USA 71, Spain 58• Additional Quotes

August 20 , 2004  • Athens, Greece

USA head coach Van Chancellor
Opening comments:
I thought Spain played really well today. I thought Amaya Valdemoro, she use to play for me in Houston, and I knew she was going to try and come out early and show me she's still a great player. She played really well and I'm proud for her. Their team played really good, but I'm really proud of us facing a lot of adversity today. Our team faced as much adversity as I've seen a team. Lisa (Leslie), Tina (Thompson), Yolanda Griffith, all three post players, stayed in foul trouble the whole game. That was one. We wound up with our floor guard with four minutes to go with four fouls. We had a period of time where we just couldn't score, we just couldn't make a shot. In the first half basically only two players had scored - Catching and Lisa.. And to see us overcome all of that, I thought we overcame a lot tonight and I'm really proud of us. We did some really nice things.

The Spanish coach said something about it not being important to be the number one or two seed coming out of pool play, what do you think?
I thought it was very important to be the number one. Why? I can't et into that just now but I always think if you're going to play you ought to play to be number one. In my mind we're going to play to be number one.

Did you need a game like this?
You know during the game I didn't need it but afterwards yea we needed it. This is great preparation for us. .We needed to have to fight and overcome mystery calls, a lot of different things, we had to overcome a lot. I had to get their attention, we had to see if we could coach, see if they could respond to coaching, see if we could respond to everybody in foul trouble, see if we could respond to them changing defenses. See if we could respond to them, to players being limited because of foul trouble, limited because we couldn't make a basket. We went through about a five minute period where we couldn't make a basket, but we found a way to win and that's good.

Were you happy with the shot selection?
I thought we got good shots we just didn't make them. I thought we got some really good shots. I thought we got some great looks we just didn't knock em down. We had three three-balls in a row wide open by three great three-ball shooters but none of them went down.

Second half, how much was because of you ratcheted up your defense...
We just adjusted a little bit defensively, we started keeping them from getting the ball and I thought that was very good. Catchings just jumped up and denied the ball and Amaya and I thought that was a big key for us.

USA assistant coach Anne Donovan
The men's team hasn't had much time together, but you haven't had that much tome together either.
That is true and I think it is evident. It's interesting, though to watch us practice. These are girls that have played together for a long time, Three of them have been on three Olympic teams together. They all have terrific work ethics. We walk into our practice and they are working hard. The younger players are picking up the slack, so I think there is a familiarity that we can go back to because they have played together internationally so long and that really helps us.

When you are playing international basketball against a team like Spain that's a good basketball team and has confidence against you, that familiarity is what gets us through, not necessarily execution, because we haven't been together long enough to have solid execution.

Can you talk about Tina Thompson and her value to the team?
It really became apparent in our winter training ans our spring training., when Lisa and Dawn were sometimes there and sometimes weren't . Same things with Swoopes. Tina was there everyday , steady. And she carried us in that winter and spring training. She is a little more like the international post players we are facing in that she has a great 3-point range, she can put the ball on the floor, is very mobile, can guard a 3 or a 4 which is unique. There aren't many players her size who can play the 3 and the 4 position that well. She is very valuable to this team.

Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
On coming off the bench and seeing limited playing time tonight:
My role is a little bit different than it is with my WNBA team, but everybody's is. It is a matter of accepting that and playing to the best of your abilities.

On today's game and the fact the USA out-lasted Spain
It was a two point game at halftime and we came out and just wore them down. We have the depth and we can do that. I was really proud of the way we responded.

What is it like for a kid from Christ the King High School in New York to go to Athens?
Unbelievable. That's the best word to describe it. It's been so much fun. Everything about it.

How would you like the story to end?
Gold Medal. That's the only way I'll let it end, hopefully.

Are you spending any time with your UConn teammates?
Both me and Swin. (UConn '02). (Together with Diana Taurasi), the three of us, played in college together and we already have a lot of great basketball memories, both on and off the court, so this is another part – another chapter for us.

How hard is it to come off the bench and get into the flow quickly?
It is hard sitting on the bench the whole game and then coming, it is hard. But as long as you stay focused and stay positive and aggressive and as long as you keep winning, I have no problem with it.

Do you feel like a cohesive group at this point?
I think there are little things that happen here and there that may happen because we haven't been playing together too long, but the best thing about this team is that each individual has a role, and even though it may be different from what their role is on their WNBA team, they know and coach makes it clear , verbally clear, what your role is. And, I think we are all here for the same reason and that is to win a Gold Medal.

What is your role?
Obviously I have Dawn and Pee Wee (Shannon Johnson), both point guards ahead of me and basically my role is to get in their and be a point guard..My role doesn't really change as much. When I do get tin there I have to lead the team. You don't want to turn the ball over. When you're open, try to knock down some shots. But other than that, as long as I lead the team and play some defense and give the team a boost, that's my role.

Swin Cash (Detroit Shock)
On the team's defense in the tournament
I think it establishes our offense basically - when we are aggressive on defense, getting in the passing lanes, making it tough for teams to get a shot off against us, start our transition with everyone running - everything feeds off the defense.

Was today a challenge?
You are going to face stuff like this in the medal round - they were making some tough shots, we couldn't make a shot...it's good to go through this.

Some nights when the veterans aren't bringing it, we have to come off the bench and provide the spark. Other nights they are rolling and we have to know our role. At the end of the day, the starters are our leaders but we are all one team.

It is good to know we can win games like that (tonight). Every game is not going to be pretty...everyone is not going to score as many points or play as many minutes but if you come away with the win, you are doing alright.

We are building confidence and getting the chemistry where it needs to be.

Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever)
On today's game:
I think we came out today and were really focused as far as playing defensively and offensively. We came out basically on a mission in the first half and I think we did a great job as far as right off the bat, a couple of people got into foul trouble, but coach talked about it in the locker room that this was the position we wanted to be in. Spain is a great team and we were able to get through everything that they threw at us We feel good about it right now, and we'll get ready for China on Sunday.

Spain is a great team and we knew that. We were in a situation as far as foul trouble in the first half, especially. But we were able to play through that and pull together as a team and get the win. Everybody who played tonight did a good job.

You had the transition game going today, but never really established your outside shooting. Did you and Lisa ever feel you had to put the tem on your back for awhile?
I don't think about putting the team on my back. One of the things that our team is so great about is that any given person on any given night can come out an pull this team up and I just think that tonight I came out. For me, my offense comes off of my defense. I was able to play some strong defense, especially in the second half against Valdemoro and tried to keep her from catching the ball. Tina Thompson came through and had a great second half. Sheryl, Lisa, everybody came out and played well.

On her contributions against Spain's defense and being able to get the ball inside:
Well I think for our team we've gotten better since the first day we got together which was up in New York. From that time to where we are today we've had a lot of practices and a few games to kind of prepare and we've already talked. The more games we play, the more practices we go through the better off we'll be as a team. I think it was really easy tonight, I was able to hit my shots and so they had to start respecting me and when they started jumping out it was easier to get the ball to Lisa and Lisa does her thing down low it makes it a lot easier too as a team.

You've played two of the top European teams, which one is better, Spain or Czech Republic?
I wouldn't say either one is better, I think they're both great teams with a lot of great players. I think both teams came out against us and played their best games against us. I had the pleasure of playing with Zuzana Klimesova from the Czech Republic team ... Amaya Valdemore came out tonight and she had a great game against us. Both teams have great players and I think both teams will be in the medal games and we're going to face them again.,

You said you were on a mission, what kind of goals did you set?
I think like any other team here the goal is to win the gold medal here. Tonight we knew Spain was going to come out and play great against us. After you play a team once you kind of feel like you know a little bit more about them. I think tonight they came out and played great against us, they probably played their best game thus far. As far as for us, our mission is going for the gold medal. We came out and had a goal and we reached it.

Lisa Leslie (Los Angeles Sparks)
On struggling with Spain early on:
Our game plan early on was to pound the ball inside because they weren't really doubling. I think that is when we are most effective. When other teams start to adjust to us, then we can start shooting threes but right now it's not really open.

Are you on top of your game right now?
I like to think so - I have been working very hard all summer to improve my game and I feel like I am playing pretty well.

On the chemistry between teammates
We have really good team chemistry. Dawn (Staley) and I have played together for a long time - we communicate well ... she directs, I listen. We play very well together.

On clinching group play today
Our goal is to win the gold medal. I don't worry about pool play very much - we play China next and that is all I care about.

Are you looking forward to playing in the Olympics in 2008?
You know, right now I am just looking for a Gold Medal here in Athens. God willing I will be able to play. I feel good. I don't know what to tell you. You know Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) played until he was 40, so we have the same doctor and he says I have the same knees as Kareem so I feel good about that.

What do you have to do to keep winning?
We just have to continue to play our team basketball. Our defense has been very effective and a key for us in our victories

Spain played you very tough today, right from the beginning. Is it good to have somebody go toe to toe with you and challenge you?
Yes, it is good to have a challenge and see how we respond. See how we react and what we do when we get behind. But the biggest thing for us is that we don't panic. You just have to stay calm. I always feel like we are going to win, it's just a matter of whether it wil be by one point or by ten. I feel we will get the win. I believe all of us believe that in our hearts. We just work hard to achieve that, not in a cocky way, but that's just that our work ethic won't be denied.

Give Spain a lot of credit. They shoot the ball very well. They came into the game averaging about 82 points a game. We knew it was going to take a defensive effort and that we weren't going to be able to just go out and run on them and be ahead by 20 in the first half. I thought we were very patient and our defense became very effective in the second half.

What adjustments did you make at halftime?
Third quarter is key for us and I thought our defense just stepped it up another level. We were able to keep Valdemoro from shooting open 3-point shots and also slowed down their penetration. They got to the basket a little bit too much in the first half and they shot the ball very well. Yolanda and Pee Wee were effective defensively.

Dawn Staley (Charlotte Sting)
Was Spain peskier than you thought? It took a while to pull away.
No, no. We just played them before we got to the Olympics and we knew what kind of team they were. They're a very good basketball team with very good players. They play well together.

In the first half basically 2 players did the bulk of scoring, but you seemed to spread it around better in the 2nd half. Was that the key to the game?
We knew the advantage was inside. Lisa was having her way inside so we wanted to pound the ball in there. Catchings was all over the place today. She was picking up loose balls, putting them in, getting out on the break. A lot of us on the perimeter were just tentative with the ball, we were just looking for an easier shot, when we didn't take what they gave us and I thought we did a better job of that in the second half.

Your defense in the second half was better than the first. How has the defense been all tournament?
That is the thing that probably separates us from the rest of the world, besides our talent. We are able to defend penetration and have enough speed and quickness to get back in the play. And then we've got big girls who can rebound the basketball.. And that makes a diference.

You have said this is your last Olympics, but you also quickly add, as a player. What would it mean to you to come back as a coach and do you think about that? Do you think about when it's your team?
No. I am aware about what is being said to us. Aware of how we prepare.I am more aware of how the assistant coaches interact with the head coach. I know I am not going to jump right in as a head coach of an Olympic team, so I aam just more aware of what the assistant coaches do and at this particular level you have to be a team player no matter what you are doing. I watch Ann, I watch Gail, I watch coach Stringer, I watch how they prepare. I watch coach Chancellor and listen to the words he is saying. It is a beautiful thing to see it unfold.

Are you enjoying your last Olympics as a player?
I am going to enjoy every bit of it. I am doing things I don't usually do, like I will ask people to take pictures with other athletes. Before I didn't really enjoy the journey. I want to enjoy every minute of this one.

Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets)
We played well defensively in the second half. I don't think Spain didn't do anything that we didn't expect - they are a very good team. Again, I think people expect us to come out and really bury teams but we don't expect that to happen. They were going to play with us for an entire game - it was a great test for us and we came out and did what we had to do.

Do you think about this being your last Olympics?
Absolutely. This could be my last Olympics. I could possibly come back if it something they (USA Basketball) want me to do or I want to do but I think about that alot. It means so much to me to be here and I am very proud to play for my country.

Tina Thompson (Houston Comets)
On the big win vs. Spain
Spain's been playing very well. They were undefeated coming into this game. We played them early on and they gave us a pretty tough game when we were in Spain. We expected it to be a close game.

As the games go on, they get tougher and the competition gets better. We expect it to be a competitive game and that's what we're here for. We came out and continued to execute our game plan and play well. We definitely picked it up on defense in the second half. In the second half, it was a clean slate for us. In the locker room, we talked about starting fresh and coming out with a high intensity and that's what we did.

We have an awesome team, not just talent-wise, but personality. Anytime somebody's number is called, whether it's in the beginning or end of the game, everyone just steps up to the plate. We look forward to the challenges.

Did USA struggle in the first half?
When you look at it, we didn't think it was struggling. We're not going to make all the shots, all the time. And, we're not going to take anything away from Spain, as well. They played a very good game. They played to their strengths and they tried to take our strengths away. A bright side of that was that Lisa (Leslie) was being herself. She's been so dominant internationally. So, we went to her and she was our big dog. She carried us through the first half and everyone kind of regrouped and we all had a better second half.

Did you watch the basketball competition in Sydney?
I'm a fan of the Olympic Games in general. At home, I'll watch everything from canoeing to women's soccer and diving, track and field…whatever. I'm just a fan and the Olympic Games have been a big part of my life. In the past, I just didn't have the opportunity to be there, whether it was one reason or another…injury. Back in the world championships, I had to have surgery. It's always been something. This time around, the timing was very good and things are going well.

On her Olympic experience:
I am just happy to be here and enjoying the moment and taking advantage of every opportunity and doing whatever I possibly can, as always, to help my teammates.

Is it worth the wait to play in the Olympics?
Oh, it's definitely worth the wait.I actually don't look at it like, though. So often people might refer to me as unsung or not necessarily getting the publicity or whatever, but I don't look at it that way. That is not something that I seek. I am totally happy in just going out and playing basketball. For some reason or another it just didn't happen before, but I think that things happen for a reason. I really believe that. There is a reason that I am here right now, with this team. The talent level that we have with this team is just unbelievable and I am just happy to continue our quest.

How good is Amaya Valdemoro? You have played with her before.
Amaya is an awesome player. We totally knew what she is capable of doing. She came out today and had a great showing. She was definitely herself.

 

 




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