While the bigs are dropping from Team USA left and right — both LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love recently bowed out — the point guards have the highest level of competition to earn their spot. Portland’s own Damian Lillard is one of these top-tier lead guards looking to make an impact in Las Vegas at the training camp, so that he can earn one of those coveted positions.
The guys he’s competing with? Oh, nobody too good — just Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, John Wall and Kyrie Irving; so clearly a very difficult feat. However, it was noted by all media who watched Team USA scrimmage Monday that Curry played exclusively at the shooting guard position which could make it essentially four point guards battling for three spots.
Some media, John Schuhmann of NBA.com for one, think that Rose is a lock because of his Team USA experience and if that’s the case it would leave Irving, Lillard and Wall for two spots. Here’s a look at the roster breakdown by Schuhmann and the locks he sees so far.
How I see the USA roster breaking down as camp begins today (locks are ones w/ USA experience + PG): pic.twitter.com/dkwQvPKV6c
— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) July 28, 2014
So, you can see that Schuhmann has Curry, Rose, Durant, Harden, George and Anthony Davis as the locks to make the team. Schuhmann provide a great breakdown of the newsworthy information from the media’s 15 minutes watching the team scrimmage as well.
Another thing to take note of are the lineups that were played today, and I realize its only the first day but there isn’t much time for these Team USA training camps so any trends can be telling. Lillard ran the point with two separate lineups.
I can see that second lineup being put out there as the starting lineup for the first exhibition game Aug. 16 against Brazil. Dame can work on simply running the offense and hitting open shots when he gets them, but most importantly Lillard himself made reference to his work on the other end of the court.
“I think I could really do a good job of figuring out what this team needs me to do and do it great. That’s being able to knock down shots. With my time on the floor, I can really defend, if that’s what they need. Make plays. Find that role that they need me to play and play it to the best of my ability.” Lillard added that with the limited minutes he will be able to “play defense much harder.”
The basic message I pull from that quote is that Lillard will do whatever it takes for the team, so that he can contribute positively — that’s a good sign. When guys are put into an adversarial position of fighting for a spot on a team, it can sometimes pull out a “Me vs Them” mentality and while Dame is very competitive, its easy to see that he is all about the team.
When asked about the point guard competition, Lillard said, “The competition is stiff. It’s one of those things where if you’re the guy that doesn’t happen to be chosen, you can’t be made, because everybody here is worthy of being on the team.”
He is being politically correct right now, but rest assured that Lillard wants to be named to Team USA for this competition and it if happens that he is not, then he will have yet another chip to throw on his shoulder for the upcoming season.