Krzyzewski confident USA's outside shooting will improve

Updated: August 19, 2007, 10:30 AM ET
Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- It's a good thing Team USA wasn't playing Brazil or Argentina on Saturday.

The Americans had trouble shooting against zone defenses in splitting a four-quarter scrimmage with the U.S. select team, comprised of younger NBA players. The senior team won the first and second quarters and lost the third and fourth, the last in overtime.

"We're not shooting real well," coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Indeed, the Americans' inconsistent long-range shooting, a problem in last year's world championships, cropped up again. Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony each missed 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds of overtime.

Though it was only a scrimmage in a high school gym, the shooting woes brought back memories of last summer's world championships in Japan. The U.S. shot 32 percent from beyond the arc in losing to Greece in the semifinals -- a defeat that forced them to play in the FIBA Americas qualifying tournament this summer.

But Krzyzewski warned against reading too much into Team USA's struggles four days before it opens the FIBA Americas. The U.S. needs to reach the finals to qualify for the 2008 Olympics.

"I don't think you make anything of any one thing," Krzyzewski said. "It's all a process.

"The main thing is, we're playing really good defense. We have really good players. And we're going to use those first few games in the tournament to develop a rotation."

On Saturday, the senior team started Bryant, Anthony, LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire and Jason Kidd. But Krzyzewski said that wouldn't necessarily be his starting five in the upcoming tournament.

"I think the three guys you could say would start every game would be Carmelo, Kobe and LeBron," Krzyzewski said. "And then we would look at other people. The main thing is just so they can develop a feel of playing with one another."

They looked out of sync late in the scrimmage, and for much of the overtime, against a fired-up select team that had given them little trouble earlier in training camp.

"The first two days, we were kind of like, 'We're supposed to lose,' " select team swingman Andre Iguodala said. "But I think after we lost, guys were pretty [ticked] off. That's a good sign.

"We want to win," he said. "We aren't here just to get beat up."

The senior team led 20-12 in the fourth quarter -- each quarter starts 0-0 -- when the starters returned with about 6 minutes to play. The select team whittled the lead and tied the game on Jason Kapono's 3 with 25 seconds to play.

The senior team failed to get off a shot at the other end, forcing overtime. The select squad dominated the overtime on its way to a 39-35 victory.

"That's what you want," select guard Aaron Brooks said. "You want to push them. It was intense out there. We didn't want to give up."

Had this been a real game, Krzyzewski likely would have sent in one of his top long-range shooters -- Michael Redd or Mike Miller -- in the final seconds. Instead, he stuck with his regulars.

"I might play 5 minutes of how we play in a game and then put a whole different kind of unit in, and then guys are sitting for 10 minutes," he said. "It doesn't really simulate that."

But the intensity of play simulated international conditions. Late in the game, senior center Dwight Howard floored Kapono with a shot to the head, drawing an intentional foul.

"Everybody's competing," Kidd said. "Everybody wants to win. That's what's going to make us better."

Team USA formed the select team to train future senior team members and also to provide high-level competition for the senior team in training camp.

"We've got to push them," Iguodala said. "With us stealing two [quarters] against them, it's going to make them play even harder."

The Americans rarely have been pushed in FIBA Americas qualifiers, where they are 26-0 all-time. It's possible that the select team is the toughest opponent the U.S. will face this week.

"I would hope so," Iguodala said. "We've got all the tools of an international team."

Game notes
Senior team center Tyson Chandler left the game after being hit in the head. Athletic trainer Casey Smith said Chandler had a headache but did not have a concussion, and he was held out for the remainder of the scrimmage. Chandler is expected to return to practice Monday, after the team takes Sunday off.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press