He’s no-nonsense. Intense as they come.
But there is a fun side to Mike Krzyzewski. He just doesn’t show it often on the basketball court.
Tuesday will be one of those rare times when Krzyzewski is relaxed and smiling. USA Basketball holds its minicamp at UNLV for the next three days and the only way Krzyzewski is going to leave Las Vegas with a scowl is if there’s a repeat episode of last year’s Blue-White scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center when Paul George broke his leg early in the fourth quarter and the game was abruptly concluded.
Don’t look for that to occur.
As for Thursday’s USA Basketball Showcase at the Thomas & Mack, it will have less physical contact than your typical NBA All-Star Game, so the odds of someone getting seriously injured should be greatly diminished, though it should be noted George’s broken leg was a freak accident and did not involve contact before he crashed into a basket stanchion.
“It’s fun being with these guys again,” Krzyzewski said Monday at Wynn Las Vegas as the 34 invited players began arriving. “It’s a noncompetitive summer and we have relationships with all of these guys, either from the Olympics or from the World Championships. We’re treating it like a family reunion because we really are like a family at USA Basketball.”
And if he starts to revert back to his serious self, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant will be there to make sure Krzyzewski keeps it light-hearted.
The Olympic veterans won’t be playing this week, but their presence almost guarantees a fun time for all involved. All are close to Krzyzewski and know how to make him laugh and how to make him happy. They’ll also impart their wisdom to players such as Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Victor Oladipo and the other newcomers who will be on the court trying to make a positive impression.
“What this week is about is reaffirming our culture and then moving forwad,” Krzyzewski said. “Carmelo, LeBron and Chris, they’ve all been through this several times and it’s a chance for our younger guys to learn from them what it means to be part of something this special.”
Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of USA Basketball and the men’s national team’s managing director, said nobody is making the 2016 Olympic team or getting cut this week.
“This is not a tryout camp,” he said. “This is not a contact camp. By being here, the players are showing their commitment to USA Basketball. It’s a chance for everyone to be together. It’s about team-building. It’s about bonding. And to get this kind of response shows how important the national team is to these guys.”
Krzyzewski added: “What we’ve done is we’ve developed the continuity in the national team program that other countries have.”
Two names that are missing from the list are Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard. Colangelo said both understood they did not have to play this week but that if they were serious about making the final roster for the Olympics next summer they should show up in Las Vegas.
“That’s their decision,” Colangelo said.
Since the next three days aren’t about making next summer’s Olympic team, Colangelo said USA Basketball will keep a close watch on the players in the current pool during the upcoming NBA season and, come June, the list of invitees will be formed. How many will be invited to the 2016 Las Vegas pre-Olympic camp won’t be known until Colangelo is sure of each player’s availability.
“You’re dealing with a lot of things,” he said. “There’s injuries. The schedule. Guys who are playing in the (NBA) Finals or deep into the playoffs. Contracts. They all play a role in determining whether a player will be able to participate.
“But the beauty of having already qualified for the Olympics is we don’t have to worry about that this year. We can enjoy the summer here at the Wynn, which is our second home, and have a fun week together.”
NOTES — Practices are from noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Mendenhall Center and are closed to the public. … Tickets for Thursday’s Blue-White scrimmage are on sale at the Thomas & Mack box office and through UNLVTickets.com starting at $15. … The final roster as to who will actually practice and play this week was still being finalized late Monday.