FIBA World Championship (August 20, 2006)

USA 121, China 90

August 20, 2006 / Sapporo, Japan


General Comments about the game:
I thought our team played extremely well and we needed to because China has improved tremendously since our game with them two weeks ago. They have made huge strides, their conditioning, they're playing together, of course Yao (Ming) and Wang (Zhizhi) are back, they are a very good basketball team. I'd like to compliment them on just the improvement they have made, they were a good basketball team tonight and a very difficult opponent for us because we played very hard.

Do you think your defense against Yao was successful?
We worked very hard to defend Yao, he's a terrific player. He's just coming off a serious injury, he played with great courage. It makes everybody else better on their team when you play with a great player. He's unselfish and he's a good teammate, he's a very good teammate. They'll only get better with the better conditioning he gets in and the more accustomed they get to him. They haven't been able to practice with him, that's why I'm so impressed with how well they play because they have not been able to practice very long with him and they're playing so well. It was a tough game for us.

How did you tell Dwight to guard Yao tonight?
In our match up Dwight would take any center from any team so he looked at that as a big challenge today. We have alternated some starting lineups but the guy who has been our best center is him. He keeps getting better, we're lucky to have him.

Talk about your defense:
We're pleased with our defense. I think our defense matches up with the type of personnel we have. We have really good athletes and we have depth and we want to play an up tempo game. We are going to give up some open looks but we want to try and play at our tempo. The defense is what sets the tempo not the offense and I thought we did a good job of that. They hit a lot of three, their kids are in really good condition. I think a lot of team would have been worn out, they didn't get worn out. They have a lot of heart and great courage.

What impressed you most in tonight's win?
We had great energy and we just played so hard. I think we just needed to get adjusted to being here and our guys responded to all the things we asked them to do which is what they've done the entire time we've had them. Hopefully this is more indicative of how we'll play.

Was tonight's tempo more like what you want?
The tempo is exactly what we want. China stayed in by hitting a lot of three but we hit a lot of threes too. I'm not so concerned about how many points we keep them to as long as we have that margin. I thought we played really hard defensively.


On comparison of the China game vs. the game against Puerto Rico:
We wanted to play better than we did against Puerto Rico. I think we took a huge step forward. We had to be about 3-times better than we were against Puerto Rico.”

I think we played better than we did last night. I’m not saying that Puerto Rico was a bad team. For us, we played a lot better than we did last night.

We knew that China was going to try to make a run.

On what the coaches said to the team at the end of the game?
Good job. Way to take a step forward. But, we have to put this game behind us now and prepare for a big game on Tuesday.

On the leadership of this team:
We all have to be leaders in our own way. We all have different skills, and we can lead the team in different ways. If we do that, we can take this team over the top. We have five guys on the court at any one time that can all score 20 points. That’s not what it’s all about, though. We want to get everybody involved and try to take it from there.


On his start in the game tonight:
We have a team of 12 starters, so it really doesn’t matter who starts. There are a lot of good players. When you start, you just try to get the team to start on the right foot. That’s what we did tonight.

On facing his future Houston teammate, Yao Ming:
I thought he played real well tonight, considering he really hasn’t been playing basketball for the past four months. He’s not in great shape, but he’ll get in shape soon and I’m looking forward to playing with him.

On the offensive foul he drew against Yao:
I told Yao that that will be the last time I take a charge from him. No more.

On China’s outside game:
They are improving. Any open shots that we gave them, they made. So, it’s an exciting time for Chinese basketball.

On the USA defense in the third quarter:
We came out and turned up the pressure on the defense in the third. It really worked well for us. That’s our strength. Our athleticism and our depth. We have to play that way. If we do, it will help us win games.

On his outside shooting and the general USA offensive plan:
We take the shots that the other teams give us. With so many penetrators and slashers, like LeBron and Dwyane Wade, defenses must collapse and that will leave some open three-pointers. So, we have to knock them down.


How this team is different from the past few USA teams
I think USA Basketball and the NBA players are getting more serious about it. We want to win the competition. You can’t just throw a team out there and expect to do that. That’s why this year we have a different format, more of a national team look than what we have done in the past.

About China:
Their guys played pretty well. We held Yao Ming in check, pretty much. He fouled out and we attacked them.

Wang Shipeng was hitting some three’s and we just can’t leave those guys open. We knew that coming into the game


Looking at other teams in the Worlds
We are still trying to gel as a team, to get better as a team. We are going to face some really good teams. I can’t really say who the best teams are, there a quite a few of them. Obviously Spain and Argentina are two of the powerhouses, but we respect everyone in this tournament.

Depth of the USA squad:
Yeah, we have some good depth. Guys don’t have to worry about pacing themselves, we just give it all we’ve got for the time we’re in there and then go sit down and let somebody else come in and pick up the energy level and do their thing.

This has definitely been an experience I won’t forget. The time we’ve been gone in China, then Korea and now Japan has been great. I’m just trying to soak it up because it’s something that doesn’t come along too often.


General comments:
I think tonight China was a great match for us. We just wanted to come out from the beginning of the game and play as hard as we could and set the tempo from the beginning. China has a lot of good players, the player I liked the most was Yi (Yi Jianlian), the young guy, I think he could be the next Yao Ming. He's very talented. China gave us a fight the whole game. It's a tough match up me against Yao, Yao's a big guy. I had a lot of fun checking him. It was a good game.

Was it a little bit different feeling guarding Yao from the NBA games and did you know you were going to start today?
Yes it is a little different playing Yao in international ball then NBA ball. Yao is the main focus for the China team, playing with him in America he has Tracy McGrady on his team so Yao kind of gets a rest. Today, he showed his game. He shot close to threes, he posted up well and he's a great match up. I like matching up against him. He's a lot bigger, a lot stronger and he's way taller but I'm not afraid to play against anybody and I just want to represent my country.

About starting:
Yes Coach K told me earlier so I was very excited.


Your team played good defense tonight:
That has to be our identity, to put the pressure defense on and see what the offense does. We’re going to give up some shots because if you are so aggressive you are going to give up some shots sometimes, but the pressure defense is key for us. It gives us an opportunity to get out and run.

Talk about the performance of China today:
They played well. I think they handled, at times, the pressure pretty well. They made a lot of shots and obviously Yao was big part of their team. He played well. They’ve got a good team. They have to keep working at it and they will get better.

Are you able to walk around the streets and not get recognized?
Uh…...No. (laughter)

The first half was pretty impressive:
It was. I think that yesterday we were still disappointed as far as we played against Puerto Rico. Offensively we did some good things, but not the way we have been executing of late. Defensively we were horrible, so we wanted to come out strong. We knew they wanted Yao to be a big factor, so we wanted to take him out and make him take difficult shots. We basically wanted our defense to create our offense for us.

With a guy like Yao Ming in the middle, you don’t get open shots. We need to do a better job on contesting the three’s and with these five games leading up to next week, we know we have to do a better job of making teams beat us. Not just knocking down three-pointers.



On his view of the early part of the game:
We just wanted to come out and be more aggressive. We didn’t get out to a great start in the last game (Puerto Rico), so we wanted to play a lot more physical and get off to a good start.

Our energy level was down a little bit yesterday. We had to pick it up. This is a long trip. But, this is a big one. We talked about it before we came out today. We were going to get off to a good start.

How enjoyable is it to be the point guard of this team?
It's too much fun, it's been the greatest experience ever. You're pushing the ball up the court, you might have LeBron on one wing, Carmelo, D-Wade, Dwight Howard down low finishing it's like a dream come true. It makes my job so much easier in that I really can't make a bad decision.

Picking up the defensive pressure is important because it gets you (team) out running. Does that help fuel your motivation to do that?
That helps so much. The one thing that I really wanted to work on this summer is picking up my defensive pressure and I think this right here will help me translate it to the NBA.


What did you expect from China going into the game
We knew they were big inside with Wang and Yao, but we knew we had more quickness and athleticism than they had and we wanted to exploit that.”

What was going through your mind as you were trying to go through China’s big front line?
We’re used to it, especially guys like Chris Paul, Kirk Hinrich and myself. We’re not the tallest guys in the NBA and we understand that and know how to get our shot off. Plus, when they’re trying to come over to block us, we’ve got guys like Dwight Howard and LeBron James who can finish and get get a tip dunk or offensive rebound.

What did you think of Wang Shipeng, number 7 for China?
Oh, he can shoot. Both he and Du Feng can really shoot the ball. They didn’t need a lot of room and they helped keep them in the game as much as possible.

Do you think that international ball is less physical than the NBA game?
No. I don’t think so, international ball is very physical. The NBA isn’t as physical anymore, the game has changed. I think international ball now is a little more physical than the NBA.

How do you think you played tonight?
I think this was my best performance so far. I’m trying to get my legs under me, coming off a long season. But I’m just out there trying to what I can do with my teammates. Tonight I just got it going early and finished it.

Our whole team came out aggressive early on and put pressure on and made shots. And once you make shots you get into a rhythm. We played great defense from the start and that’s how you build a good lead.

What about Yao tonight?
His teammates try to play off Yao like I try to play of Shaq, but Yao is more aggressive in international play than he is in the NBA because he knows he has to score a lot if they are going to win.



On his opinion of Team USA:
They are the best players in the world. Europe and South America have some more players coming out. You can see in the last 10 years, teams like Argentina and some of the teams in Europe … so many, I can’t say. So, we need to pick it up. Not just China, but Asia. We have to pick it up.

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