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LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 18: Members of the USA Basketball Men's National Team huddle during practice on July 18, 2016 at Mendenhall Center on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Team USA concluded their first day of practice in the sweltering heat of Las Vegas as they aim to win three straight gold medals in the equally as hot city of Rio de Janeiro.

And following the 2016 Olympics, coach Mike Krzyzewski will step down and make way for San Antonio Spurs playcaller Gregg Popovich. But when talking to the media after the first day of training camp today, Krzyzewski was quick to remind everyone that he hasn’t left yet and that he still has a job to do.

“All of us need to be in the moment,” Coach K said. “Not, this is my last time. Or this is the third gold medal for Carmelo. Or the second. No, it’s this team. That is what we’re trying to do.  Be in this moment with this team. And each team has its own personality that we’ve coached for the United States.  And I think this one has the capability of being as good a defensive team as we’ve had because we have a lot of interchangeable parts.”

So, no, the legendary Duke coach is not nostalgic until it is over. And for good reason, the USA are aiming for a third straight Olympic gold, which is something LeBron James had the chance to do this summer, but opted out in favour of rest ahead of the new season, as he defends the NBA crown with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But one player that will be competing for a third gold medal is New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony, who admittedly faced pressure to not play at this summer’s Olympics, but having worn the USA vest with pride since he was a junior, Anthony was craving his summer fix of international hoops.

“A lot of people were telling me, ‘don’t do it. Don’t do it.’,”Anthony explained.

“But I actually enjoy it. I was a part of USA Basketball since I was a junior in high school, a junior or senior in high school, and I enjoy it. It’s also an opportunity to go get another gold medal and I didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity.”



Thoughts on the team?

“It’s cool.  Just having a group of guys that really enjoy each other, the whole team.  It’s just fun.   We all went out to eat last night and hung out and came to practice today and worked extremely hard.  This is a great bond we have, all of the guys and I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer.

“When you have a mutual respect for each other, it’s kind of easy to get together and bond, especially when you are competing all these guys.  It’s just a matter of you getting in front of them.  I had guys I didn’t know in 2012 that are really good friends now.  But, I think it’s having that mutual respect, that what makes the friendship come together a little easier.”

Do you sense more of an urgency because it’s an Olympic year?

“No, it’s just basketball.  We are excited to play basketball.  We got one goal and one goal only and that’s to win.  Nobody cares about stats or who plays.  We are just trying to come out there and win.  You can’t put too much pressure on yourself.  It’s a game, first off and we love to play this game but we are going to have fun in the process but we are going to be super prepared and focused every day.”


On the meaning of returning to the court for the first time for the USA since the injury:

“It means a lot. This is like redemption for myself. All the bad that happened that night and now I have this opportunity again to represent my country. It’s special.”

On his two-year journey since the injury:

“It was a bump in the road. But it’s part of the game. Injuries happen. A freak accident that will probably never happen again. I put myself in that position, it happened and now it’s about how I return. I’m very much appreciative of this moment.

“I understand what Coach K wants from me but I also know what I need to add. We have so many guys that can do so many things. I pride myself as one of those guys. I feel like I am just adding on to the environment and DNA of this team.  Coach made it very clear of what he expects from me and I just need to be myself.”


On Chris Paul’s advice playing on the Olympic team

“I talk to Chris all the time. He definitely has given me some pointers. Even though he will definitely be missed on this team, he has given me input on how to help the team win and what to expect on this journey.”

On how goaltending is allowed in international play

“Yes. I am excited about that. It will take a couple of practices to get used to but I will figure it out.”

On taking the court for the first time as a USA player:

“I was excited. We’ve been together and we have been counting down to this practice. It was good to get out on the court, play with these guys and get some live action.”


Photo: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images.