LAS VEGAS - While it can be (and is) debated whether Mike Krzyzewski made a mistake by going with small lineups and playing center Brad Miller only sparingly at the 2006 World Championships in Japan, the Kings center is well thought of by USA Basketball officials. Besides the fact Miller refused to gripe about his limited playing minutes while the national team lost to Greece and only came away with the bronze medal, USAB types still appreciate the fact that Miller agreed to play for the 1998 Worlds team that finished a surprising third in Athens.
For those who might have forgotten, that was the year that Patrick Ewing led an NBA player boycott of the tournament because of the labor impasse that led to the first work stoppage in league history. The 1998-99 season was shortened and didn't begin until February.
Miller - who was not drafted and briefly flirted with playing overseas - was among the collegians and CBA players who participated. Rudy Tomjanovich somehow directed the hastily-assembled squad to the bronze medal and earned himself the head coaching job for the 2000 Sydney Games.
While waiting for Krzyzewski to open up the closed practice currently under way at Valley High, one of the USA officials asked about Miller's recent suspension, and added, "He's still one of our favorite guys."
Why play here?
As mentioned in of my previous blogs, members of the USA squad and the Select Team have been scrimmaging at one of the area's older high schools instead of, say, the more comfortable surroundings at UNLV. The problem is one of timing: four AAU tournaments are ongoing, and UNLV's facilities were booked for the annual high schools a long time ago. Valley was selected because it has a regulation 94-foot court and a separate practice court a few steps away.
A former coach weighs in
Krzyzewski, who coached Shelden Williams at Duke, said he was glad to hear reports out of UNLV indicating that the Kings power forward performed well during the NBA Summer League that recently ended. The former Atlanta Hawks first-round (and shocking No. 5) selection seemed much more receptive to doing the dirty work around the basket - scrapping for rebounds, scoring off putbacks - instead of relying so heavily on low -post moves. The muscular Williams is too slow to consistently score against NBA frontlines, especially when the defense collapses, and has a tendency to spin into crowds of defenders.
"I think he can succeed in the league," Coach K said, "if he embraces the things that he can do well."