FIBA World Championship (August 22, 2006)

USA - Slovenia

August 22, 2006 / Sapporo, Japan


General Comments about the game:
I thought our guys played well. Slovenia lost a very difficult game in there last game and I thought they played with great courage and execution. I was very impressed with them.

Do you think the USA team can resume the dominance that past USA teams had?
I don't think there will ever be dominance. The world is too good in basketball. For us to think we are going to dominant is very arrogant and not what we believe. We just want to play at our best and we think we have to play at our best in order to have a chance to beat the best in the world. Their (Slovenia) team did a great job tonight of attacking our pressure, they were the best team that we've played so far in transition offense. Our goal is to be the best we can be and hopefully that will be good enough to compete for the World Championship.

About Italy:
We're very impressed with Italy. The Italy-Slovenia game was a great basketball game. They have gret shooters and dept and an amazing traition. It will be for first place in our pool, both of us have 3-0 records so it will be a big game for us.

We were playing pretty well and we're a little disappointed that we let that lead go, but in some repsects that will keep us at the right level.

Our 3-point shooting was good and we missed a lot of open ones too. Our guys have to keep shooting. We have confidence in our shooting. Chris and Kirk have done a great job of pushing the ball down the court and getting it to open people so they've got to keep doing that. We've been pretty unselfish, our ball movement has been good. I think the more we learn to play with one another, that's one reason we kept those unit together like that, they're learning a little bit more about playing with each other.

I thought until we got that big lead late, in the middle of the game, the second and third quarters and even the start of the fourth, we were playing about as well as we've played. Sometimes when you're playing three games in a row, especially with Italy tomorrow, there's just a little pause and I thought we had that. But we closed the game well, so overall I'm pleased. You always want to play perfect, but overall it was good.

What are the keys against Italy?
Defending their shooters. If we let them run their plays they're going to get good shots. We have to play really good team defense tomorrow against them because they have a lot of guys who can shoot.


About playing Italy tomorrow:
We’re looking forward to playing Italy tomorrow. We know it’s going to be a good game, a physical game. We are looking forward to playing them.

Talk about tonight’s game:
We started out a little sluggish. We were going basket for basket, something we didn’t really want to do. But in the second quarter we picked it up. We picked up guys full court, got some steals and never turned back.

What is it with your sluggish starts?
I don’t know what it is, but we can’t keep doing that. We have teams like Italy coming up tomorrow and there are teams like Argentina and Spain out there, so we can’t keep starting slow like that.


Game against Slovenia:
I thought we played well in spurts. We played against a team that didn’t give up again tonight. Slovenia showed a lot of grit. We made a few key plays when we had to.

We tried to push the tempo today and I think we did a good job of that, But Slovenia did a very good job of pushing the ball back at us. Italy has more talent than Slovenia, so it is going to be a tough game for us tomorrow.

Team defensive play tonight:
We didn’t start out very well on the defensive end. It wasn’t until about 7 or 8 minutes into the game that we picked up our defense and were able to open up a lead. I think we are learning that if we want to win this thing we have to play defense from the beginning of the game.

Your own individual defense has been great:
Well, I try. I’m trying to earn my hotel room, my uniform somehow. If I can just run around, get a couple of loose balls, make some shots, that’s my job.

What about the tournament so far?
Obviously as we move on here we are playing better teams. Slovenia is the best team we have played so far and Italy tomorrow will be the same thing. It’s exciting to play good teams. We need to keep improving and keep playing good defense. I think we need to concentrate a little better. We get a little lax at times and give the other team opportunities to make runs against us.The really good teams, the teams that keep winning like Spain and Argentina have jumped on opponents and kept them down and haven’t let them come back. We need to do the same.



General comments:
I feel our team played very well. Slovenia started off very strong, played very hard, very well. We just have to maintain our focus on each task in hand. Each game we need to pay better attention to deatail. When we're up 31 we need to keep playing well and keep playing hard.

How do you account for the difference in the way you guys played in the second quarter versus the first quarter?
It's a game of adjustments and they were executing very well. We brought up our intensity and our defensive started getting steals and we got into the open court and we limited them to two or three 3-pointers in the first half. Once we stepped our defense and adjusted we played better, much better.

Have you ever played a style like this (two teams)?
No I have never played a style with two teams rotating but it seems to favor our team because we have guys buying into winning and playing hard once they're out there. You don't have to pace yourself at all because you know you're going to get a certain amount of minutes, you know you're going to be in there, you know you're going to play, so once you're out there you play hard and try to wear down teams. But these teams can play well too, and they can shoot.


On the game tonight:
We started out slowly, but our energy level picked up in the second quarter. We played hard, but we just have to finish games off better. We’ve had a couple of games where we’ve gotten up big and had some slippage. We need to keep it going for the full 40 minutes. It’s not an excuse, but there isn’t much energy in the arena and when you get up like we did tonight, it’s easy to relax and we just have to do our best to guard against that. We have to not worry about the score and keep playing.

Was this your team’s best defense so far?
I think it was, but I think we are fouling too much and putting the other team in the bonus. I think we are still adjusting to international basketball, it is a different game from what we are used to. And that’s something we have to do a better job of defensively.


About your play tonight:
I just go out there and play hard and play aggressive, try to rebound, block shots, run the floor and play good defense.



On how Team USA prepares for its opponents:
We prepare for each game by watching film. Going to the games, our coaches do a great job of scouting and we prepare ourselves the best possible way to go out and play each opposing team.

We play against Italy tomorrow. We have to be ready. Italy is a good team, just like us, so we have to be very aggressive.

Is there an adjustment from playing 40 plus minutes a night in the NBA to the 20 or so you are playing for team USA?
I think at first there was an adjustment, but we are all used to it now. We are doing the five in, five out thing every five minutes, so you go as hard as you can and then come out and get some rest. Our team is winning like this, so it’s good for us.

Playing hounding defense like your team is doesn’t really seem to be your style—or many of the players’ style in the NBA. Has that been much of an adjustment?
That style is going to help our team win. Of course you can’t do that for 40 minutes a game, 82 games, plus the preseason, plus the playoffs like we play in the NBA. But you can do it here the way we are set up. Putting pressure on guys like that disrupts the offense and takes time off the shot clock.

Talk about your team’s second and third quarter play:
It was good. We started off slow. We have had a problem starting out slow lately and we have to get that situated. The second group came in, put extremely good pressure on and then the first group came back in and kept up the pressure. We got some easy buckets off our defense and took care of business. It’s very important to keep it up in the second half. Halftime is one of those times where you can get a letdown if you aren’t careful.

Tonight we didn’t let that happen. We knew that Slovenia is a very good team, so we had to take care of business.”

On the game tonight:
We didn’t do a good job as far as starting the game out, but we kept our composure, did the things we wanted to do in the second and third quarters.
It was disappointing towards the end of the third and going into the fourth. We just have to do a better job of concentrating and playing a full 40 minutes of basketball.

Coach K’s role and hw he has been to play for:
He’s done a phenomenal job. They definitely picked the right coach for the right team and the right situation. He’s a good motivator. He knows the game of basketball, of course. He’s done everything as far as letting everyone know their roles on this team to, most importantly, having us prepared for every game. He has been doing a tremendous job since day one.

About playing Italy tomorrow:
It’s going to be a tough game. I definitely think Italy will be our toughest opponent this far. We just have to do some of the things that we did in the second and third quarters, when we played some great defense. We’re focused. It will be a good test for us. It will be a stepping stone to see where we stand now.


General comments regarding the start of the game:
“They came out very aggressively in the first quarter. We have a very deep team and we can bring different guys at them. So, once we got the lead in the first we kind of took it from there.

Was this the USA’s best game?
No, I think the China game was our best. Today, we played in waves. When we played good defensively, we looked great but we also looked average at times, defensively. We need to get better as a team. We still have a couple more games (in preliminary round) to get better.

How hard is it to stop this team – Team USA?
It’s very hard. We haven’t shot the ball the way we know we can. That’s a positive for us. We have to try to break the game open. We have some guys that can step up and hit three’s. Once that is falling, then our strength is penetrating and pressuring the ball.

On Coach K’s tactic of substituting in waves:
I like it! I’m not sure if Coach is going to keep it that way, but I like it. It gives us a chance to know that we are going to be out there for about five minutes, so you can go very hard. It’s also two different teams that you see. The first team is different than the second team. It’s helping us tremendously, so hopefully we stick with it for a little while.

On the things the USA has to work on to improve:
We have to fine-tune all parts of our game. Offensively, we have to be a little more crisp. We have to continue to have more ‘killer’ mentality. We were on the verge of beating this team by 30, but we let them back into the game. But that was their will – not to quit.

On the big games against Slovenia and Italy, the two toughest opponents in the pool:
Today and tomorrow are the two games we have really been looking forward to test how good we were as a team. Today, we did a good job, but tomorrow (against Italy), is going to be even tougher. We’ll be ready. This is what we came together for.

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