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Cunningham, Select Team dominate Team USA in scrimmage

LAS VEGAS – Following a “time honored tradition,” Team USA was summarily dumped Friday in a scrimmage against a collection of younger, up-and-coming NBA players.

On Day 2 of the American national team’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup, they were beaten soundly by the U.S. Select Team in a scrimmage of two, 10-minute periods. The Select Team, led by 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham, beat Jalen Brunson, Anthony Edwards, and the rest of Team USA, 47-39.

Statistics for the scrimmage were not shared with the media, but reporters were welcomed into the gym on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to watch Cunningham dominate both periods, beating just about every guard who was in front of him off the dribble.

Jalen Green was effective against Team USA, as were Jalen Williams and Jalen Duren – who particularly bothered the World Cup favorites with his size.

“They handed it to us,” Team USA guard Tyrese Haliburton said. “The young guys did their thing today.”

“We lost,” Jaren Jackson said with a laugh.

“It’s a time-honored tradition of USA Basketball,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Everybody knows the Grant Hill, Bobby Hurley story from 92. In 2019, for the last World Cup, the select team came in, kicked our butts, and that’s the whole point. You want to get great talent to come in and challenge you and that’s what the Select team did today.”

Indeed, Hill (who is now managing director for Team USA) and Hurley, at the time Duke teammates, were on a select team of college stars that were the only team to beat Michael Jordan’s Dream Team in any game in 1992 early in training camp.

Haliburton was on the U.S. Select Team in 2021 that beat the Americans in a scrimmage, prior to their eventual winning of gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

So, it’s not quite time to push the panic button yet. Team USA’s first exhibition game against an opponent outside of the USA Basketball family is at 10:30 p.m. eastern Monday against Puerto Rico here in Las Vegas. Another scrimmage is expected with the Select Team on Saturday.

“The next day you come in a little chippier,” Team USA’s Brandon Ingram said.

The media was not let in until about midway through the first period, so reporters did not see who was on the floor for Team USA when the scrimmage began, but team sources told The Athletic that Ingram, Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Jackson, and Cam Johnson were the first five out there for the Americans.

Kerr declined to name who his starters were, but he said “we didn’t have any intention of, like, ‘this is gonna be our starting lineup.’” Kerr said he asked his assistants in a meeting before the scrimmage to write down who they wanted to see in the first lineup, and “we had like 10 lineups. Gives you an idea that there’s really nothing set yet.”

Team USA’s second unit, then, for at least the first day, was Edwards, Austin Reaves, Haliburton, Paolo Banchero, and Bobby Portis. Walker Kessler and Josh Hart were the last two into the scrimmage. Edwards and Haliburton showed flashes scoring, Brunson threw a couple of impressive passes, and Reaves splashed a 3, but otherwise the Americans were victimized by some missed shots on open 3-point attempts and by a struggle to rebound.

As for Cunningham, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound guard looked fully recovered from the December shin surgery that kept him out for all but 12 games with the Detroit Pistons last season.

“He looked great,” Kerr said. “The injury is clearly behind him and it’s great to see him healthy. He’s a guy who can really control the game from the point guard spot with his size and physicality.”

Kerr said he asked U.S. Select Team coach Jamahl Mosley to run actions in which Cunningham would “do a little Luka (Dončić) impersonation” in high pick-and-roll and other actions in which the point guard dominates the ball.

Dončić, the Dallas Mavericks star who left Slovenia’s exhibition game against Greece on Friday after banging knees with an opponent, will face the Americans in a friendly game next week in Spain.

Cunningham, who said he decided to join the Select Team (which disbands after training camp ends Sunday) for “the experience, being around the best players in the league and learning,” also said he wasn’t surprised the Select Team gave Team USA fits.

“That’s what we came here to do,” Cunningham said.

“What I saw, the kid Jalen Duren and Cade Cunningham, they had really good chemistry today,” Ingram said. “Duren was really good on that board today, but we did some things offensively that we really like. Defensively we want to rebound the basketball a little better.”

(Photo: Joe Amati / NBAE via Getty Images

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