Paul George and nearly three dozen other NBA players are in Las Vegas to train at UNLV with USA Basketball ahead of the FIBA World Cup (Aug. 30 – Sept. 14).
George is one of 20 players vying for a spot on the 12-man National Team roster, although it’s nearly a sure thing that the likes of George, Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Anthony Davis are a handful of the locks to make the trip to Spain. This is another big step for George, 24, an unheralded recruit out of Palmdale, Cali. In four years, he’s become a top-15 player in the Association and best known for his two-way play.
Team USA won’t necessarily look to him to score – they know he has it in his aresenal – but rather have him be focused on the defensive end and giving the opponents’ lead players fits. It wasn’t long ago, during his rookie season, that the only way former Pacers coach Jim O’Brien would play PG was for his defense. That’s partly how George became so good on that side of the floor – he worked at it.
Training camp runs all week, concluding on Friday with a scrimmage. Following the first two practices, George spoke with the gathered reporters. Read what he had to say below:
On if he changed his preparation when he found out about the camp:
“No, not really. It’s just getting used to the (FIBA) basketball. Learning how to dribble, learning how to shoot with it. And just doing repetition stuff and making sure my body was conditioned well enough. It’s a different intensity playing with this team.”
On if he feels he’s adjusted to the USA Basketball coaching staff this year:
“Yeah, we’re starting to understand what Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) likes and his playing style. We’re starting to transform more and more every year on the way he plays the game. It’s been great for both of us, Coach K as well as the players because he has a different mind and he has a great mind of the game. He helps a lot of us out and myself, I’ve learned a lot from him.”
On Derrick Rose:
“He looked great. He looked like he didn’t miss a beat. It looked like he played last season as well as a full season before that. I’m happy to see him back on the floor. Although he’s in the East and in the Central Division, I still hate to see guys go down. It’s great to see him out here. He looks great and I’m excited to play alongside him.”
On going against the Select Team:
“It’s great. They’re still great young pros in this league. We’re still getting the most out of our training going against those guys because all of them, at the end of the day, want to be where we’re at. I started out on the Select Team and I worked my way up to where I’m fortunate to play with the main team. So it’s a great start for those guys. It’s good competition for us as well as a great experience for them and I know a lot of them are going to go back to their (NBA) teams better.”
On whether he’s grown closer to anybody since the start of training camp practice:
“Yeah. I grew closer with a lot of these guy. A lot of these guys I consider brothers so it’s good to come out here, work hard and train together.”
On if he’s gotten closer with anybody specific:
“John (Wall). John is always my guy. It’s good to be here with DeMarcus (Cousin). I enjoy playing with Gordon (Hayward). It’s my first time being alongside KD (Kevin Durant). It’s gaining a little chemistry with all those guys.”
On the similarities and differences between the USA Basketball coaches and other coaches he’s had during his career:
“Monty (Williams) is straight to the point. He lets you know what’s going on. He gives you assignments. His mind for basketball is at an elite level as far as the coaches in this league. It varies. Each coach brings something that another coach doesn’t bring. Not to say that that coach doesn’t have it, but it’s just the way that he delivers that message. It’s great to get coaching from all these guys in here.”
On his relationship with National Team Coach Mike Krzyeswski:
“It’s growing. The more and more I’m around him, the more I get a better understanding of what he wants from me here. And it’s the same thing for him. He gets to learn what kind of player I am and what I can do on the floor for him. So the more we’re around, I think our chemistry will grow.”
On what the coaches are stressing most to the players:
“It’s defense and keeping that intensity. USA Basketball, we rely on our athleticism, our elite speed, our elite quickness to make plays and get out and play a fast-tempo.”