U.S. mixing in promotional appearances
NEW YORK -- Ideally, Mike Krzyzewski would have his players in a gym Thursday.
Instead, Kevin Durant and Co. were at Radio City Music Hall, essentially serving as the opening act for a Jay-Z performance that followed.
Not the best way to get a young team ready for a major tournament, but USA Basketball and its partners aren't just trying to win the world championships. The goal is also to promote them.
So the Americans are spending this week in New York, where time on the court is shared with appearances off it.
Team USA: Warmup Games
Here's Team USA's remaining schedule of exhibitions leading up to the 2010 FIBA men's basketball championship slated for Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Istanbul, Turkey:
• Aug. 25: USA vs. Greece, Athens, Greece, Noon ET, ESPN2, ESPN3.com
The Americans are only two weeks from their arrival in Turkey, and they're well behind some of their competition. Defending world champion Spain and perennial power Argentina have already selected their teams and begun playing warm-up games.
The U.S. players, meanwhile, were hitting New York landmarks like tourists: An event Wednesday at the Tiffany and Co. jewelry store, followed by the trip Thursday to Radio City, where the Blue Team beat the White 49-47 in overtime, which was sudden death so the scrimmage could end and the venue could be prepared for the concert.
"It's a little bit different environment," Krzyzewski said. "I thought our guys reacted very well to it."
That came during the opening night ceremony for the World Basketball Festival, an event that USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and Nike president Charlie Denson planned last year as what Colangelo called a "send-off for the world championships."
The U.S. team had a training camp last month in Las Vegas, where it worked out every summer before its competitions from 2006-08, and things may have been easier for Krzyzewski if they just stayed there and practiced in comfortable surroundings. But the marketing opportunities are better in New York, even if more obligations come with them.
Colangelo realizes that the move east is "a little distracting for Coach K" but necessary for Denson's vision.
"He wants to raise the bar for the world championships to become like the World Cup in soccer, and what better place to launch than in New York," Colangelo said. "And they've made a big investment here, which is much appreciated and it is lifting the bar."
The world championships are more prestigious than the Olympics in many countries, though they lag behind in the United States. They'll get coverage this weekend, with China, France and Puerto Rico joining the U.S. here.
The Americans will play the French on Sunday in the opener of a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, followed by China against Puerto Rico.
"I think one of the things that probably here in the U.S. we underestimate is how loud this event is in China, how loud it is in South America, and that's really the opportunity to continue to grow the game and expose the game worldwide," Denson said during an interview at Niketown, where displays in the front of the store feature uniforms and merchandise of the four teams and Brazil.
Denson said New York was a natural for the weekend -- there's an event at famed Rucker Park on Friday. But he said it could be done in European cities before the 2012 Olympics in London and 2014 world championships in Spain.
And he said the promotional activities won't prevent the Americans for being ready when the world championships open Aug. 28.
"They're going to be very focused. The U.S. team has a very rigorous practice schedule, Coach K runs a pretty tight ship," Denson said. "So yeah, we're creating a lot of excitement and energy around the event, they're very focused on their task at hand and what they have to get done."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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