August 19, 2006 / Sapporo, Japan
General Comments about the game:
Puerto Rico played really well, they shot the ball unbelievably well.
I think for us it was important to get acclimated to this setting. You
have to provide your own enthusiasm, the crowd is a big crowd but it is
a quiet crowd.
Puerto Rico played their hearts out and gave us a great
game. They shot the ball extremely well. I thought our guys did a good
job of adjusting and we got good leads and never lost control of the game,
but Puerto Rico never quit and that's to their credit, so we earned a
hard fought win.
We have to understand that everybody that plays
against us plays like they have nothing to loose. So you have to pressure
their shots more because there is no pressure on them when they are shooting
the ball. Puerto Rico made some big threes, that's the most threes we've
given up. In the five exhibitions we hadn't given up that many open shots
but today we did. I think it's a good thing to get adjusted, now lets
get on to China.
What Puerto Rico did is they played the whole game with only one big
guy so as a results we could not use all of our bigs.
Our guys had the game in control once that first quarter and a half was
over. It was kind of like Las Vegas, Puerto Rico was ahead of us in the
middle of the second quarter its very similar, except we had the crowd,
we had energy and all that and we didn't have that today. We went on a
couple of runs where we went up 18 points or 16, but there wasn't a crowd
and that's what I mean about getting adjusted to the situation.
We're you surprised Puerto Rico gave you
We're aware we can have problems with anybody. We respect everybody.
In the first period you yelled at the team,
what was going through your mind?
We were ready to play because we respect them, but we needed to
create energy. They were coming back in a zone and they played their tempo
more so then our tempo and I wanted to just try and generate more energy
so we could get a better tempo. They did a great job of controlling the
tempo the whole game.
There was a stretch where you had three
consecutive steals that led to points, can you talk about that and just
assess your defense overall.
I think we played defense in spurts, but that had a lot to do with
the fact that Puerto Rico had a number of good ball handlers in the game,
and Carlos (Arroyo) is one of the best guards. They never lost control
of the game where as some other team might have letup, they got stronger
when adversity hit and I think that says a lot to their veteran play at
the guard spot, they kept their team in it.
How did it feel to play in the opening game
of this years World Championship?
It was great for us to get out there. Once again, it seems like we always
bump into Puerto Rico, and I think we came out and took care of business
like were supposed to. I think we were probably a little over-excited
to be out there and finally starting the World games, but once we settled
down, we were good.
How do you feel about tomorrows game
Tomorrows game is going to be even tougher than todays
game. I think China was in the stands today scouting us, so its
going to be tough. We just have to be prepared and go out there and play
You gave up a lot of points, what do you
think was good about your teams defense?
I think from the second quarter on, our defense was good. The first
quarter we gave them too many points. We let them score, we let them into
the middle of the court a lot, but we sat down at the end of the first
quarter and said if we wanted to win we were going to have to do it on
the defensive end.
Was there any sense of panic in the first
No, there wasnt any panic. We seem to start out like that
sometimes, not making shots. Coach always tells us if we miss one shot,
take the next shot, if youre open shoot the ball. And thats
what we did. Weve got 12 guys on this team who can make shots.
Did you ever have a ref hand you the ball
when you werent in the game?
Never had that happen. I guess I just cant seem to get the
ball out my hands, huh?
Is there a sense of relief with todays
No, no, no. No relief. This is one game under our belt. Tomorrow
we have another one. We have to put this game behind us and get ready
to play China.
I thought Puerto Rico shot the ball very well and put a lot of pressure
on us. I thought we came out and responded well in the third quarter and
we were able to open up a lead. Puerto Rico never gave up and they made
things interesting in the fourth.
Puerto Rico played hard. Theyre scrappy. They never gave up. And,
theyve got some guys that can hit shots.
On tomorrows game vs
Well, they are a different team than the one
we saw in Guangzhou, with Yao and Wang playing. We expect them to play
hard, like they played hard in Guangzhou. It will be another tough opponent.
On playing against Yao Ming:
It will be tough, knowing that I am playing
against my future teammate. I know hes going to try to beat me and
Im going to try to beat him, for now. When it comes to November,
well be together. Yao told me not to score too many points and save
some points for Houston.
I think Yao is one of the very best players
in the NBA. With Tracy McGrady, that is one of the best combinations in
basketball. Ill be excited to go there and play my hardest and try
to make those guys better.
On the things he does in a
game, some that often do not show up in a boxscore:
There are a bunch of small plays that end up
becoming big plays. Small plays are not something that you can turn on
and off. You have to do those things every chance you get. For me, thats
what Ive been able to build a career out of. It turned out tonight
to be a nice blocked shot. I was in the right place at the right time.
On his role with the team:
See these floor burns (showing fore-arm and
obvious fresh floor burn), thats my role.
On playing against Yao Ming:
We know what hes capable of
know what he can do. Theres
nothing that hell do that will surprise us.
On the close opening quarter:
Once we got together and starting playing better defense, we played a
lot better. We have to talk about the things we didnt do well. We
know what we can do better.
On the differences between the 2002 World
Championship and this year:
I think this time, we have a team that can do it both offensively
and defensively. The 2002 team, we just didnt have the same balance,
the same mix.
On the speed that the USA can display:
We like to play and up-tempo game. They sat back in a zone and
we slowed it up a bit. Going forward, were going to work on playing
our style of basketball.
On the team and coach reaction to this
game vs. Puerto Rico:
I think the coaches are happy with a win. Of course, weve
got to play better defensively, but a win is a win. I think well
grow and get better as the tournament goes on. We feel like were
growing together and developing. Were coming together. Tonight,
we knew it was not going to be the same game as the exhibition.
On the USA matchup vs. China:
Tomorrow, we play China. We think theyll be a whole different
team than we played in the exhibition because of Yao and Dodger
Wang Zhizhi. They will be entirely different. I remember playing
with Wang Zhizhi. Hes a good player, outside and inside, a good
shooter. I look forward playing against him.
We know Yao and Wang Zhizhi from the NBA. We have to make them
do something different. We have to stop them from getting to their sweet
spots, the places that they can score easily.
On the first game of the tournament
and the pressure or jitters that it brings:
There were some jitters. Not much energy (in the building), not
a lot of fans supporting us, so we have to bring a lot of energy on our
General comments about the game:
Coming into the game we knew it would be a tough test playing Puerto
Rico. They are a team that can really shoot it from the outside and they
have a couple of guys inside who can score. We just wanted to come out
and play our type of basketball. We didn't get off to the start we wanted
to do, but we played well in stretches. Moving forward we're going to
have to play more consistently and better for longer periods of time.
I think it overall it was just good to get out of the gate. We wanted
to go out and play for real. We did an alright job. We played in spurts
and we're going to have to play a lot better obviously as the tournament
moves forward if we want to achieve what we want to achieve. Puerto Rico
played a good game, their a scrappy team and we're happy to get the win.
What about the USA's depth, the U.S. seemed
to get a good spark from a couple of different players in the game today:
That's what we're going to rely on I think as we get into our bench
we should get a lot stronger. We feel like we have the best bench in this
tournament, just use our depth, nobody pace themselves, just go out there
and play hard for as long as they are out there and if we do that we should
About Sunday's game versus China:
China has Yao Ming this time, so it will be very different. We
have to play hard. Just play basketball. Play good D."
How did it feel to play for real
Theres been a lot of preparation to get ready for the Worlds,
but it paid off today. We got off to a slow start but we cranked it up
in the second half, we were able to keep them in front of us and got the
win. It doesnt matter how many points you win by, as long as you
get a win. It was important for us to come out and take care of business.
In the second half, you made a lineup switch
and that seemed to help.
Well the three captains were in there together for the first time
probably comfortably all game and with Chris Paul and Dwight (Howard),
a young athletic big man, it seemed like that was the best lineup for
us at that time. We were able to bump the lead up and get on a run and
we took care of business.
It looked like it was a little hard for
you guys to create your own energy with the subdued crowd today.
Its human nature for us, when youre used to playing
in front of 20,000 or so people and then you come into atmosphere where
you dont have any, or very many fans and the crowd is a little dead.
We usually feed off the crowd. But thats our problem. We cant
get caught up with that. We have to create our own energy and we have
to play well.
Crowds (outside the USA) kind of like to see the big dog go down. But
guys took care of business. We tried to get the crowd into it, they got
it into it a little bit in the third quarter and we just fed off of that.
How would you rate the teams performance
It was pretty good. We could play a lot better on the defensive
end. They made a lot of tough shots, got a lot of loose balls, hit a lot
of threes. We have to play a little better on the defensive end, but offensively
we have nothing to worry about. We know we can score, but defensively
we have to play better.
Was team a little nervous at the start of
I think guys were very anxious and a little jittery to get it started,
so I think you saw us play less than we wanted to in the first quarter
and a little into the second, but the start of the third we kept our composure
and we started playing the way we like to play.
What broke the game open for you?
We finally played defense. We know that when we played them in
Vegas it was going to be a totally different team here in Sapporo. We
knew they were going to play more zone. We scored 57 points in the first
half, but we gave up 51. Throughout our exhibition games weve been
doing a great job of making it difficult for our opponents to score. They
came out free willy and hit some tough shots and made some easy plays
also. I think the thing that got us really going was our defensive effort.
Talk about the rah rah stuff from the players
on the bench today
Thats what we have to
do. When you play in venues like this where the crowd doesnt get
all that excited, you have to create your own excitement. We have to do
a better job when everyone in the gym is going up against us. We just
have the mentality that its the bench against the whole gym and
we have to create some excitement for our teammates out there.
They scored a lot of points in the first half. Sometimes, we almost had
a steal and just couldnt get our hand completely on the ball. A
few times they scored off of that kind of play. This team can shoot the
ball. You leave them open for a second and they can hit it.
Our defense will get better as this tournament goes along.
That will be our game. Weve got guys that can get out to the open
court. Once we can do that, were a pretty good ballclub. Were
not out here to trick anybody. Were going to play aggressive defense.
Obviously, with Yao and Wang Zhizhi, theyll be a better team.
Weve got to limit the big guys, but put a lot of pressure on the
guards. They have smart, intelligent guards. They are not super fast or
quick, but theyre smart. They know how to play the game. So, weve
got to be smart and use what we have.