After only three practices and one intra-squad game, there is certainly no shortage of headlines at team USA basketball camp.
When names like Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge all withdraw from the team, it raises an eyebrow. But add in Paul George‘s gruesome, season ending injury and you have a bevy of headlines surrounding – the usually tame – team USA basketball camp.
Although most of the headlines have come from either negative events, or the fact that Derrick Rose looks great during these practices, one aspect that has been overshadowed by all of this, is the play of Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan.
DeRozan has had a fantastic camp for team USA, highlighted by a great intra-squad game where DeRozan posted a stat line of 16-4-2, on 6-of-9 shooting.
Although the intra-squad scrimmage is considered to be an offensive show for fans at times, there is no denying how well DeRozan played. Offensively, DeRozan’s full repertoire was on display. He was able to create space for his jump-shot, drive to the rim and score at a very efficient rate.
While DeRozan’s performance was great, the overall experience he is gaining with team USA might be more valuable than anything.
Aug 1, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; USA Team Blue guardDeMar DeRozan
(45) shoots the ball over the defense of USA Team White guardBradley Beal
(28) during the USA Basketball Showcase at Thomas & Mack Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Being around players like Kevin Durant (before he left team USA), Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis is a sure-fire way to raise anyone’s level of play. But add in coaches like Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams, and you have one of the most savviest basketball camps from both a skill and overall basketball knowledge standpoint.
For DeRozan, the experience of team USA basketball should help him in many ways that Raptors fans might not even see yet.
While most of the leagues best players are on the court during the team USA camp, many of them are also accustomed to frequently having the ball in their hands for their respective team. For DeRozan that is no different. But learning how to play without the ball at team USA camp will be a valuable skill that should immediately translate to the Raptors for DeRozan.
With the Raptors being well equipped with ball handlers like Kyle Lowry, Louis Williams and Greivis Vasquez, DeRozan’s ability to work without the ball will help him not only create more open jump shots, but more open lanes to penetrate off the dribble as well.
Offensively, DeMar DeRozan‘s potential is limitless. But with team USA, everybody can score. Defence becomes a premium asset on this team – especially when the coaching staff is composed of defensive minded wizards that demand players to play on both ends of the floor. While coach Thibodeau barks at every player, his message has appeared to really get through to DeRozan during this camp. DeRozan’s defensive game has improved with each session, and he looks poised to make the final roster for team USA.
After reaching the playoffs for the first time last season, DeRozan’s work ethic has not slowed down one bit this off-season. If anything, it’s intensified. This summer DeRozan has trained in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas, as well as a week in Houston to work on his post moves with Hakeem Olajuwon.
Although DeRozan’s reputation as a gym rat has been well documented over the years, his constant improvement to the “little areas” of his game – like off ball play and post moves – should pay huge dividends come the 2014-15 season. Add in the fact that this will be the first year where DeRozan will have continuity within the Raptors roster, as over 80% of the roster is returning this season, including all five starters.
If team USA camp has been any indication, DeMar DeRozan looks primed for a massive 2014-15 campaign.