USA 100, China 62• Additional Quotes

August 22 , 2004  • Athens, Greece

USA head coach Van Chancellor
Opening comments:
Do you see any areas of improvement you need to work on before the medal round?
We cannot continue to turn the ball over as much as we have and win a gold medal. I think that's one of the areas where we've got to get better. Our transition defense has got to get better.

Lauren Jackson said today that she wants to face the USA in the gold medal game. Would you like to see Australia in that game?
I've got Greece sometime on Wednesday. That's all I'm thinking about. If you think we're going to think past (that game), no. We're playing them in front of 18,000 people on Wednesday. They're going to be pumped. We'd better take them seriously or we'll never be in a gold medal game. So many people have already put the USA Basketball team here, there and there. But we have to win to get there. We have one of the toughest (medal round) brackets we can have. We're in the bracket with Greece, the hometown team. We're in the bracket with Czech Republic and Russia, who are very good. If we're lucky enough to get to the gold medal game, we'll cross all those bridges when we get there.

On the possibility of losing Katie Smith:
That would be a blow to our basketball team. She helped us win a gold medal in China (at the 2002 World Championship). She has a tremendous amount of experience. She knows everything that I want to do. She's been with me through China, through Cuba, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, through everywhere, every training camp I've ever had since day one. She really, really has a tremendous understanding of where I'd like to get the basketball to Lisa Leslie and therefore that would be a blow to us.

 

SUE BIRD (Seattle Storm)
On the last preliminary game being another great experience to prepare the team
I really and truly believe that every time we step on the court, we get better. This was another opportunity for us to get better.

What will be on the agenda for the team in the next few days?
In the short term, we have a day off from practice which is always nice. We will have a team barbeque, so we'll have a little fun and then it will be back to practice on Tuesday. We will keep playing hard.

I think we'll be facing Greece in the quarterfinals. The place will be packed and will be rocking. It's fun. I saw the Greece vs. Japan game in the women's draw and it was crazy and I went to see the Men's team play Greece and that was exciting. The Greek fans know how to do it right. They won't be cheering for us but it will be a packed house.

Is the Olympic tournament now, a little like the difference between ‘big' regular season college games and the NCAA tournament where it is single elimination? Of course, it's much bigger here at the Olympics, though?
It's one and you're done…so you have to treat every game like it's a championship game from here on out. Pool play is a little different because – not that we would ever want to do it – but you can afford to lose one, and it's not the end of the world. This is ‘game time.' We have to win three and then we're out of here.

It's very similar to the college set-up. As pros, you kind of lose sight of that – playing one game and you win and move on. You lose, you go home. In college, at the NCAA tournament, you have to win six games to win a championship. Now, we have to win three, so you can say we're in the Elite Eight.

What's next?
The medal rounds. This is really when it counts and we really have to prepare for it. We're not cocky about it, but we're confident. I don't think we're over-confident. We have a good ‘air' about ourselves and we are ready to take on our next opponents.

What did you think of the Acropolis when you toured it yesterday?
It was fun. Just to be able to walk up those steps and think about all the things that happened there. I thought about Socrates and all the different people.

 

TAMIKA CATCHINGS (Indiana Fever)
On today's game:
Obviously we had a slow start today, but once we finally picked it up I think our defense is the thing that coach was most proud of.

In terms of where you wanted to be as a team, are you there?
The crazy thing is that we still have a lot of room for improvement. We will get better the more we practice and the more games we play. I don't think that anyone has seen the best of what we have to offer yet. Hopefully we will grow together quickly. We have kind of gelled together already so far and we will be gelling even more by the time Wednesday comes.

The U.S. women's teams in the Olympics are doing it again this year. The softball team hasn't lost, the soccer team hasn't lost and you haven't lost yet, do you get any kind of camaraderie feeling with those other teams? Do you see them or talk to them.?
We haven't really had a chance to talk to them or get to their games, but we definitely root for one another. We only want the best for every single team, not just women's but men's teams, too. I thin k we all do a very good job of supporting one another.

The major factor for the USA's dominance in the prelims:
The biggest thing is defense. We get rolling quick and get a lot of easy shots - that's when this team is at its best. Defense and rebounding are our keys. We found the shooters, got out on the break and played the "d" like we know how. We are definitely getting things together. Our coaches have us prepared for everything.

 

YOLANDA GRIFFITH (Sacramento Monarchs)
On today's game:
We came out and took care of business in the second half. The first half we weren't getting the shots we needed, we didn't take care of the ball, we weren't moving the ball. I think in the second half we played much better as a team. We got up and down and really made a statement in the second half. China's a young team, but right now we're playing for something and each game's important to us. We tried to go inside and out, shots weren't falling from the outside so we kept going into the inside and dominated them in there.

What does it do to the team if Katie Smith's injury keeps her from playing?
Katie is a veteran. She's been in the USA Basketball program a long time, she helped win the gold medal in 2000. She was strong for the team the entire tour. We're going to miss Katie, she is a great defender, she's an outstanding offensive player. She does those little things that people on the team notice. We're going to have to pull together as a team if she can't come back. Maybe she'll be able to come back on Wednesday, but if not we're going to have to pull together as a team and do the best we can, stay sharp and be ready in case Katie won't be able to come back.

On playing Greece and the atmosphere of the expected large crowd:
It's going to be great, not only for Greece but also for USA Basketball. We can't get upset by a raucous crowd. We're going to have to keep our momentum and not let the crowd get to us. We'll have to execute offensively like we're capable of doing and our defense is going to be important to us. We'll have to play together as a team and not worry about the little things like fouls, missing some shots, we'll be okay.

 

LISA LESLIE (Los Angeles Sparks)
Another good win for you, you seemed unstoppable:
It was a good win for us. We started a little slow, we had too may turnovers but otherwise once our defense really picked up we were able to get the ball inside, they're a smaller team, and I thought our attack was pretty good

This game didn't mean much, is it a chance to work on some things?
Well definitely, every game give us an opportunity to build our team chemistry. We don't have a lot of time, so right now every game from this point on counts because we're going into the medal round. Obviously, and unfortunately, we play Greece who has a great home crowd. So we're going to have a big game coming up.

Does it effect you not having a large crowd here today?
It can be to our advantage, we have a few Americans here cheering ‘USA.' They really got us going last game especially in the third quarter where we just came out and played outstanding. So the crowd can be an inspiration even though you don't know how it will affect the Greek team. Even though they're in fourth place we expect them to come out and play really strong.

Some of the guys came out to support the team, does that feel good?
Yeah definitely I think its good that the guys came out and supported us and watched us. We're going out and supporting them. I think they're playing a lot better, really understanding the style of international basketball, passing the ball more, so it's good, it's a good time for both teams right now as they go into the medal round and obviously we all want to win gold.

What's the first thing you can work on in practice?
Well, boxing out is always important, keeping people off the boards, and executing our offense. We can always continue to get better at that and working on our team chemistry.

Are you guys going to do it?
Definitely, we're going for the gold, that's our goal.

 

RUTH RILEY (Detroit Shock)
Are you looking forward to playing Greece in the first game of he medal round?
I think it's going to be a great game. We were here for the ending of their game tonight, The crowd was wild and enthusiastic. The Greek people are very proud to have the Olympics here, so they are going to come out and support their home team. What a great atmosphere it will be for us to start out our quest for a gold medal.

How do you think the team played tonight?
I think it showed our depth. From top to bottom, everybody was able to come in and contribute. I think it was a good way to rest some of our starters a little bit, but at the same time keep it working and rolling into the next round.

 

KATIE SMITH (Minnesota Lynx)
On her injured right knee:
I kind of planted and turned and felt something. I really won't know anything until tomorrow when I have an MRI.

Is it frustrating to have the injury?
I was trying to be out there a little bit. I can't say it was too early. I will go with it and hopefully it'll be good. You know, things happen. We will see. Whatever I did, I don't know what happened. It's frustrating in a way, but what are you going to do?

 

DAWN STALEY (Charlotte Sting)
On her former player Athena Christopherakis, who is on the Greek national team (the USA's next opponent)
She is a magnet for the basketball. She is a rebounder, she can hit the outside shot...I will definitely give my teammates the scouting report on her. I don't know much about the rest of the team but they are in their home country and they are going to play over and beyond what they usually play - we have to expect that.

On possibly facing Australia for a gold medal
Obviously we came here to win gold...they came here to win gold. They have a few players that played in the league (WNBA). They felt like they have progressed over the last two Olympics. '96 they were bronze, '00 they got silver. It will be a hard-fought game, we will have to take care of the basketball. They (Australia) are going to be hard nosed and gritty.

 

SHERYL SWOOPES (Houston Comets)
On tonight's game:
I think we all expected it to be a better game because China's a much better team. For whatever reason they struggled a little bit. In the first round our whole focus was to really to focus on what we needed to do and not to worry so much about the other teams. And now that we got through this round the way we wanted to, we'll have to focus more on what other teams are going to try to do against us and what we have to do to stop that.

Overall everybody came in tonight and really contributed. Offensively we got the ball to where we wanted it to be. Diana (Taurasi) came out and shot the ball extremely well for us. That's something we're going to need when we get to the medal rounds. Overall I thought it was a great team win for us.

The team was a little disjointed in its three exhibition games. Are you starting to gel more?
We're not the type of team that likes to use excuses about why we're not playing well, why we're not doing this well or that well. I feel that the chemistry is finally there. We are gelling together a lot better than a lot of us thought we would. We don't really have that much time and I feel we have a couple of areas where a couple more practices will improve those areas. But overall I think every player who comes in off the bench, or every player that starts, we all understand what our roles are and what we have to do to hopefully win that gold medal. I think everybody has accepted their roles and that's helped us come together a lot quicker than we thought we would. We're all feeling very good about ourselves and as a team we're playing as well as we should be playing at this point. We'll definitely have to play a lot better in the next round, but I think we'll be ready for that.

 

DIANA TAURASI (Phoenix Mercury)
How does it feel being the kid on the this team with all these Olympic veterans? Has it taken awhile to get used to your role?
A little bit, but they have been great. There is no real designation of roles, you just go out there and play basketball. You've been taught to play since you were a little kid. They have been great about being positive. When things get a little frustrating, they are always there to say a couple of words. They have been great.

Are you looking forward to playing in front of a crowd like you are going to see here Wednesday when you play Greece. These people are crazily enthusiastic?
Yeah, when we came to the men's game and they played Greece, it was just crazy. The people here love their sports, love their basketball and love their country, so it should be a lot of fun.

We thought the crowds would be a little bit more but that the way it goes. We'll have a great crowd against Greece, they have a great team, great fans, the atmosphere (At today's Greece-Japan game) was amazing , so that ought to be fun to play in.

Every game is another opportunity for you guys to work together as a team:
That's right. I thought today was great. I thought both teams played great together and coach wanted to get a lot of people in, rest up Lisa (Leslie) and Sheryl (Swoopes), we have a tough stretch coming up and I think everyone else responded pretty well.

Some of the men's players (Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade) came out to watch the game, does that help?
The men have been great. We got to their games, eat together, we hang out, they've been great. They got a big game tomorrow and they're going to win and get their gold medal too.

What do you think you still need to work on in practice?
Just little things defensively and offensively, and comes from not playing together that often. Every time we get together like in a game like this or practice we have to work on those things and we've been doing that.

So are you going to get gold?
We definitely hope so, now you know it's do or die. You lose and you go back to the ship, so hopefully we can string these three together.

How do you keep from getting over confident?
You can't get over confident. The thing is I think every single time someone steps on the court, especially our team, you have a point to prove. For the people who don't play very often every time you get a chance you want to go out there and play well too for the older guys. There's no taking anyone lightly, there's no over confidence, there's a feeling when we get on the court we have to do a job and we just do it..

 

TINA THOMPSON (Houston Comets)
Do you approach the medal round any differently that the Olympic preliminary round, do you have to reach a little deeper now?
I think that's how we approached every game. We approached every game where we wanted to be in a position where we would be the number one seed going into the medal round. Tonight was a chance to play the best basketball that we can possibly play. So, I think our mind-set, mentally, is exactly where it needs to be.

I think that at the start of games, we're always so anxious to come out and do well. So, at the start of the games, we definitely have to start on a more positive note, instead of rushing and being a little over-anxious. Other than that, I'm really happy with the way we've been playing as a team overall.

On the match-up of Greece and the obvious crowd support they will have here in Athens?
Every time we go out, there's been a pretty big contingency rooting against us, and that's just how it is. It's going to be really loud but that's what you play for. You play to be in an atmosphere like that. We'll just take those yells and whistles in a positive way and maybe think that they are going for us!




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