View Full Version : Paul, Melo, Joe Johnson making big impressions on Coach K so far.

07-24-2006, 01:06 PM

LAS VEGAS -- Cutdown day is coming for Team USA, which needs to whittle its roster of 24 players down to 15 before heading overseas, and then down to 12 for the World Championships.

The first cuts will come Tuesday after the final day of practice. Then the team gets a five-day break, and the final active roster won't be submitted until Aug. 18 -- the day before the tournament begins.
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
Chris Paul's game was already familiar to Coach K in the ACC.

Thus far, Chris Paul (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3930) has improved his stock the most, with Carmelo Anthony (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3706) a close second and Joe Johnson (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3520) third, judging by comments made by coach Mike Krzyzewski after practice Friday.
"Paul has really jumped up. He's the truest point guard, and he gets it downcourt so fast that we have to be able to run with him, and we're not in shape yet to do that," Krzyzewski said.
"Carmelo has stood out, he's like on a mission. I don't know what mission it is, but he's been terrific. I didn't know Joe Johnson, and I don't know if there can be a more solid player. I mean he can play four positions, he shoots, he defends and he doesn't say peep. There's high maintenance, low maintenance and no maintenance. He's no maintenance. And I'm impressed with the potential of Dwight Howard (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3818). What an amazing guy, and I just think he's going to grow."
The United States invited 24 players to training camp in Las Vegas, but injuries sidelined Kobe Bryant (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3118), J.J. Redick (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4139) and Paul Pierce (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3253), and the death of an infant son caused Lamar Odom (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3327) to withdraw. Amare Stoudemire (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3607) is attending and playing, but he's still recovering from knee surgery and seems an extreme longshot to make the final active roster, although Coach K said he had his strongest day of camp Sunday. Michael Redd (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3442) and Chauncey Billups (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3174) are in camp but won't be traveling to Asia because of personal commitments.

That leaves 17 players (18 counting Stoudemire) vying for 12 spots, and Krzyzewski offered some insight into what the decision-making process will be when the first cut is made Tuesday.

"We have to be careful not to multiply positions too much," Krzyzewski said. "Can we take two or three points guards on the trip? How many big guys do we need? On the perimeter, do people duplicate something? That's where the decisions will have to be made, and that's going to be tough."
With Coach K's comments in mind, Insider handicaps each player's chances of actually wearing a Team USA jersey when the World Championships begins:

Carmelo Anthony: A lock to make the active roster, and he may even be earning himself a spot in the starting lineup. "Carmelo came in here as part of a mission, and he has played accordingly. He's making a statement early on in this camp with how much he wants to make this team," team director Jerry Colangelo told Insider.
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
'Melo says he's on a mission. That seems to be impressing the Team USA staff.

Gilbert Arenas (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3540): The coach's infatuation with the Paul is going to be bad news for one of the other point guards, but Arenas is clearly the best of them, and Team USA will need his outside shooting to contend with the steady diet of zone defenses they'll see. Pretty close to being a lock for the final 12.

Shane Battier (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3516): His Duke roots won't hurt him, but the numbers game will likely work against him. Odds are he'll be a practice player who makes the trip to Japan but doesn't make the cut from 15 to 12.

Chauncey Billups: His wife is expecting a baby, and he will not travel to Asia. He still might be a member of the 2008 Olympic team, and he might even play next summer at the Tournament of the Americas in Venezuela if the U.S. fails to win the gold medal in Japan.
Chris Bosh (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3707): He's a favorite of Colangelo's, and Team USA desperately needs his size and inside-outside game. Look for him to be the first big man off the bench in Japan, though he may start against teams with multiple big men who can shoot the 3.
Bruce Bowen (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3167): This is the guy they were talking about when they said they wanted to bring in role players, and Bowen's role will be to defend the opposing team's best scorer. If the US faces Argentina, he'll be the one guarding Spurs teammate Manu Ginobili (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3380). With his defense and 3-point shooting, he's another lock for the final 12.
Elton Brand (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3324): He's America's best big man, at least until Greg Oden (who attended two days of this training camp) gets to the NBA, and he has plenty of international basketball experience. Probably the starting center in Japan.
Kobe Bryant: Stunned Colangelo and Krzyzewski by undergoing knee surgery a couple of days before camp opened. Is not in Las Vegas yet, but is expected to attend the second phase of camp beginning July 31.
Kirk Hinrich (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3710): Has been slowed during camp by a tweaked hamstring, which hasn't helped his case for possibly being the third point guard. It's still too early to count him out, though, as he insisted to team doctors Sunday that he be allowed to scrimmage for the first time.
Dwight Howard: A lock for the 15-man squad that will leave for Asia on Aug. 4, and it's hard to see him being kept off the final 12-man roster. Coach K sounded genuinely impressed, saying he expects to see even greater things two weeks from now.
LeBron James (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3704): The King is a lock for Japan, the only question being what his role will be in the World Championship. You could make the case that he'd be the perfect sixth man if Coach K went with a starting five of Paul, Dwyane Wade (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3708), Bowen, Anthony and Brand.
Antawn Jamison (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3247): Told Insider after practice Friday that this is the first time in his life he's been in the position of trying out for a team. "I'm in a situation where I'm on the bubble, but I think I'm unique. I can come in and shoot from the outside is they need me to, or I can score on the inside. I can adapt too to what we're doing defensively, and I think that fits in to what this team is trying to do."
Joe Johnson: Another lock for Japan, and will probably be the emergency third point guard behind Paul and Arenas. Put him out there with a couple of other shooters, and no one will dare play zone against the U.S.
Shawn Marion (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3332): The only guy in camp who played on both the 2002 World Championship team and the 2004 Olympic team. A favorite of Colangelo's, so we'll list him as a 99 percent lock to make the final 12. He sat out Sunday's practice with a sore knee.
Brad Miller (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3305): When the team bigwigs debate the merits of bringing an extra big man, this is one of the main guys they're talking about. He'll probably be on the plane to Asia, but a spot on the final 12 will have to be earned -- or created by an injury.
Adam Morrison (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=4131): He's in camp to get a taste of the program, but his stay is expected to be short. He's the easiest guy to cut, so count on him getting cut Tuesday.
Lamar Odom: Withdrew after Jayden Odom, his third child, died in a crib last month just 6 1/2 months after being born.
Chris Paul: The reigning Rookie of the Year, as noted above, has been the most impressive player in camp. He's not a lock yet for the final 12, but he's pretty close.
Paul Pierce: Is scheduled to have minor surgery on his left elbow Aug. 1, and has not been in camp.
Michael Redd: Is attending camp, but won't be traveling to Asia because of his upcoming marriage plans. Would have been the pure shooter the Americans have been lacking the past few years, and will probably play in Beijing.
J.J. Redick: Has been bothered by a back injury, and attended camp for only two days before leaving. Never had a shot at making the final 15, but viewed as a building block for the future.
Luke Ridnour (http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=3717): He was an early favorite to be one of the first cuts, but Hinrich's hamstring injury might be helping his cause somewhat. If he makes the final 15, he'd be a practice player in Asia.
Amare Stoudemire: Lots of people forget he was a member of the 2004 Olympic team because Larry Brown kept him buried on the end of the bench. His recent knee surgery makes him the easiest cut aside from Morrison, but his improvement Sunday tossed a bit of a wrench into the mix.
Dwyane Wade: A lock for Japan, and probably a lock for the starting lineup. But will Coach K use him as the starting point guard? Or does he put him at shooting guard and find another place to use LeBron? It'll to be interesting to watch as the team plays exhibitions in Las Vegas (against Puerto Rico Aug. 3), Guangzhou, China (against China and Lithuania Aug. 7-8) and Seoul, South Korea (against Lithuania and Korea Aug. 13 and 15). Chris Sheridan, a national NBA reporter for the past decade, covers the league for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here (http://proxy.espn.go.com/chat/mailbagESPN?event_id=9634).

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Trader Joe
07-24-2006, 01:10 PM
JJ is a player. Very well rounded. He should work well in the international game.

07-24-2006, 01:13 PM
I'm amazed they placed Melo over LBJ in the starting lineup. When you get an abundance of talent like that, you need players who don't have a problem giving up the ball.

I'm not saying Melo is a ballhog, by any means, but LeBron has the mindset that 10assists, are just as good as him scoring. You need players that are willing to sacrifice personal scoring, for team scoring, and he fits that mold.

It also doesn't hurt that he's probable the most athletic guy in the world, and draws attention from all 5defenders just for the threat of him driving.

Then again, he's a perfect teammate, and I doubt he'd have a problem coming off the bench. :shrug: Glad I don't have to make the decisions.

07-24-2006, 01:31 PM
As much as I hate to say it - kinda happy that Kirk hurt his hammy and guranteed Gil is going.