Duke's Cooper Flagg has Team USA camp buzzing after putting on a show against game's elite

LAS VEGAS — All Cooper Flagg had to do was show he belonged on the floor with the NBA’s best. He accomplished that feat in Day 1 of the scrimmages between the U.S. Men’s Olympic team and the Select Team.

But in Day 2, Flagg was making an impact during scrimmages and showing why next season could be a tankathon among the league’s bottom-feeding franchises in the race to position themselves for the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft.

In one sequence the media was allowed to see during the final 10 minutes of the scrimmage, Flagg — listed at 6-foot-8 and slightly over 200 pounds — stole the show as the Select Team was making a comeback against the NBA’s stars.

First, he calmly nailed a wing triple over Lakers star Anthony Davis’ outstretched arms. Then, as Davis leaked out, Flagg disrupted the long pass and tracked back downcourt.

Following a missed shot, he swooped in with a tip and foul on Miami’s Bam Adebayo. It’s not like there are stats officially being kept, but that was a glimpse of what Duke is getting later in the fall, and what the NBA will look forward to, as the stands were filled with coaches and front office personnel.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 07: Cooper Flagg #(L) 31 of the 2024 USA Basketball Men's Select Team and LeBron James #6 of the 2024 USA Basketball Men's National Team hug after a practice session scrimmage at the team's training camp at the Mendenhall Center at UNLV on July 07, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Cooper Flagg has made quite the impression playing against LeBron James and the U.S. men's national team during scrimmages at the team's training camp in Las Vegas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

They were buzzing, not about the result, as the Olympic team escaped with a one-point win after Davis blocked Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski’s shot in the final seconds. But those who saw the whole thing were whispering about Flagg.

Olympic coach Steve Kerr isn’t allowed to talk about Flagg specifically due to draft rules, but he spoke highly of the Select Team’s performance as a whole. There was light concern about Flagg coming in and perhaps not being able to hang with the physicality of the game, but he answered that question resoundingly.

“I’m confident in my ability and my skill," Flagg said afterward. "So yeah, at the end of the day I’m confident in who I am and what I can do.”

Flagg won’t turn 18 until late December, so he wasn’t expected to dominate the day, and no one would say he was the best player on the floor — after all, it’s not a stretch to say all 12 members of the Olympic team will make the Hall of Fame.

But there is some hope attached to him, and he probably knows it. Going into the year with the Duke pedigree will be one thing, but along with that will be the belief he could be the next American-born star to come down a pipeline that’s increasingly filled by foreign players.

As far as the first two days of camp, though, he was just playing ball. And doing it well.

“It’s some pressure — I wouldn’t say pressure, kinda a surreal feeling to be able to share the court. I’m blessed to have this opportunity and to be here,” Flagg said. “So just knowing I could go out here and compete, I kinda had no worries. I didn’t put no pressure on myself, just because I’m here for a reason. I’m confident, I was just playing ball.”

The Select Team seemed to be a worthy tune-up for the Olympic team, who’ll play an exhibition game against Canada on Wednesday night in Las Vegas. It’s almost a crash course in a way for the United States team — a talented squad to be sure, but the countries they’re competing against have been working out and playing together for some time. Flagg doesn't seem to think that will matter for Team USA, however.

“They can be whatever team they wanna be. They have no weaknesses, no holes,” Flagg said. “They can play any type of way and dominate. It’s just gonna be a dominant team that forces its will on everybody.”

But for the moment, or at least a few moments, Flagg planted himself among the game’s elite. He can carry that to Duke and beyond — presumably even putting himself in the Olympic pipeline for the Americans.

The Select Team is usually filled with young players on rookie deals as opposed to the next tier of NBA stars, but plenty of players have gone from the Select Team to the Olympic team in one cycle of four years.

“It just adds confidence, continuing to get better and proving stuff,” Flagg said. “Just seeing the success and going for what I know. I know I can do it, it just adds confidence.”