Men's National Team Quotes From Thursday's Practice
New York, New York
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University)
Where do you think the team is at this point, and are you happy with the progress thus far?
We’re very happy. We’re all in good health. Everybody is able to play for tomorrow night, so that’s good. We changed our work out from the Nets’ facility, just to cut down on the bus time. It was starting to be a long trip, so just to walk out in the fresh air, walk here, it was just kind of a change of pace. Also let them sleep in a little bit more. And we got to keep thinking of those things as the trip goes along with so many games. But good energy. This group has had really good energy every day. They have been excellent, so I’m happy.
On guys buying into USA Basketball:
It’s a good point. Right from the start, our first practice in Vegas, the guys on the staff, Tom, Monty, Jim, almost the whole first practice was to talk about what we were going to do defensively and walk through. Part of it is getting the same language. These guys have different ways of communicating switches, downing, different defensive concepts, and we tried to get on that same page that day, and as we’ve progressed, our defense has been really good, especially when you talk about the limited amount of practice. And with the two changes, with Paul and Kevin, after those four days of practice no longer being with us. So, the team has really come a long way, to be quite frank with you, in a short period of time because of great attitude. I think by being on defense, they are just playing harder. They are playing real hard. That’s nice.
On the perimeter defense:
What we do is these are our perimeter guys. I mean James can guard anybody on the perimeter, I think Klay can also. DeMar has played really well in anything that we’ve done live action, the scrimmage in Vegas the game last night, he’s big and strong. Parsons can go three and four, so we feel really good on the perimeter.
How edgy is the group in general knowing there are going to be cuts?
I think everybody wants to be on the team. It’s not like one guy said it doesn’t look good for me, or anything like that, which is really a compliment to all of them. How they played last night was, we should have won, but we played really hard throughout. What you asked is, if you would look at the last second-and-a-half of that game, where Andre still he tried to get the ball, I like that. It’s not like, okay, we want to win by 44, or whatever we won by, it was the fact that as long as he was out there, he was going to get it. I think that says a lot for the type of attitude all of them have. That’s why the cuts, the guys who aren’t selected, it’s going to be really difficult.
How much do you dread making roster reductions?
I hate it. I hate it, and it’s the worst thing really about the process. But, it’s much better than selecting twelve to begin with, having guys hurt or drop out and then asking somebody who hasn’t been there, ‘will you come in and now you are called the alternate,’ so the U.S. is going forward with nine guys and three alternates. None of these guys are alternates. All these guys are candidates, and worthy candidates, and then we are going to take twelve worthy candidates and we are not going to take four others who are are worthy too. That is the way that we’ve done this for almost a decade, and we are going to keep that mindset.
On selecting the team:
The four guys, I think four guys didn’t play, we all knew they weren’t going to play, they knew they weren’t going to play and they were fine with it. Again, there is no indication then that that guy didn’t play, he’s not on it. We have a much better feel for things, but to be quite frank with you, after last night, everything is a little bit more difficult, or a lot more difficult making the choice. Like in anything, whatever we decide will be questioned, so we are not going to make decisions because of what questions are going to be answered. We are just going to try and do it. You still have to complement about eight guys with four guys. Once we are sure of those eight guys, then the complement of those four will make it a little bit easier. It’s not about whose stats were better in the NBA and what they did last year, it’s what they are doing right now and how they mesh together.
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
On scrimmage against Dominican Republic:
I think we played alright. We have to be a lot more talkative on defense and work on the little things. Yeah, we blew that team away, but we have to be a lot better.
On improvements for Puerto Rico scrimmage:
Talking more. Knowing assignments on defense. Really getting after the ball and causing more havoc and turnovers. We want to put fear into our opponents just by our voice. If we get beat, we have to have the right guys doing the right things. If a guy is putting pressure on one of our guys, we have to tell him.
On talking more on defense:
Yeah, it’s got to be second nature. We have to stay focused and we have got to stay locked in. We can’t have any letups.
On travelling to Spain:
I’m looking forward to this trip more than I’m looking forward to any other trip I’ve taken.
On representing the United States:
It means a lot to support my country. To know that my country has faith in me as a professional athlete. As one of the few people to be able to put on the USA jersey and represent the country at the highest level, it is an honor.
Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings)
On scrimmage against Dominican Republic:
I think it went well. There are a lot of guys out there trying to find time, but in the end it was pretty good.
On travelling to Spain:
I’ve been there a couple times before. I know where to go, know where to eat.
On representing the United States:
It means a lot. Not a lot of people get a chance to do this. The fact that I do with this group of guys, it’s amazing.
On this group of players on USA team:
We pulled a team together real quick, so it takes some time to get on the same page on the court. So far, we’ve been getting on pretty good though.
On the USA coaches:
I learn something new from one of these guys every day. Whatever I can take from each coach, I will. Coach Boeheim was a former nemesis back in my college days, but all of these guys know so much about the game, and they’ve all helped me.
Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
How are you feeling today?
I feel fine. In the first game, many of us did not play much. I think yesterday was a good opportunity for us to go out there and get comfortable and show how we deserve to be on the team. Anytime you have the opportunity to get on court to play, it is a blessing.
You usually do not have many turnovers but you had a couple of them last night. Can you tell me about that?
I think I had four turnovers. I know two of those turnovers were due to miscommunications and times I made a play on instinct. During the other two turnovers I lost the ball. I tried to go behind my back and the ball just slipped out. During the other turnover I was penetrating and someone put their hand on the ball. I don’t think any of them were bad turnovers. Turnovers are a part of the game. When you play 24 minutes in a game and you have the ball in your hand most of the time, it can happen. I have to do a better job at that.
Can you tell me about your time here with USA Basketball?
It has been a great experience. Being able to play with a lot of the best players in the league every day is great. I don’t think there is a better thing I can be doing right now as a basketball player. You do not get the opportunity every day to compete against James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose. I think that this is going to make me a better player, and I can take knowledge I learned here and bring it to the Portland Trail Blazers.
What does it mean to you to get on the plane on Saturday and represent the United States?
It means a lot. There are a lot of guys that don’t get the opportunity to even be a part of camp or even represent the United States and compete. I am looking forward to the opportunity. This has already been a great experience and great opportunity for me to get better. To get on the plane will be a big accomplishment for me. I have always been a fan of USA basketball and to actually be a part of the team would mean a lot.
Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets)
Has it been a while since you got to practice in such a compact gym like this?
No. I actually played pick up here a couple times this summer, so I’ve been here before.
You were on DeMarcus’ (Cousins) team today, what have you taken away from his game that you’ve been able to incorporate in your game?
We’ve been on the same team since Vegas, and when you practice against guys or you scrimmage against them, it helps, but at the end of the day we’re all on the same team.
Derrick (Rose) was on your team as well, what have you seen from him in his progression back from the injuries?
He looks great. I’ve never played against him before his injury, but he looks great right now and very explosive. He’ll hit the ground running when the season comes.
What do you expect to see tomorrow from Puerto Rico’s frontline?
(Renaldo) Balkman is an athletic big. (Ricardo) Sanchez can shoot it, and they have the ability to play inside and out.
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
What will your role be on this team?
It is not up to me, it is up to the coaching staff. Right now, I am doing workouts and everyone is trying to work on their game individually. It is up to the coaching staff to pace us.
Do you know how many minutes you will play tomorrow against Puerto Rico?
I have not heard anything yet, but I should know something soon.
Why didn’t you play against the Dominican Republic?
If I can play I am going to play no matter how many games there are. If I am healthy enough to play, I will play. I am not worried about that. With all the training I have been doing in the past, I am prepared for it. Right now I have been getting my legs under me more. Yesterday we were winning by 30 or 40, so there was no need. No disrespect to the other team.
Are you glad that you are getting game-action before the NBA season starts?
Yeah, I am knocking the rust off. I don’t play in the off-season at all, so all of this is getting me in the right groove, especially being a point guard. I have to get use to the ball again, especially these basketballs because they are a little bit lighter and slicker. I am trying to get my pace and my wind back. My wind is the last thing that I need.
Were you able to fully practice today?
Yes, I did everything. I also did a light workout after practice.
Are you less sore then you were last night?
Yes. I could have played, but there is no point when you can get a little more rest. That is all I tried to do.
How did you feel about people chanting your name yesterday at Madison Square Garden?
I love playing here (New York). The atmosphere is great. People here really know basketball, and they enjoy just watching good basketball. To hear those chants in Madison Square Garden and not to be from here means a lot. It shows that I have true fans.