USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski
Talk about the development of Mason Plumlee:
Well, he played four years for me at Duke, and in his last year he was as good of a big man as there was in country. Then he gets drafted by a franchise that has veterans, so he's going to learn even more. And then there was a need, (and) he played so well with the select team that he's now in contention for a spot on this team. It's like hanging with good people and veteran people, and he keeps learning and wants to learn so it’s gone well.
Have you seen some things from him that lead you to believe It’s just the tip of the iceberg right now?
I don't know about tip of the iceberg, I think he's real good, so he's more ice than tip right now. He's going to keep getting better and better because he wants to. He's easy to coach, and he's a really good teammate, so he'll play off of other good players that he's playing with.
What's Derrick Rose meant to you so far in terms of leadership and in terms of just basketball ability?
Well, not so much leadership. I think he's done a really good job. He needs to keep finding himself and his rhythm and not be worried about leading a team. Harden and Curry are really good with that, but Derrick's done a good job.
You are playing a team that you will see again, have you watched them at all?
Oh yeah. We scout everybody. We treat every opponent the same way, so we’ve watched as many games … I’ve watched three games of Dominican Republic already. When we get back, we will go through as a staff to give a concise scouting report. We didn’t go through any of their stuff today, because we’ve been away from a regular practice. We wanted to get our rhythm down more than prepare for an opponent. And actually, when we’re in Spain, we will only have less than a day preparation, so we want to practice that tomorrow when we go and shoot at the Garden and give a scouting report.
Did you have conversations with Tom about Derrick?
I talked to Derrick a little bit, but mostly with Tom, because Tom is his coach. And so, we felt that Derrick would be at a high speed, and then it is just getting off the rust. Playing five-on-five against that level of competition, no matter what, there is a level of rust, but he has done a real good job so far.
Is there a dynamic still evolving with this team?
Oh yeah. We’ve only been with this group for four practices. Not four weeks. The four practices in Vegas, it was centered around at team with Durant on it. And so, since we came back, we’ve had like four practices and one game. And we played well in the game. We beat a really good team. So, this group is still evolving into a team, and that’s why these exhibition games are so important. What we did at West Point yesterday was really important as far as team building.
On Anthony Davis’ role without Kevin Durant and Paul George on the team:
Well Anthony would have had a huge role no matter what. Anthony is one of the best players in the NBA. But with those two guys (gone), I think scoring-wise, he’ll get more opportunities, because if you have Durant, you are going to put things in for him. So, when he is not there, then those things aren’t in, so for everybody it becomes a little bit more available. But Anthony played a great a game against Brazil; not a good game. He had an influence on every exchange, offensively or defensively, while he was in there.
On James Harden’s maturity:
Terrific. James has been as good a leader as we’ve had for this team. He has a great personality. He is an upbeat guy, smart, and he’s obviously very, very talented. With this group, especially after Kevin left, he has asserted himself even more as an older guy. I know him, he knows me, because we have worked together. He’s really one of our key guys. There is no question about it.
Do you think going to Houston from Oklahoma City helped James Harden mature?
I don’t how maturity develops when I’m not around it all the time. I just know that he’s one of the best players in the NBA. And having this responsibility here will only make him better. These guys get better after playing in this, because they go to places that they don’t necessarily go to on their own teams, whether it be in a subordinate role at times, a leadership role, the key player, the good talker, or whatever. James checks every box. I love James. We have a great, great relationship. That communication between the two of us can translate to even better communication with the guys on the court.
How are you feeling? They going to let you get out there tomorrow against Dominican Republic?
I’m not really sure yet. I mean, I’m basically through the pain, now it’s just about getting strength back in my knee. So, as of right now, it is better, but it’s still not 100 percent. I also don’t really want to rush into anything. I would say it’s about 50-50.
Are you worried about being hurt at this time and not getting a chance to show what you can do?
I wouldn’t say edgy. First of all, nobody wants to be hurt, of course. It just kind of happened that way. All I can do is try my best to learn the stuff from the sideline, go through my rehab and just try to get healthy as fast as possible. That’s all I really can do right now.
What about playing Friday?
That’s definitely a possibility. A couple of more days to heal under my belt, a couple more days of, you know, going through the rehab, get my knee stronger. That’s definitely a possibility.
What would it mean to you to be on the team that goes to Spain?
I mean, that’s my goal this summer, to make this team. I’ve trained hard this whole summer to come in, be in shape, be ready for this experience. Like I’ve been saying, this is where I want to be this summer. It’d be a huge honor, and it’s something I want to do.
Do you and the guys talk about who will make the team?
No. It’s hard to determine because, I mean, every guy here is so talented, so it’s hard to just say, ‘this guy is not going to make it.’ I mean, everybody can play to high level, so it’s hard to say.
What’s it like playing with the “Splash Brothers”
I don’t know who they are. No, but they’re two terrific shooters. They make the game a lot easier for everybody else when you have two guys who shoot the ball like that and space the floor and create open looks.
What’s the biggest thing to build on after such a dominant performance on Friday?
I think we got to learn how to play for a whole 40 minutes. We took a few plays off. We played bad defensively in a spurt or two, and we can’t do that, because when we get down to the medal round teams will take advantage of that if we’re not playing well defensively. So, we definitely have to learn how to play defense for the whole 40 minutes. Overall, I think we did a great job of sharing the ball and make sure we just try to win no matter who scores.
With Kevin and Paul out, do you feel a little bit more of a responsibility on your shoulders to either take more of a leadership role, scoring or as a personality on the team?
Yeah, but I think we have great players who do that as well. Obviously we need everyone to step up, honestly. I think guys did that so far. It’s not just one guy, me or Kyrie or Derrick or whoever, it’s all collectively trying to have the same goal.
How has playing on the national team improved your overall game and your maturity?
It lets me play year round and make sure I don’t get out of shape or don’t lose any feel for the game. Also, it gets me better from being around all these terrific players that know a lot about the game that I may not know about. They definitely feed it to me along with these coaches, and I love playing for the national team. They’re definitely helping me out.
Do you think you’re starting to ditch that label that you came in as a replacement and are starting to gel with the guys?
I’m still trying to get some rust off. In the middle of the summer, I didn’t really expect to come in here and really have to make the adjustment quick. I’m starting to, and I’m gelling with the team and getting better everyday.
Is it a good change you’re starting to get live game reps with these guys whatever your off-season was regularly planned for?
Yes. There’s nothing better than playing and playing at the highest level possible during the summer. That’s the best way to get into game shape.
How competitive is it? Coach K is going to have some tough decisions to make the final roster and there are so many good guys on the team.
They do this every time. There’s always a good roster. Guys are always playing hard, and it’s always tough to leave guys out. To even be here is an honor.
Is it strange for you to come in so late in the process?
It’s strange. I’m just learning on the fly.
What’s been the feedback you’ve gotten from the coaches about your time so far?
I have a pretty good relationship with guys because I played in the last FIBA (World) Championship and also I tried out for the Olympic team, so I pretty much know the coaching staff, and (I’m) just trying to go out there and do whatever they need me to do.
Does your abbreviated stay help when you have people you’ve played with before on the team?
It does, but I think we’re all learning. It would help if it was a full season, but the fact (is) we just got here and everyone’s trying to learn and everyone’s trying to make the team, It’s kind of a little bit of a damper, but it’s still good to know guys and be able to talk to them.
How do you approach the games as far as your role with USA Basketball?
I got to be a little more aggressive. I think we have so many weapons, especially offensively. I’m talking about aggressive offensively and defensively, just picking up my intensity, picking up my leadership. I’m not really worried about scoring the basketball, but just being in attack mode on offense.
Do you see yourself taking on the Durant role on this team?
I don’t try to put the pressure on myself too much because we have so many all-stars, so many guys that can contribute. I just go out there and play my game … go out there and be aggressive, use the pick and roll, make plays, be aggressive.
Are you looking forward to taking a leadership role?
I think these past couple of years, I’ve prepared myself for this situation. Basically having to lead a team in the Rockets. Obviously, we have a lot of all-stars on this team, which is going to make my job a lot easier. I’m just playing on both ends of the floor at a high level, making plays, getting into the paint, looking for my shot or looking for shooters. We got so many guys that can shoot the basketball on this team; it’s hard to guard us.
How different is it coming into this camp than it was in the Olympics?
Totally different, a totally different role for me. Me and Anthony Davis, we really didn’t play in 2012 in London. We learned a lot from those guys. Now, we are going to be playing heavy minutes. We are just going to take what we learned in London and bring it here … just trying to be a leader, make sure I’m talking every day and making sure my mindset is right going into every single practice and game.
What have you learned about yourself over the last few years?
That I’m capable of leading a team. Obviously, I’m still learning and have a long way to go, but the first couple of steps is already there. So, trying to be more vocal is part of my leadership role, especially on this team. Guys have the talent but guys are kind of shy and might not want to talk. Coach K had plenty of talks with me, (telling me to) make sure you’re vocal, make sure guys hear you. So, that’s what I tried to do.
How does Derrick Rose look in practice?
Phenomenal. He’s so quick, explosive, athletic. He looked very good versus Brazil. Obviously, his timing is a little off, but that will come with more games he plays. For the most part he looks great.
After a non-traditional day yesterday at West Point, how did it feel to get back to a more normal practice today?
Yesterday was pretty much a tour and more of a show than it was practice, so it was great for us to get back out here, get some work in, get some shots, get up and down a little bit. It felt good to do some work today.
Is the chemistry in this group developing as you go along?
I think we are developing our chemistry. We are starting to see where guys like the ball, what guys can really do, what they are comfortable doing. That takes time. It takes time when you are with your regular NBA team, but now we are all coming together and everybody is used to having the ball, so we have to get comfortable with how to move without the ball and how to make the next guy better. Over time, we’ve gotten better at that.
How is the pace of things? How do you feel physically?
It’s been light. I feel great. I didn’t play a whole lot, obviously in the first game, but I think the guys that did, they look great also. Coach K is doing a great job of managing the practices. We’ve gotten things done, but it hasn’t been overwhelming or too stressful, so I think it’s been a great camp.
On visiting West Point:
Yesterday at West Point was a great experience for us. I think we got to see the conditions other people are living in. Some of the things that they do to train to get ready to go serve our country, that’s not a commitment that we have to make. For us to be able to see what they go through, the levels and the steps that they have to take to prepare themselves, it was a humbling experience for all of us.
On practicing at his home NBA practice facility:
It is nice to be here. Just to see the whole staff here, a lot of people came out to watch, so it’s been good.
On being in New York:
I actually haven’t been to my place yet. We are staying up by Central Park, so I’m a little ways away, but it’s nice being back.
On practice today:
It felt good to get back in the gym and sweat. Yesterday was for West Point and for the fans up there, but today was more for us and focused on what we are doing, so that was good.
How do you handle knowing that not everyone will go to Spain?
It’s not difficult to know that, it’s just the reality of it. I think it’s made our practices better. I thought it made our camp very good out in Vegas, because guys are competing for spots. So, whenever you have that dynamic, it just makes everybody better.
What is important for you to do? What are you focused on?
Just making sure the team plays well when I’m on the floor. I’m not looking at numbers, points and rebounds; I’m more looking at plus and minus. So, when I’m out there I have to anchor the defense, I have to be a voice on the floor, get guys open on offense and just make things run smooth when I’m out there.
On his health:
I’m really, really happy where I’m at right now as far as health-wise, recovering very quickly. I’m just trying to take my time and get rest, because we have a long schedule ahead of us, and just trying to get as much rest as possible.
Coach K talks about getting the rust off a little bit. Do you feel that’s what you are doing as you go along here?
I think so, I’m playing hard. The only thing I can do out here is play hard, and I’m going to end up playing my way into shape. The last thing I need is my wind and the way that we play that should come pretty soon.
How have the guards’ role changed without Kevin here? Do you to do different things in the offense now without him?
Not me. Probably James or someone, but for myself, I just got to push the ball, get guys open. I don’t got to worry about shooting the ball. I can go a whole game without shooting on this team. But you see guys in here working, shooting, you got no other choice but get them the ball if you see them in here after practice getting up shots.
These next couple games at the garden, do you feel like there is pressure for them to be a showcase?
I don’t think so, because I think if we come out and play hard the results take care of themselves. There’s too much talent on this team, so if we just play hard and play together we’ll be good and kind of treat them as tune-up games. You know, we were rusty against Brazil. I mean that was expected, all of us haven’t played in a game in a few months, and we’re all excited. To play in the garden is such an experience. It is hard to explain to people, but I can’t wait. It is always a good time.
What are you enjoying about the process (USAB training camp)?
What am I enjoying about it? Just going up against the competition everyday. You literally can’t take a break on the floor, because, you know, one through five can burn you. So, it is going to make going into training camp come October that much easier. So, I am really excited for this opportunity. I feel like all of us are getting better from this experience. Some of the best players in the world, so you have no choice but to get better.
Why is being here with Steph a benefit to all parties?
In August we aren’t most times able to work with each other, and to be able to work with each other in this competitive setting, against some of the best competition in the world just to get us better. We already know each other, play off each other pretty well, and this is only going to make us better. Anytime we get in the gym together, especially against some of, 12 – 14 best players in the world, it is a great opportunity for us to grow in both of our games. Even guarding each other is great for both of us.