Team USA closest it’s ever been ahead of Rio

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada: (Left to right) Draymond Green No.14, DeAndre Jordan No.6, Kevin Durant No.5 and Harrison Barnes No.8 of the United States laugh on the bench during a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game against Argentina at T-Mobile Arena on July 22, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The United States won 111-74. AFP PHOTO

LAS VEGAS, Nevada: (Left to right) Draymond Green No.14, DeAndre Jordan No.6, Kevin Durant No.5 and Harrison Barnes No.8 of the United States laugh on the bench during a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game against Argentina at T-Mobile Arena on July 22, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The United States won 111-74. AFP PHOTO

CHICAGO: Though there are only two returning members from the 2012 Olympic Gold medal campaign, the U.S. men’s basketball team has already forged a significant bond since opening camp on July 18 in Las Vegas.

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It’s evident in their exhibition play, which has resulted in three wins by an average margin of 45.3 points, but it’s also obvious in their camaraderie.

Olympic-newcomer Paul George, whose mere presence on the court is remarkable considering the compound fracture he suffered two years ago while scrimmaging with Team USA, said that there’s something unique about this collection of All-Stars.

“The chemistry has been great since Day 1,” he told USA TODAY Sports ahead of Team USA’s exhibition against Venezuela in Chicago. “Everybody has just been willing to be open with each other. I talked to a lot of the guys that played previous years for the Olympics (Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant), and by far they say this is the closest the team has been. And you feel it. You get that understanding just being around those guys that we all genuinely like each other. Not to say any previous teams weren’t that way, but we all genuinely like each other.”

That’s hardly surprising given the NBA fraternity, but it wasn’t long ago that several players went head-to-head with their seasons at stake.

The most notable rivalry involved Kyrie Irving, who helped drag the Cavaliers back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, and the Warriors’ trio of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, though he’s now with the Dallas Mavericks. Additionally, it seems fair to assume that there were no hard feelings between the Warriors players and Kevin Durant after their epic Western Conference Finals battle.

George, whose Pacers were ousted by fellow Olympians Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan of the Toronto Raptors, has every reason in the world to embrace his role with Team USA and simply appreciate the ride. He spoke at the “Summer of Jeep” event on Thursday afternoon in partnership with USA Basketball and couldn’t have been more comfortable addressing his comeback.

“I do, and I don’t,” George said, when asked if he considers how far he’s come in the short time since his career-altering injury. “It’s hard to put myself back in that place. I try not to think about it. I do, I’m very positive and optimistic about the whole journey back, but as much as possible I try to limit, I try to take myself away from being hurt and the rehab.”

Team USA is once again favorites heading into next week’s Olympics, where George and his teammates can re-write their final chapter.

TNS

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