Sunday, July 14, 2024

Notes from USA Basketball training camp: Durant sidelined with sore calf

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LAS VEGAS — Two of Team USA’s biggest stars, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum, have not been practicing with the team the first couple of days, although for very different reasons.

Tatum had an excused absence for personal reasons, coach Steve Kerr said, adding that the defending NBA champion would join the team and be ready to go later in the week.

Durant has not been going through drills due to a calf soreness, something Kerr confirmed.

“He’s got calf soreness, [he’s] day to day,” Kerr said. “We’re just going to show an abundance of caution…

“I think he tweaked it a few days before we got here. And you know, it’s it’s not bad, he says. He keeps assuring me that it’s not bad but we’re gonna we’re just gonna be really careful and smart and take it day by day.”

Durant is walking around at practice without any limp, nor is he wearing a leg wrap or support, which suggests this may be minor. However, considering Durant’s history with a torn Achilles, caution is the right move.

Here are some other notes from the first couple of days of camp, including the 15 minutes of scrimmage in front of the media between the senior team and the select team.

• The quote of camp so far goes to Anthony Edwards, when asked who on this stacked team would be the No. 1 option.

“I’m still number the No. 1 option,” Edwards said with a huge grin. “I mean, y’all might look at it differently. I don’t look no different… Yeah, I just go out there and be myself. Shoot my shot, play defense and they got to fit in and play around me that’s how it is.”

That’s Edwards at his best —confidence bordering on arrogance but with a wink. He also talked about fitting into a role, a common theme in the words from all the veteran players on this team. Edwards is arguably the most athletic and entertaining player on roster, but is he the guy Kerr turns to in the clutch?

“When a game is on the line who’s going to be the alpha?” Edwards repeated a question. “I think Kevin Durant. He better be, that’s what I came to see.”

• Maybe the most striking thing out of the scrimmage was just how vital Joel Embiid is to this roster. It was instantly obvious, starting with just his size and physicality — he is made for the international game in the way other USA bigs are not (as good as Bam Adebayo and Anthony Davis are). Plus, Embiid can shoot the three, run the floor and more. If the USA wins gold, he is at the heart of it.

• Kerr said he would experiment with different lineups during the scrimmages and tune-up games. That he did. We saw one lineup with Embiid and four guards — Stephen Curry, Devin, Booker, Jrue Holliday and Edwards.

• Cooper Flagg looked like he belonged, including a dunk near the end of the scrimmage. Considering he just graduated high school (and is headed to Duke in the fall) that’s a good sign for the projected No. 1 pick.

• Asked who the funniest guy on the team was, both Anthony Davis and Ant said Kawhi Leonard. They weren’t kidding, a lot of players talk about how funny Leonard is.

• One non-camp note: Team USA beat Italy 129-88 to win the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2024 championship. That is the USA’s seventh straight title in that competition.

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