- Associated Press - Thursday, August 12, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Ideally, Mike Krzyzewski would have his players in a gym Thursday.

Instead, Kevin Durant and Co. were at Radio City Music Hall, essentially serving as the opening act for a Jay-Z performance that followed.

Not the best way to get a young team ready for a major tournament, but USA Basketball and its partners aren’t just trying to win the world championships. The goal is also to promote them.

So the Americans are spending this week in New York, where time on the court is shared with appearances off it.

“It still doesn’t interfere with practice,” Krzyzewski said. “If you want basketball to be put in a position that we believe worldwide basketball should be, you’ve got to do things like this. You’ve got to make the effort.”

The Americans are only two weeks from their arrival in Turkey, and they’re well behind some of their competition. Defending world champion Spain and perennial power Argentina have already selected their teams and begun playing warmup games.

The U.S. players, meanwhile, were hitting New York landmarks like tourists: An event Wednesday at the Tiffany and Co. jewelry store, followed by the trip Thursday to Radio City, where they would lightly scrimmage.

That came during the opening night ceremony for the World Basketball Festival, an event that USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and Nike Brand president Charlie Denson planned last year as what Colangelo called a “send-off for the world championships.”

The U.S. team had a training camp last month in Las Vegas, where it worked out every summer before its competitions from 2006-08, and things may have been easier for Krzyzewski if they just stayed there and practiced in comfortable surroundings. But the marketing opportunities are better in New York, even if more obligations come with them.

Colangelo realizes that the move east is “a little distracting for Coach K” but necessary for Denson’s vision.

“He wants to raise the bar for the world championships to become like the World Cup in soccer, and what better place to launch than in New York,” Colangelo said. “And they’ve made a big investment here, which is much appreciated and it is lifting the bar.”

The world championships are more prestigious than the Olympics in many countries, though they lag behind in the United States. They’ll get coverage this weekend, with China, France and Puerto Rico joining the U.S. here.

The Americans will play the French on Sunday in the opener of a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, followed by China against Puerto Rico.

“I think one of the things that probably here in the U.S. we underestimate is how loud this event is in China, how loud it is in South America, and that’s really the opportunity to continue to grow the game and expose the game worldwide,” Denson said during an interview at Niketown, where displays in the front of the store feature uniforms and merchandise of the four teams and Brazil.

Denson said New York was a natural for the weekend _ there’s an event at famed Rucker Park on Friday. But he said it could be done in European cities before the 2012 Olympics in London and 2014 world championships in Spain.

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