LAS VEGAS – (Staff report from Official News Release) – After a week of practices behind credentialed NBA front office types and USA Basketball staffers and media, USA Basketball’s Men’s national and select teams were finally able to showcase some of their talents in front of a live audience of fans in the annual White vs. Blue intrasquad game, held at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas. The result, while not important to anyone, showed the Team Blue prevailing, 97-78.
Team White jumped out to an early 10-4 lead with Marvin Bagley III dominating the paint, with six of the first 10 points, showing why he was promoted to join the national team finalists at training camp next week in Los Angeles.
The national team’s Donovan Mitchell, who started off slow in training camp earlier this week, helped steady the pace and afterward talked about how he’s learning to adjust to his first experience with the FIBA competition.
“I think the biggest thing as far as my reads go, is to slow it down,” Mitchell said after the scrimmage. “A lot of time, and especially since this is my first year (with the USA senior team), is to go and a make a read out of that, understand where the big is at, understand where the help is coming from, and not only being on the rush. One of the things I’m really starting to work on coming off the pick-and-roll, even in transition, is going 100 miles an hour and being able to change pace and find the open guys, and not just score as well.”
With his teammates clicking on all cylinders throughout the night, Mitchell wasn’t asked to do too much and carry the load at any point of the contest. He chipped in with eight points and four assists.
With just under two minutes to go in the first quarter, De’Aaron Fox read the defense and took advantage, swiping the ball and running for a breakaway flush to give Team Blue a lead that they would not relinquish.
The final score of 97-78 maybe makes the contest look a little closer than it was, as Team Blue outscored Team White 78-48 after three quarters. Naturally, the intensity dropped down a bit in the fourth quarter, with Team White outscoring Team Blue 30-19.
Team White did manage to out-rebound Team Blue 45-37, something that has been a constant issue throughout the week of training camp, much to the chagrin of Joe Harris.
“We have to take a little more ownership of keeping guys off the glass,” Harris said postgame. “Making sure we get a body every time down because we are so talented offensively as long as we get the ball and get out in transition we’re going to allow ourselves to get some easy buckets.”
USA coach Gregg Popovich understood that getting a whole new group of guys on the same page is a process that takes time, but he didn’t fault their intensity and energy.
“I think just recognition as much as anything,” he said. “People were figuring out the terms, what things mean. It’s a new language for some players. It is basketball but often times you use different words for different actions on the court. As they get used to that, defense gets better. There’s been absolutely no problems with the effort and physicality, that sort of thing. Now it’s just a matter of getting wiser, becoming more habitual, everybody reacting correctly more often, that is what we’re looking for.”
Kemba Walker finished with 14 points and 4 assists, on 6-11 shooting in 16 minutes. With Walker being one of the leaders, it makes sense to limit his minutes in preparation for the games that officially count at the World Cup in China.
“I think I played pretty well,” he said. “Thought the team did a great job of helping me get open. As far as a team I think we got better. From day one of practice to the second day to the third day we got better. We are trying our best to teach each other as much as possible as fast as possible. I think we are on a great pace right now.”
With his college coach and past USA national team head coach Mike Krzyzewski looking on, Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics led all scorers with 17 points on 6-8 shooting with four rebounds and a game-high plus-20 while he was on the court. The Boston swingman thought that at times the consistency of playing at a high level without being penalized was something the team needs to continue to work on.
“One thing I know we can work on is not fouling so much,” he said. “We fouled a little bit too much tonight. The more time we spend with each other the better we’ll get.”
Even though the game was not close in terms of score, there was still plenty for fans to cheer about as the stars brought out their signature moves, from Walker’s hesitation step-back jumper to Fox spiriting past the entire gym for buckets.
With the crowd rocking “KUZ” chants, Kyle Kuzma was quiet throughout most of the night, but made an imprint in the fourth quarter, getting set up for a catch-an-shoot 3, and then a dazzling dunk on the next possession. Kuzma chipped in with seven points and four rebounds in 10 minutes of action.
On Team White, John Collins added 12 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes. Derrick White, who will be joining the national team roster next week finished with 12 points, eight assists, and four rebounds.
Mitchell Robinson on Team White sat out the game with what was described as a sore knee.