USA Basketball Tele-Conference With Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski
The following is a transcript of a media tele-conference conducted Tuesday afternoon with USA Basketball Men'a National Team managing director Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski:
JERRY COLANGELO: Well, until the injury to one of our players, Paul George, we had a great week, we really did, maybe one of the best weeks we've ever had in terms of training camp for USA Basketball. The focus, of course, centers around the injury to Paul George, but there is good news there in terms of his circumstances and the fact that he will soon be discharged. We're not sure of the exact time or date. It could be today or tomorrow or whatever, and then headed home. So that's the good news.
He's already on the heal, and we're very pleased about that.
We've been in communication with our players as was stated at the press conference on Friday. We needed a few days just to sit back and let some time go by, and we did. The great news there is that in communication with the players, they are all on board. They recognize that injuries and sports go together, unfortunately, and we all have experiences that we could talk about where players have been lost in practice, players have been lost in games and in pickup games for seasons, and I personally have experienced that with my 45 years in the NBA.
We're moving forward. We're looking forward to Chicago as our next stop, and much has been said, many comments, some naysayers, some second‑guessers, about a lot of things, and I can only say when asked to take on this responsibility, I was proud to take it on as an American. To be able to represent your country is what it's all about. It is about being patriotic, it is about selfless service, and our players get that. All you need to do is ask any of them who have been involved with us in our last three competitions, and they would to a man say they feel they're better people, better players, and felt a real warming within their soul to represent their country.
So that's what we're all about. That's what we're charged with, and we're going to continue on that path.
With that I'm going to turn it over to Coach K.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I echo what Jerry has said, and I just want to make a comment about the camp. I thought the week was outstanding. The effort was terrific. We actually practiced harder, I think, than we have in any of the three previous camps, and although we went hard then but not as hard as this week. The camaraderie that we saw develop amongst the players was outstanding.
So we're looking forward to Chicago. We have the World Basketball Festival that Nike and USA Basketball puts on there is really an outstanding event, and playing against one of the favorites, one of the really strong teams in the world called Brazil.
Q. Jerry, Las Vegas took a tremendous hit in the media in some basketball circles in the wake of Paul's injury. Did the injury jeopardize USA Basketball's relationship with the city and with the Thomas Mack?
JERRY COLANGELO: No, it did not. The NBA All‑Star Game was played on that court with the stanchions. The summer league has been there, exhibition games have been there, on and on and on. We're all familiar with the rules, four feet from the end line in the NBA, six feet for college. Why the discrepancy, I don't know, but it's there. And if something is off an inch, that certainly is not a cause for something that took place with Paul George.
They're not in jeopardy at all.
Q. Mike, for you, I heard Jim Boeheim yesterday say that there's still a healing period that's going on with the team. As head coach, what will be the key to motivating the guys to kind of get the intensity back you had in Vegas?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I don't think they'll need motivation. I think they'll be ready, and I think they'll want to do something to honor Paul. But I think they'll be ready to go. The reactions that I've gotten from players is that they're anxious to get going and they feel badly ‑‑ obviously very, very badly about Paul and would like ‑‑ he's part of our group. He's part of our brotherhood. But I don't think there will be a lack of motivation.
Q. A basketball question here: In regards to Damian Lillard making the first cut, Coach Krzyzewski, I was wondering about your opinion about how he performed in the scrimmage before obviously it had to come to an end, and having four guards still on the roster, do you think it's likely you'll be able to keep four guys when you make the cut down to 12?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, there are actually more than four guards, but certainly we're heavy in outstanding talent at the guard spot at 1 and at 2, and so guys have to be ready to play both. We're not going to be able to keep all the guys, but everyone played very well. Damian had a good week. I think he can be even better. But part of it is just getting accustomed to playing with all these guys and playing in a different role. All these guys play in a different role. You come off the bench, you might just play a few minutes. You're not that starter who can work his way into it.
So we think that the week was good. Damian did a good job, and we'll be able to see more over these next two stops in Chicago and New York.
Q. How has Paul George's injury affect or not affected James Harden since they've worked particularly close at these training sessions in Vegas?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, Paul's injury had an impact on everyone since he looked to be the guy that would be at our 3 position, and not the only guy, but the best defender and one of the best players in the league.
As a result of his injury and not being able to participate, we have to look at how will we do the perimeter, and it means that some of the guys who would be at 2 might also be at 3. And have maybe a little bit smaller ‑‑ well, we will have a smaller perimeter without Paul.
James had, I thought, a great week and can play really any of the three perimeter positions, offensively especially. James is going to be one of the key guys going forward.
Q. Coach K, just curious if you can talk about a couple, two or three key variables that you look at from the players to decide who makes the squad and who doesn't.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, you try to come up with a core eight ‑‑ seven to nine. That's what we've tried to do in the last three competitions, because not everybody is going to get equal playing time‑out of the final 12. In the Olympics only ‑‑ the last Olympics only three guys averaged over 20 minutes a game. I think it was Chris Paul, Kevin and LeBron.
So going forward, you have to assume that that's kind of going to be the same thing, then who fits in, and a few guys will play none or limited minutes. So come up with that core group, we haven't come up with that yet, and then how the remaining three or four guys, how do they fit in. How do they complement the core eight. It's not about just getting 12 players, the 12 best players. It's how you fit them in.
We've had success doing that. We're going to try to do it again over these next couple weeks.
Q. Coach K, in what ways have you seen Kevin Durant develop since the last time the group convened, and do you still notice the growth in his game at this stage or are his progressions more subtle?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I don't know if anything about Kevin in basketball is subtle. I've just seen him develop from being a select team member to being the MVP of the World Championship in '10, got stronger, more decisive during that competition. Then in '12 how he really fit in well, his talents with LeBron, Kobe and Carmelo, which that's not easy for a guy who is an MVP candidate, obviously is an MVP this past year, the leading scorer in the league, to where now on this team he's the leader. He's one of the leaders. He, I think, wants that role. He's stronger physically, but I think he's stronger emotionally, and he wants to assert himself in that leadership department. I think he's doing that.
So he continues to grow, and that's why he's a great, great player.
Q. Just a couple quick questions here for you. How does Paul George's injury perhaps impact DeMarcus Cousins' status on the team?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I don't think that had any bearing on DeMarcus Cousins. DeMarcus ‑‑ Paul's injury has more of a bearing with the perimeter, and then he potentially could have gone to a 4, also. DeMarcus had a really good week, outstanding scrimmage, the leading rebounder, and gives us a big that's different than Anthony Davis. We are looking at the big position, the 5, kind of separate from all the others in that that's where we've lost guys, and DeMarcus had a really good week, so we're hoping that that can continue.
Q. Mike, can you just talk a little bit about what you saw from Andre Drummond last week and maybe what you envision him bringing to the team should he make it?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, well, Andre is a willing worker, and he's a big guy who runs well, still learning about the game. I think he doesn't become 21 until next month, so he's a young guy who's been in our program the last couple years, and we see him continuing to grow.
This type of competition for him in trying to make the team, and if he makes it, going forward, only helps him. Only helps him. He's a really good guy, and we want him, whether he's on the team right now or not will be determined. We want him in USA Basketball going forward because he's an up‑and‑coming outstanding player.
Q. Coach Mike, I'm wondering how Andre Drummond has been doing compared to the other big men.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: I kind of just went through that. He did a good job. As a young player, he's still learning about all the defensive coverages. He's improving. I think he's still 20 years old. But he did well, and he's in full consideration for a spot going forward.
Q. Mike, Gordon Hayward and Mason Plumlee are two guys that might be a little bit of a surprise getting through this first cut. What did you see in them that convinced you to bring them back to Chicago and keep them in the program at least for a little while longer, and are they two guys that were, for lack of a better term, helped by George's absence or anything as far as getting a spot past the first cut?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I think Gordon has been a part of our program, and this isn't the first time we've had a chance to work with him. He's one of the really good young players in the league. He's very versatile.
With Paul's injury, losing a guy who is an All‑Star at 6'8", Gordon is 6'8", also, you have to look ‑‑ that doesn't mean he wouldn't have gone forward anyway, but you look at him even closer.
But his versatility is really something that we like, and toughness. He had a good scrimmage, too, on Friday night.
In Mason's case, Mason, it's totally separate. We needed to bring all our big guys forward and take a better look at the big guys, and so all four of the guys, Anthony, DeMarcus, Andre and Mason, were brought forward. He's a surprise in that he was not in the original 19, but he did such a good job with the select group, and we needed another player to make it 20 so it was easier to practice that way. Mason made a mark during the week, and in the second half of the scrimmage he did very well. He's in consideration, no question.
Q. You mentioned obviously the loss of Paul George and the emotional toll I'm sure it takes on a team, but as far as the basketball toll, your wing positions have been your strength for a couple of years. How much does this affect what you were going to do with your lineup?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, it does affect us because he's a guy that would demand significant minutes, on any team but even on a U.S. team, where he would probably have been a starter and could swing from the 3 to the 4 if necessary.
Paul is one of the great defensive players in the league, so earlier in the week he had even come up to me and said, ‘Coach, that's the role I want. I want to be able to defend whoever is the best perimeter player, whoever you want me to be on, I want to do that for you.’ When you lose a player of that caliber, you take a hit, and especially because his willingness to be a team member and do the dirty work was right there.
Paul is an exceptional guy and would do anything for his team to win.
Q. If you could, Coach, talk about DeMarcus Cousins' attitude at the exhibition game on Friday and some of the feedback you got from Coach Thibodeau?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, all the coaches were really pleased with DeMarcus and how he played. Look, his attitude is tremendous because he wouldn't keep coming back to be a part of this, be on a U.S. team, if it didn't mean something to him. So we recognized that even before he started practice. The fact that he was there, committed and ready to go and I think in good shape, and he played well. He was talking on defense, by far the leading ‑‑ well, he and Ken Faried, but he's our leading rebounder and gives a low post presence that gives our team a little bit different look and can pass out of the post.
He made a huge impact on all of us during the week but especially at the scrimmage.
Q. Coach, I'm curious, you mentioned versatility quite a few times. A guy like Chandler Parsons, do you see him as essentially a 3, or could he slide over and be a stretch 4? And also, if you could just give kind of a rating to his play during camp and his prospects for maybe making the final roster.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he did a good job. I think he got better as the week went along. Apparently he was not allowed to do much during his time where they were going through his contract. So we saw him get better as the week went along. He's a great guy. He'd be willing to do anything, and he told me what an honor it is to be a part of this.
All of our guys have got to be ready to play multiple positions except the big guys, although Anthony Davis could be at a 4. So certainly Chandler can be a big perimeter player or the stretch 4 as we go forward.
Q. Coach, I wanted to talk to you about Mason and Kyrie specifically. What did Mason do and how has his game developed from his one year in the NBA, if you could talk about that, and then also assess how Kyrie is doing as far as his ability to play the 1 and the 2 like you mentioned?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, in Mason's case, he's basically doing what he did his senior year at Duke when he was rated the top big guy in the country. He talks enthusiastic, rim runs, really runs the court well and plays good defense. Being with the Nets and being around vetrans I think only helped him more, especially being around Kevin Garnett, and he's an easy guy to play with for these guys. He doesn't need the ball long and does the dirty work but is an athlete, a big athlete, and hopefully can be a good defender.
In Kyrie's case, Kyrie was one of the better players in the camp. He has a unique skill set at the guard position in that he can really run a team and push the ball and pass, but he can play off the ball, too, because he's an outstanding shooter. By the way, he'll have to do both those things in getting ready for his Cleveland team.
Q. Two questions for either one of you. One is can you comment on Kyle Korver and his chance to make the team going forward? And the other is, Jerry, notwithstanding your comments about patriotism and selfless service being in tournaments like this, can you comment or add to the debate at all or comment on the debate regarding NBA players participating in terms like this?
JERRY COLANGELO: Well, I'll take the second one first. I'm not sure there's a debate necessarily. I think there's some opinions, and it may lead to some debate that takes place among the owners. We can only deal with the facts as they are. Players are allowed to play. Owners are not to dissuade them from playing. It's all part of an agreement. And as long as the rules are as they are, we'll continue on that basis until it changes.
Mark Cuban's comments, I think people need to read between the lines, which is basically he's not against international competition, he's against international competition when he believes the beneficiary being the IOC is getting the money, so he's basically saying it's okay for our players to play internationally if the money goes to the NBA and to the team owners. That's the difference.
It's pretty hard to prevent players from playing the game that is who they are. That's their character. That's their core. They're going to play pickup games, they're going to play anyplace they can, and injuries are part of the whole process. That's just part of the game, and we have to get by that. But who is to say what's going to take place going forward. Right now we're dealing with the here and now, and that is one step at a time, Chicago, New York and Spain, and we have a job to do, and hopefully we can accomplish our goal.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: In reference to Kyle Korver, Kyle can be a specialist for the team in that he's one of the great 3‑point shooters and really the oldest guy in the group so could give us some veteran leadership.
He's in contention. He also played for Tom, so Tom even knows him better. But he had a really good week.
Q. Specifically about the scrimmage, Mike, I'm curious what you thought about Derrick's speed and explosion, and then for both Mike and Jerry, what's it going to be like for you guys on a personal level to bring USA Basketball to Chicago.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, in Derrick's case, Derrick was sensational the whole week. He real
y did that every day, how fast and strong and decisive he was. He really created an air of excitement for the team, because we all were anxious to see who he was right now, and who he is is very, very good.
We're ecstatic about it and so happy for him.
As far as coming to Chicago, to me we'll be playing about a mile and a half from where I grew up, so it's an honor ‑‑ what an honor for me to bring the U.S. team and be able to coach in the United Center. It's a homecoming for Anthony Davis and also for Derrick Rose in addition to Jerry. Chicago is our town.
Q. Coach, I wanted to ask you if Kenneth Faried has sort of broken the mold of what this team looks for in a 4 man. He's a big guy, but he doesn't shoot, yet he's brought so much energy and so much bounce that it seems like it's hard to keep him off the team. Is that a good way to describe it?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, it's a very great way to describe it. That's why he's going forward. He's a different player than the other players we have, and his specialty has been rebounding and energy and good defense and running. He did that every day, and he did that in the scrimmage, and guys like playing with Kenneth.
Q. Coach, you mentioned how the players want to give back and to honor Paul George for his time on the team and so forth, but that kind of an injury that close, first of all, are you concerned as to how much of a lingering effect that will have when a player goes up for a rebound, goes up for a block and so forth? And again, how do you try to minimize that? All memories will fade, but that one so close in a competition going in like this, how do you approach that?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You know, I don't think we'll have any problem with that. I think it's more for a player who's had an injury and is coming back, can be a little bit shy, a little bit indecisive about whatever part of his body was injured and what shape and that. But I think our guys will go after it. I don't think there will be a lingering effect in that regard.
In fact, I think it could be opposite. I think our guys might go after it even harder to honor Paul.
I don't see it as a problem, but obviously when we have our first practice, I'll try to make an assessment of where our team is at, both physically and emotionally, and then take proper steps depending on what we see.
Q. Is there any chance Kevin Love could join the squad if he finalizes a contract or has he actually disqualified himself from playing this time around?
JERRY COLANGELO: I'll take that one. He hasn't disqualified himself, but we have to be realistic about the circumstances. If he chose not to go forward with us this year because of the contractual situation, there's good reason to assume that it would be difficult for him to go forward after he signs the contract because of those same circumstances.
Number two, for him to join up with us at that point in time would be a challenge, not only for him, but it would be a challenge for our team, and also you have to look at the fairness factor as it relates to the players who are putting in the time and have the equity this year in trying to make this team.
So chances are that won't happen.
Q. Coach, I was just wondering what are some of the things that you've seen out of Gordon's game and what improvements do you think he's made overall this season or since you've last had him?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, I love his versatility and the fact he's 6'8" and he's strong. I think he's more decisive, stronger, and he's a better player, and I think he will continue to grow. Just like all these guys, they've got a chance to make this team, but as far as with his own team, I think with the coaching change, I think Quin will be really good for him in helping him improve even more. He can become even a better player because he's still a young guy and wants to. But we like him a lot, and I like his future, especially working with Coach Snyder.
Q. Coach K, assuming you're looking at Anthony Davis as your starting five, I wonder if you have room for one or two from the three‑man group of Drummond, Plumlee and Cousins, and does the fact that Spain can throw some size at you up front maybe make you lean more towards keeping two from that group?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: We're going to look at all of them, but we haven't determined how many we're going to keep, but your assumption about Anthony is correct. We think he is kind of a different 5 in how he runs and he can shoot from the outside and his shot blocking. But we need more than Anthony, not just for Spain but really in our first exhibition game. Brazil, with Splitter, Nene, Varejao, you're talking about teams that have big guys, so all the big guys are going to be looked at closely.
Again, we haven't determined how many we're going to carry.
Q. Mike, I wanted to get back to Derrick just for a second. You were raving about him all last week. I was hoping you could put into context how difficult it is for any player to go from not playing for seven or eight months and then coming into a camp like that and playing the way he did.
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, it takes an exceptional person, which is why we're talking about Derrick. I think he's exceptional in every way. He went right at it. The first defensive exchange in the camp, he was all over the ball handler, I mean, moving his feet, attacking him, and there was a buzz right away. He's basically saying, look, I'm not just back, I'm back at a level that's elite.
And then being with the other elite guards helps you, and then Derrick maintained that the entire week. We could not be happier about that particular situation.
Q. Coach and Jerry, just wondering, Coach, if you could elaborate a little more on Kenneth Faried and his defense in particular because that's one thing in the first three years that the coaching staff is always trying to emphasize with Kenneth is energy and rebounding is there but it's getting the defensive concepts. I know you haven't had an extensive time to look at him, but what have you seen in that area?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Well, he's capable of being, and he is a really good defensive player. He's capable of being a great defensive player because he's got the energy, he's got the toughness, the foot speed, the strength, and the quickness to really play ‑‑ he can guard a center, too, for short periods of time.
Kenneth is a very, very good player, especially when he goes to his strengths, and defense should be one of his strengths.
Q. Prior to Paul George being injured there were a couple of players that removed themselves from the competition this summer. I just wanted to know was that good training, whether it be for training players for 2015, and then do you have a plan in place on how to address that issue?
JERRY COLANGELO: Well, we're not addressing the issue now obviously because of the work at hand. We've been pretty outspoken about the fact that we can, you know, extend invitations, and if some player or players decide not to because of their circumstances, be it injury or contract situation or just choose not to go, there will not be a shortage of players who want to play. When we talk about the pipeline being full, you can start with the 16, 17, 18, 19 year olds playing USA Basketball, and they're just coming up through the ranks.
Think back to 2010 when we were in Istanbul and won the World Championships with six players 21 or under. These were all young players. They're just a few years older now.
So I think the pipeline will continue to be full. We're very deep in our country. We should be thankful for that, regarding our talent pool, and that's the reason we have the National Team roster. That's very, very important. It's not just picking, trying to find 12 players, like the players who are not going forward with us are still part of the National Team roster going forward, and they'll be back next year I'm sure, you know, when we prepare for the Olympics.
So we don't think it's an issue at this point.
Q. One thing, Coach K, when do you want to really zero in on the roster, right after Chicago or right to the date that you have, or what's kind of in mind?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Yeah, we haven't set a specific date. What we would like to zero in on is like a core group that we can settle in on, and that's ‑‑ we're starting to see that, but we haven't determined that completely yet, and hopefully we'll be able to do that in Chicago or New York.
Q. I apologize that this was touched on earlier, but with regards to John Wall and Bradley Beal, those two, why they're no longer with the team, and just the guard competition in general.
JERRY COLANGELO: You know, the fact is both players had a good week. Beal is a young player who has been involved with USA Basketball in the past, and I feel confident that he will be part of that future because he's an outstanding talent. This was strictly a numbers situation with him.
As relates to John Wall, you look at the guards who went forward in terms of our point guards, and he's truly a point with great size and really very good defensively, and that was a tough call as it relates to asking him not to go forward because of the people we felt were ahead of him in terms of talent and what they might bring to this particular team.
But John also has time in with USA Basketball, and I believe that we'll hear from him in the future, also.
Q. Coach K, I'm curious what the impact was on the team when Blake Griffin pulled out and the press release said that he wanted to focus on the upcoming NBA season. Your thoughts about that and how the conversation went with him when he talked to you about it?
MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: You know, he talked to Jerry about it, and really our team never talked about Blake Griffin or Kevin Love. Once a player decides not to play, you don't focus on who's not there, you focus on who's there. Really that was not a subject that was ever brought up.