the day, no matter what, I kind of would stay here I think.”
# NBA great Gary Payton has popped up at Valley High School all week to film segments for The Best Damn Sports Show Period and says that he isn’t fighting a comeback itch. “I’m glad I don’t play basketball no more because I get to spend time with my kids,” Payton said. “I done put 17 years into the NBA, that’s good enough, now it’s time for the kids to do their thing. Let the younger guys do their thing and get their names known. I made my name known up in the NBA already, so I’m fine. I won a championship. I’m fine. I’m 40 years old. I don’t need no comebacks, I don’t need none of that. I’m happy for what I’ve accomplished in the NBA, what I’ve done and I’m happy.”
The former Defensive Player of the Year said that he has been doing promotional work for an airline that will be flying from the U.S. to Beijing for the Olympics and is thinking about going the B.J. Armstrong route and become an agent. “I might become an agent. I’m thinking about that,” The Glove said. “I’m going to do all that, I’m going to do everything, you know what I’m saying?” Yes GP, we know what you’re saying.
# The line of the week had to have been from Coach K when the L.A. Times’ Steve Springer said that he didn’t want to leave’s Krzyzewski’s media session to ask Carlesimo a question because he didn’t want to miss anything “startling.”
“Me and startling are not in the same crossword puzzle, let’s put it that way,” Krzyzewski deadpanned.