For six days in Las Vegas, the newly formed 2012 version of Team USA tested lineup combinations, beat up on each other, and only imagined what they could accomplish on the same floor against an opponent.
On Thursday night, the fans at the Thomas and Mack Center were treated to the first exhibition contest for Team USA as the squad cruised to a 113-59 victory over the Dominican Republic.
The Knicks were represented by Carmelo Antony and Tyson Chandler in the starting lineup next to Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Anthony finished with 13 points and five boards in less than 13 minutes of court time while Chandler chipped in seven points and five boards in 15 minutes of action.
“I felt good. I felt good, just to get out there and play against somebody other than ourselves or the Select Team. We looked pretty good though,” Anthony acknowledged.
Anthony may have received the starting nod due to his international experience, which recently included a significant role on the 2008 Gold Medal team. The New York All-Star did not read too much into his place in the lineup this early into training but he was able to assess Team USA’s next step towards a gold medal.
“Right now, I can say we are definitely a very athletic team, probably more athletic than we were in 08’ and that’s hard to say,” Anthony stated. “The guys that we have can play multiple positions and different things and it showed that tonight.”
In front of the large crowd, Anthony generated the first bucket for Team USA with a two-handed dunk after receiving the feed from Paul. He worked off the ball again a couple of minutes later as James found his good friend for an easy deuce inside the lane.
With the plethora of gifted ball handlers on the wing, Anthony was free to work away from the rock and at the charity stripe. He scored seven of his 13 points at the free throw line while helping Team USA gain some separation early in the second half with a 61-34 lead at the 5:26 mark of the third quarter.
During the entire training camp, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has stressed the importance of Chandler on the boards and on the defensive side of the court. This was evident on Thursday night, considering Team USA is now missing Blake Griffin, who was forced to withdraw due to a torn meniscus in his knee. Chandler will have to anchor the center spot and his activity in the second half was a good sign for the squad. The 7-footer swatted an attempt in the lane with 3:09 left in the third period and then sprinted down the hardwood for a transition layup to place Team USA on top 70-35.
“It was good,” Chandler reacted. The first half, my legs were heavy and timing was off but the second half, I was a little more loose out there and relaxed and I was able to make some things happen.”
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant led all scorers with 24 points off the bench and Andre Iguodala added 18 points in the victory.
The exhibition win wrapped an eventful six days in Vegas for the red, white, and blue. On Thursday, Team USA jumps on a plane to the nation’s capital for another training session that concludes on July 16 with a contest against Brazil at the Version Center. The squad will travel to Manchester, England from July 17-19, then Barcelona, Spain 20-25, and return to London, England for the start of the 2012 Olympics on July 29.