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Players, coach pleased with Team USA’s start

After one week playing together, the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team is happy with its progress.

The team’s five days in Las Vegas, which culminated with Friday’s 111-74 rout of Argentina at T-Mobile Arena, laid the foundation for what should be a successful run at next month’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“It was a great start,” said New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, a veteran who is playing in a record fourth Olympics. “Everyone gets along. Everyone’s working hard. We’re all working for the same thing — a gold medal.”

Golden State Warriors guard Kevin Durant said he loves the unselfishness and work ethic of this group.

“I think we set a great tone for the rest of the way with what we did here in Vegas,” he said after scoring 23 points Friday. “Everyone’s attitude is great. We’re looking for each other and we’re sharing the ball and working hard. It’s a great atmosphere to be around.

By the time the Americans arrive in Rio for their Aug. 6 opener versus China, there should be a comfort level that will justify their role as the prohibitive favorite to win a third straight Olympic gold medal.

The U.S. is in Group A along with China, France, Australia, Serbia and Venezuela. The Americans are not expected to be challenged in group play and should advance easily. Group B includes Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Croatia and Lithuania. The top four in each group advance to the quarterfinals, so the U.S. won’t see anyone from the opposite group until Aug. 17. The gold medal game is scheduled for Aug. 21.

“We still have things to work on,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We have to speak the same language when it comes to coverages and we have to understand our defensive assignments. But there’s a willingness with this team to play defense and I think we can play really good D.”

Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins thought the week in Las Vegas helped get a lot of things accomplished early.

“I think we got better in many areas,” he said. “There were things that we had a lot of work to do to be the team that we want to be. Things that will win us a gold medal.

“We took a step forward (Friday). We just need to continue to do it.”

Team USA moves continues its five-game exhibition tour when it faces China Sunday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. On Tuesday, the Americans and Chinese meet again at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

From there, it’s on to Chicago’s United Center on Friday to face Venezuela, with the final game set for Aug. 1 in Houston against Nigeria at the Toyota Center.

“I think it’s good that we have this tour before the Olympics,” Krzyzewski said. “It will get us in shape for Rio. We have a lot of guys who haven’t played in a few months so these games will help them get ready physically.

“It also gives us a chance to play a lot of different combinations and see different styles of play. So I’m very glad we have this opportunity.”

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George said: “In the NBA, you have time to bond. Here, we’re going to be together for one month. We have to be on the same page early. It’s the only way we’re going to get where we want to go.”

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow on Twitter: @stevecarprj

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