Team USA's intra-squad on Friday night took on a somber tone following Indiana Pacers forward Paul George's serious leg injury. The game appropriately ended at that point early in the fourth quarter. Before that moment, basketball took place between the Blue and White teams after a weeklong training camp in Las Vegas.
Currently 20 players are with the team, including the Washington Wizards starting backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Later this month 12 players will travel to Spain for the World Cup of Basketball following additional scrimmages in Chicago and New York. George would have been of those players.
Don't expect the performances in this exhibition to be the deciding or even a major factor in the final lineup decisions. The 20 players practiced together the previous four days and played with and against each all season. That said, Wall did not have the greatest of games. The Wizards point guard struggled throughout the first half for the Blue team, often looking for a home run when a simple play would work.
On one possession, Wall drove the lane, jumped without a plan and threw a pass to nobody in particular. It landed in the hands of Beal. In this game, that meant a turnover. Open for an open-court layup on one possession, Wall threw a backwards lob pass that would look more comfortable in an All-Star game - and that neither Anthony Davis nor Mason Plumlee converted. By my count he finished with four turnovers and did not score.
Few can compete with Wall's speed and Team USA offensively wants to run, run, and then run some more. He's also the tallest of the four point guards in camp. After missing a floater off an isolation play at the end of the first quarter, Wall's drive and dish to DeMar DeRozan for a 3-pointer came in the final seconds of the third.
Derrick Rose looked brilliant during the opening minutes. The Chicago Bulls star and former league MVP showed no sign of past knee injuries on a powerful drive to the basket, an explosive dunk off a feed from Kenneth Faried and then a coast-to-coast layup in less time than it took you to read the last 10 words. Rose is a roster lock.
That leaves one or perhaps two point guards slots remaining. At least on this night, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard looked more comfortable offensively while playing under international rules than Wall. Rose and Irving started for the Blue and White teams respectively.
Once again, Beal played the part of a young guard mature and composed far beyond his years. Despite the pressure-filled situation, the 21-year-old appeared relaxed and rarely forced a shot or pass. Beal converted a three-point play following an aggressive drive to front of the rim where he drew a foul from 6-foot-10 Mason Plumlee. He also drained a long jumper and entered halftime second on the white team in scoring with nine points. Beal finished 3 of 6 from the field for 11 points.
Beal might ultimately lose out in a numbers game, or perhaps two of them. There is tremendous depth at the wing guard position. James Harden and Stephen Curry are automatics on the roster. Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver are all several inches taller than the 6-foot-4 Beal. On a team that just lost a tremendous perimeter option in the 6-foot-8 George, taking as much size as possible to Spain could become a priority. Beal certainly did not harm to his chances on Friday.
Click here for an updated look at a potential Team USA final roster.