Vegas camp starts Team USA’s path to 2016 Olympics

The 28 invitees to USA Basketball’s Las Vegas minicamp can rest easy, knowing nobody is going to be cut this week. But they also know the window to make a positive impression is small.

Starting today at the Mendenhall Center and ending Thursday with the USA Basketball Showcase intrasquad scrimmage at the Thomas & Mack Center, the battles figure to be intense during drills and daily scrimmages.

The roster for the U.S. team that will play in the FIBA World Cup in Spain in August 2014 — in which the winner automatically qualifies for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil — is very much a work in progress, according to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo.

“I have not asked anyone yet about who wants to play in Spain,” Colangelo said Sunday at team headquarters at Wynn Las Vegas. “That’s why we’re not making any decisions out of this camp. We have all of next NBA season to evaluate them, and we’ll see who from the returning Olympic team wants to play.

“The nice thing is we have time to look at everyone and we know a lot of players want to be part of the national team. They know it’s a privilege to represent your country in international competition, and they know everything is done in a first-class manner.”

Among the invitees to Las Vegas, only second-year forward Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans has Olympic experience. Last July, Davis was a late addition to the gold medal-winning USA roster at the London Games after Clippers big man Blake Griffin injured his knee in practice and had to pull out.

But a lot of players have built up some equity within USA Basketball through national junior team participation or via the Select team.

Guards Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday and Klay Thompson all trained here last summer along with forwards Gordon Hayward, DeMar DeRozan and Paul George and centers DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Irving for one year at Duke, is interested to see who will separate themselves from the pack.

“It’s a new influx of talent and a new journey,” Krzyzewski said. “You watch these guys on TV, and now it’s a chance to get a realistic look at them as players and get to know them as people.”

USA Basketball also invited Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and Creighton’s Doug McDermott to the minicamp after Smart led the USA to the gold medal at the Under-19 World Championships and McDermott played on the World University Games team that finished ninth.

Colangelo said it was a good time to see what Smart and McDermott could do against quality competition and how they compete at this level.

“We think they’re two of the outstanding kids in next year’s draft, and we want them to get the experience of being with us in Vegas,” Colangelo said. “It’s all about indoctrination.”

In addition to new players in the talent pool, there are new faces on Krzyzewski’s staff. Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and Pelicans coach Monty Williams replace Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is the lone holdover from the original staff put together in 2005.

“Mike and Nate both did a superb job,” Krzyzewski said. “In Tom, you have as respected a coach as there is in the NBA who can prepare and design defenses. In Monty, you have a former NBA player who is a terrific young coach. I’m looking forward to learning from them.”

Krzyzewski said an abundance of talent won’t prevent everyone from getting a fair shake.

“The way we have it organized, we’ll be able to watch everybody and we tape everything, so we’ll be able to see what we need to see,” he said.

■ NOTES — Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson and Indiana Pacers guard George Hill will not participate in the minicamp. Gibson pulled out while recovering from an ankle sprain, and Hill asked to be excused because of a scheduling conflict. … Minicamp practices at the Mendenhall Center are closed to the public. … Tickets for Thursday’s 6 p.m. intrasquad game are on sale at the Thomas & Mack Center box office and online through Prices start at $10 for the balcony and $30 for the lower level.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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