While the majority of the NBA enjoys a rare quiet period of the offseason, some of the games’ elite have gathered in Las Vegas to train for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The likes of Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis and many more comprise a formidable Team USA squad that will be the heavy favorites when the tournament kicks off in Spain at the end of the month.
Along with those hopeful of making the final roster in Las Vegas are a group of young, up-and-coming NBA stars who make-up the USA Select Team, a group formed to scrimmage against Team USA and provide them real-game practice in camp. One member of the Select Team who has had coaches and media members raving is Boston Celtics’ rookie guard Marcus Smart.
Smart is no stranger to the national team, he also attended the national team’s camp last year in Vegas and was a member of the gold medal winning Under-19’s team last summer. There are no collegiate players joining the group this time around and Smart is one of just two rookies – along with Bulls’ forward Doug McDermott – to be invited into camp. Now, after spending just a few short days in camp, Smart has managed to make a big impression, despite the star power surrounding him.
Coming into the draft, one of Smart’s most valuable strengths was his defense and is no doubt a big part of why he was selected to compete against the elite guards of Team USA. The 20-year-old rookie has impressed, showing the ability to really trouble some of the league’s best point guards and looks like he will be able to compete on that end from the get-go.
Celtics rookie Marcus Smart really opening eyes as member of Select Team in scrimmages vs Team USA. Going up against Kyrie, Rose, Wall, etc.
— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) July 30, 2014
USA Basketball’s own website went as far as to say that Marcus Smart was one of the most impressive guards on the floor, including the stars on Team USA. Taylor Bern from USA Basketball recapped day 2 of camp and the rave reviews on Smart continued:
Smart, especially, has been turning heads during the scrimmages. The Select Team’s job is to make the National Team better and Smart is doing that with tough defense and matching shot-for-shot on offense. He was one of the most impressive guards on the court both days regardless of team, which is saying something considering he has yet to play an NBA game. “It’s incredible and such an honor,” Smart said of training camp. “It speaks volumes about how much we’re liked by the USA Basketball organization.”
After mixed success in his first taste of NBA Summer League action in Orlando, hearing such positive reviews about Smart in an environment loaded with this much talent is a great sign for the Celtics. Even more so is the news that Smart has looked great on the offensive end of the floor, where he struggled shooting in Summer League. Smart has apparently been shooting with confidence right out to the three-point line and has been aggressive offensively in scrimmages. He, along with Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, have been outstanding for the Select Team and have been making life tough for the stars on Team USA.
Rave reviews continue to pour in from Vegas from coaches in attendance on Marcus Smart & Victor Oladipo. Both impressive on practice squad. — Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 30, 2014
In John Schuhmann’s NBA Hangtime Blog reviewing the Day 2 lineups and scrimmages, he says that Smart, along with Oladipo and other Select Team members, were able to overcome a big deficit and actually defeated a USA team featuring the likes of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
White 1 built a 14-2 lead against its Select opponents, but then the group of Marcus Smart, Victor Oladipo, Doug McDermott, Draymond Green and Cody Zeller came back against White 2 to win the 10-minute scrimmage, 22-21, with Oladipo hitting the scrimmage-winning three from the right wing with two seconds left off a Smart/Green pick-and-roll.
This is all obviously wonderful news and can only bring positive things for Marcus Smart moving forward. Without even lacing up for his first NBA game, Smart has been on the floor with the very best the NBA has to offer and has not only looked like he belonged, but shined. This experience will be invaluable for Smart as he now looks towards training camp with the Celtics and making an impact in his first NBA season. While he may be just a rookie, Marcus Smart looks ready to play and with such positive reviews coming out from his Team USA experience, he may well feature in the national teams’ plans sometime in the future.