Additional Quotes >> USA 117, Puerto Rico 78
August 28, 2007 ï¿½ Las Vegas, Nevada
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski
On today's game:
Well, we knew that Puerto Rico would be a challenge. They've always played well against the United States and they have a few pro players on their team. So, we respected them. They controlled the tempo in the first quarter and our defense kind of blew it apart. I thought Amare's play where he hit the three from the corner against the zone was a key to the spurt. He made one of the really great plays of the game on defense (as well). Internationally, a lot of our guys haven't gotten accustomed to the rules. Amare knocked that one ball off (the rim) and those five points, the two they didn't get and the three we got from his three-pointer kind of just blew it apart. And then we just started playing so well in the second quarter. I thought Amare's play, he's been so active and has been playing so well ï¿½ it's been a huge plus for us.
Did you bring up Athens at all (the USA team's loss to Puerto Rico in Greece) before the game?
No. We played them twice last year, once in an exhibition game here. They scored 100 points against us in Japan in the World Championships. We had a 20-point lead and it ended up an 11 or 12 point game. They have a lot of confidence against us and we actually had a great team meeting today, going through our scouting report. I thought our guys responded well.
What were you looking for as far as a response from your team in tonight's game? What did you want them to do?
Well, for us, the game isn't over, ever. There are habits being formed throughout and with the combinations that we are trying, we are always trying to find something new. We worked on our zone again in the second half today. In the first few minutes of the second quarter, we got Deron Williams to play with Kobe and LeBron and Tyson in there, so, you never know what could happen if a guy gets hurt or whatever (could happen). So, we are just constantly trying to use the second half as a practice because you are playing everyday.
It looked like Kobe had some jawing back and forth with some of his opponents.
He's just working on his Spanish. (Laughs). He speaks multiple languages, not like me.
With his third foul, did you just decide to give him the rest of the night off?
No, that had nothing to do with our substitution. You expect some intensity in these games. That is just part of the game. You would see it in football if they didn't have helmets. We love Kobe's intensity. It is a big part of who we are.
Six games into this tournament, what is the biggest difference between the team this year and the team you coached last year?
For me, this year is just a continuation of last year. I thought our guys did a really good job. We weren't quite ready to win a World Championship, but the groundwork was laid out. Amare was with us for most of that time until we went overseas because he still wasn't recovered from his injury, so, there was some continuity. Just our relationship, we talked on the phone a couple of times, so that when he gets here it isn't 'Who is Coach K?' and 'Who is Amare?' We know one another. The whole group gets along very, very well and that is what we hope to continue to improve on for next year.
Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
You've been playing FIBA basketball since Athens. What ways have you improved most as an international player?
Just all around and shooting it from the outside. Just learning the game. Pretty much learning what I can do, when I can do it and how I can do it.
Is it becoming more of a catch-and-shoot player part of that?
With FIBA I think it is. I think on this team that's something I have to do, catch and shoot, not try to play with the ball too much. Get the job done.
You said last year you'll never forget the whipping Puerto Rico gave you in '04. Does that still hold true?
I don't hold grudges but I still keep that game in the back of my mind every time we play them. Even last year when we played them we wanted to get after them and tonight too.
They gave you a tough test last year in that game in Japan. Why was it easier today?
We didn't forget that they gave us a tough time last year. A little trash talking that we was hearing over the last couple of days that just made us get up to play the game tonight.
Who was that coming from?
We don't know. We just heard about it.
How is playing on the national team different than playing in the NBA?
When I play on my team with the Nuggets I have to do pretty much everything; score from the outside, score from the inside. Here I can pick my spots. I don't have to score 30, 40 for us to be successful.
LeBron was just saying he wouldn't be here this summer if it wasn't for you. Are you that much of a leader on this team? Did you talk to other guys to make sure they were coming?
I talked to LeBron, I talked to Amare and I talked to D. Wade before he had surgery. I told them, look, we already committed to this and we got to come out and finish it out and at the end of the day, we're going to like the results.
Why is it so important to you? Obviously you had a pretty bad time the first time you did this.
The experience I had in '04, knowing what I want to do to redeem myself, to regain our spot, where we belong at in the world.
Chauncey Billups, Detroit Pistons
On the game:
It went good. We had a great first half. We were motivated against a team that has had some success against us in the previous experiences. It was great. We jumped out to such a big lead at halftime. We just kind of wanted to play it on out and nobody get hurt.
On the motivation for the next two nights:
Tomorrow night, Uruguay is a team that plays extremely hard and had a lot of success in this tournament and we look forward to that challenge. And of course after that, it's Argentina, another team that is undefeated and we look forward to that one too.
Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Your thoughts on Argentinean players?
I think they're great. Argentina is just one of those countries that puts out great player after great player. It's pretty remarkable. It's comparable to the U.S. in terms of the creativity they play with. It's fun to watch.
If you could choose one thing to win in the next year would it be an Olympic gold or NBA championship?
(Laughs) I'll take it one at a time. Next season I'll take a championship, and then next summer we'll take a gold medal.
Tyson Chandler, New Orleans Hornets
Did you feel good about the way you played tonight?
Definitely. I felt really good. I felt I was up to the challenge. There were some remarks made before the game to give it some hype so I feel like we came out there and did our job.
What about the blocks tonight?
I felt good tonight. I felt in a rhythm. I got loose. I was able to time a couple of shots. My teammates were forcing me into moving up and blocking some more shots.
With all of the back-to-back games, are you seeing guys get tired or are you feeling good?
We're feeling good. That was our wall when we played against Mexico. There were some things that were said to light the fire a little bit under us tonight and I feel like we came out and executed well and kind of responded to a sort of a bad game the other night.
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
The last couple of games you guys have had these really dominant second quarters after the games were close in the first. Do you have to kind of feel these teams out?
We just kind of pushed for a great game and it came out a little too intense. We kind of calmed down in the second quarter and went to work.
Talk about the way you and Amare shuffle at the center position.
We just try to do the best that we can on the floor and just play as hard as we can.
You clinched a spot at the semifinals tonight. Did you all talk about that happening before the game?
Yes. We wanted to win the game. We won't stop until we get it.
LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
I don't think you were as aggressive at last year's tournament as you have been in the last couple of games. Have you changed your mindset at all?
No, not really. Just taking an opportunity when it comes to me. If there's an opportunity to score some points, I can do that but I don't need to do on this team.
Have you seen anything that you think the team needs more from you?
I think just reading the defense. I think the defense is seeing what you guys are seeing, that I wasn't scoring as much but I could be a facilitator.
Did you work on your three-point shot a lot this summer?
All I've been working on all summer is getting my jump shot better and I've been working on the three too.
Puerto Rico obviously beat you a couple of years ago. I think you said you don't really think about that at all but when the game started tonight, did that memory pop into your head?
We wanted to try to play as aggressive as we can on our defensive end. That's not nothing against Puerto Rico, it's against ourselves. We want to try to better ourselves to play as hard as we can.
Carmelo was saying he called you up to talk about coming back this summer after having the baby. Were you close to not coming before that call?
Definitely. He was probably the main reason why I came back here. Just him being a good friend of mine. Just having that camaraderie and knowing that I've had years of being in FIBA and he's had years in FIBA so being able to pass the word along to some of the new guys we were going to have, I thought it would be important.
Was that after the Finals?
It was before the Finals when he heard I was not thinking about coming and then after the Finals also.
Jason Kidd, New Jersey Nets
On the game:
I think we were focused tonight because coming in there was a little chatter that they thought they could beat us. But, we wanted to respond not just for that but respond after a bad performance we felt as a whole. And we came back like we played those first four games.
On mindset going forward:
Our mindset is that we are not worried about the semifinals. Every time we take the floor, we want to get better and show the world that we are coming back to be a team that hopefully will be the favorites to win the gold medal. To get better and play the right way - that's what we're trying to do.
We will see them tomorrow at our team meeting. But again we're not taking anybody lightly. This is another chance for us to get better and show the world that no matter who our opponent is, that we're going to come and play every night.
Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons
Is this team feeling any fatigue after playing so many games?
Guys aren't as tired as people think because of the simple fact that everyone is playing balanced minutes. It's pretty evenly divided. We're playing like 14, 15, and 17 minutes so it's not a situation like in the NBA where we often play 40 plus a night. That depth helps a whole lot when we have 10 games in 12 days.
What kind of challenge will Uruguay present?
I watched a couple of their games and one thing they did well, especially against Puerto Rico, is come out at half time being down and jump out of the gate to get back in game. They feed off energy; their bench is into the game. Esteban Batista is playing very well in this tournament. It's a team like we are; they're enjoying their opportunity.
Do you anticipate a letdown after the win over Puerto Rico?
Uruguay is definitely a team we have to be prepared for, especially after coming off a good win over Puerto Rico tonight. We can't let up like we did against Mexico after the win over Brazil. Hopefully we get our energy back up tomorrow, stay focused, and get out of the gate early.
Michael Redd, Milwaukee Bucks
What are the keys to beating Uruguay?
Keep the pressure on them, basically. We need to keep doing what we've been doing and play unselfish basketball. Against Uruguay we need to jump out early and hopefully catch a rhythm and try to get a win.
What makes this team so special?
Everyone lays down their ego. No one player is bigger than the team. Throughout the whole team, it's just really smooth. I'm proud of how we've approached this thing, very professionally. It is fun playing with these guys.
Amarï¿½ Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns
What are your thoughts of the game? What were your thoughts on the game tonight?
I came out thinking that we'd need a lot of activity in tonight's game. Puerto Rico, in the past, has had a lot of success against us and we came out really focused. We knew what it would take to get a win and we've been playing great defense this whole tournament. So, we wanted to continue that and come out and just pretty much play as hard as we can as far as activity from a defensive standpoint to get this win.
Amare, as a reserve on the 2004 team who didn't play much compared to being a key player on this team, can you talk about your role on this team now?
I think it is great. That experience in 2004 was priceless, being able to experience different cultures and play for the USA for the first time was amazing. Now, to be back here this year, is even better. I am participating a little bit more and trying to contribute a lot more to this team than I (could) in 2004. I look at it as a blessing and I am trying to continue to grow as a player and learn as a player from all of these All-Stars and superstars.
Six games into this tournament, what is the biggest difference between the team this year last time?
I think for me, now, we are extremely focused on the defensive end. In 2004 we had focus on defense but it wasn't the same. I think the coaching staff has done a great job of explaining how important defense is and what it takes to be successful on that end of the court. Offensively, we've got guys that can score. We've got scoring champs, runners-up in the scoring race, etc. This year our focus is defense and I hope you guys are seeing that.
Talk about that three-pointer you hit. Did Mike D'Antoni give you a hard time for that? And also, talk about you and Dwight playing off of each other on the team.
Well, that three-point shot, I practice that shot a lot. You guys might not get to see it a lot, but it is a shot that I feel comfortable shooting. Dwight Howard and I got a chance to expose the zone by playing behind it, and we got a couple of easy baskets and nice interior passes there. There are also some times where the opposing defender won't want to step out on the perimeter and so that three-pointer is going to be open.
MANUEL CINTRON, PUERTO RICO HEAD COACH
What are your thoughts of the game?
First of all, we went against a team that is complete superior than us. These are NBA level players, and there are just no comparisons. They are just better than us. We gave our efforts and tried to play the game, but we just could not get close to balance the game. We still have a few games left to play in this tournament, and now we are looking to get into the fifth position at the end.
Puerto Rico already went against teams with NBA level players, what do you think was the difference this time?
The difference is standing right on the back of this room. He is one of our former players, Jose Piculin, who played for the Puerto Rican team for approximately twenty-six years. At this moment we have a brand new team that still needs to develop and gain more international experience.
RICARDO SANCHEZ, PUERTO RICO
Can you comment on today's game?
Well, we just finished playing against some of the best basketball players in the world. We did not stand a chance. We tried, but there were no openings to try to balance the game. They have big men on their team, like Dwight Howard and Mike Miller, who you just can not go one-on-one against.
Do you feel more ready to go into the NBA today than you did when you were first drafted by the Denver Nuggets?
Yes. I feel so much more confident today than I did before. I was only seventeen, and I did not have the confidence and experience to play in the NBA that I have today. For the past three years, I feel that I have grown a lot. I am more mature, and I strongly believe that I have what it takes now to make a name for myself in the NBA.