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Bryant, Team USA start getting in gear

August 16, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- One of the nation's top summer reality productions returned to work Wednesday when Team USA began a weeklong basketball training camp in preparation for this year's watered-down version of the FIBA Americas Championship.

After getting together for the first time at a Las Vegas mini-camp a month ago, Team USA went through a three-hour workout under the direction of Coach Mike Krzyzewski in a local high school gym.

And the team returned to work with a few juicy "reality show type" unanswered questions, such as:

Will Kobe Bryant pass the ball to his teammates and play defense? Does LeBron James have enough fundamental skills to excel at the international level? Can Carmelo Anthony step up as a national team leader again?

"Yeah, it could be a problem when you have egos and those type of things," said Detroit Pistons forward Tayshaun Prince. "But I think that with this group and with the coaching staff that we have, it's a good situation where that definitely won't happen."

If one hard practice is a tip, the answers to the unanswered questions seem to be yes.

With veterans such as Bryant, Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups setting the pace, the NBA players worked like a young group of all-stars trying to make a team.

As a result of big man Chris Bosh's withdrawal because of a foot injury, Krzyzewski has a 14-player roster that has to be cut to 12 before the first game, against Venezuela on Aug. 22.

That has helped set a competitive environment -- elbows, pushes, etc. -- that Bryant excels in, according to Prince.

"The thing about Kobe, and it's been this way throughout my career, even before I got to high school, you knew how competitive he is," Prince said. "He loves challenges. He's going to make the best out of you because you know he's going to make the best out of himself.

Said Bryant: "You get a chance to play with great players and an opportunity to see what they do. You can't help but be excited for something like this."

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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