Quotes Following USA Practice Before Quarterfinal Game Vs. Slovenia
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University)
On playing Slovenia for a second time:
The very first thing is you have to forget the friendly, because they were holding their guys back. They were going to get started right there in pool play, and Goran was held down in minutes that game. So, they’ve gotten better, and he has become even more of a factor as the leader of the team. But for us, too, we’ve gotten better since then, and we just have to focus on the fact that they are an unusual team, and at times, they can put five 3-point shooters out on the court.
How did Kyrie look to you?
I thought he played well … I still think we were a little bit tired against Mexico. That was the sixth game in eight days, and then it was early, at 4 o’clock, so we had good emotion, but I think the day off yesterday helped us. We seem very refreshed today.
Would you rather play at 9 p.m.
Nine is fine. That’s no problem. I’m just glad we are playing, so if we can play 9 the next couple days, that will be alright, too.
In what sense is Slovenia unusual, and how can they surprise you?
Well, they are unusually good in that they have one of the great guards in the world in Goran Dragic. And his brother is outstanding, too, and with Lorbek, those three guys on the perimeter provide probably, outside of Spain, the most experienced perimeter that you have in the tournament. And then you surround them with 3-point shooters. You can have really five guys who can shoot the three, so they have great spacing, they share the ball, half their shots are threes, and they are going to be a tough team to defend. We think they are one of the best teams.
According to practice, do you think the USA also will try a lot of threes?
Well we try a lot of 3-pointers. Trying them – I hope we hit them. We prepare very hard for Slovenia. Slovenia, they have great spirit, too. Their camaraderie is outstanding. They’ll be a tough opponent for us tomorrow night.
The USA’s size was a big factor in the exhibition game. Do you expect that to be the game play again?
Well, I think that just happens because so many people are away from the basket. They basically have four people away from the basket all the time offensively. And then the fifth guy could be a ball screener, who also away from the basket, so when a shot is taken, defensively, we have to be ready for long rebounds. They do not defend in their normal practice a lot of the stuff that we do, so they are not accustomed to being inside, so our guys have to take advantage of that. Not so much posting, but for offensive rebounds.
How hard will it be to get DeMarcus the same kind of minutes when they go small?
If Omic is there, then he is a good match up for him. If they put Zupan at the five, then that’s a tougher matchup because they can spread you. DeMarcus can move. Again, it’s an unusual team to defend. They have a well-designed plan for what they do.
How much is getting minutes for your bigs on your mind, knowing that you might need them later?
The only thing that is on our mind is to win. And winning means that you should have a nine or ten man rotation, so that’s all we are looking for. The game will give you the opportunity to put the right people in, because of matchups, and that is what we are looking for … We are going to match up according to what they do, because the first thing is we have to play defense against them.
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
Do you wish you had some more difficult games?
Yes and no. You want to be tested and see how you do under pressure, but I think the fact that we’ve played well and gotten better every single game, we can be happy with that and know that we are prepared to execute in any situation, because of the focus we’ve had. We haven’t taken any team lightly. We haven’t been lazy or taken any thing for granted along the way, so I think we are pretty much prepared for anything.
Do you mind that everyone already is speaking about the finals against Spain?
We hear it, but we don’t pay any attention to it. We have to do our job to get there, and they do as well. There are a lot of great teams in our path that we have to focus on and worry about right now, so there is no point in talking about anything that is going on in Madrid until we get there.
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans)
What’s the team approach right now?
We’re taking it one game at a time. We have Slovenia tomorrow. We have to take care of them, and then worry about our next game. (If) we get there, we get there, but we have to take one game at a time.
Have you seen Spain yet?
What’s your opinion on Dragic brothers?
They’re great players, great shooters. Both can really play. Obviously, we know what Goran can do. We just got to make sure we stop them from scoring the ball and try to limit their offense and try to make someone else beat us.
What is your opinion of your own game?
Just try to go out there and compete, do whatever it takes to win, whether that’s scoring, defending or rebounding. Whatever it is, I want to make sure I can do what it takes to make the team win.
Do you think tomorrow will be the most difficult game so far?
They shoot a lot of threes. It’s easy to win a game shooting 3s or lose a game shooting threes, so we got to be ready – make sure we run them off the line, make sure they take contested twos.
Do you think you are the favorites to win the gold?
We are taking it one game at a time. We have Slovenia tomorrow. They’re a great team. We got to try to beat them and worry about the rest later.
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
You have played a lot of minutes. Did you expect that?
I expected to play, yeah. I expected to come in and contribute to the team and help us win the gold, but it didn’t matter how many minutes I played, I knew I was going to be out there.
What is the biggest take away from this experience for the NBA season?
A lot, you know, just being a leader, being vocal, especially on defense for me. Getting my teammates more involved and just bringing more energy, so my teammates, they want to play each and every night, no matter who we are playing.
On the Dragic brothers:
They are good, especially together. They are unique, because they are both left-handed players, and they know how to score the ball and shoot the three.
Will this be the hardest game so far?
I don’t know. I think so. Every game that we play is going to be hard from here on out, and every game that we have played was hard. It’s just that we used our many talents and wore people out.
How are you taking the USA being the favorite to reach the final against Spain?
We are the favorite? I guess. We are just going to go out there and play every game like we have to in order to win. We are not worried about reaching the finals right now, we are worried about this game that is coming up tomorrow, and that’s Slovenia.
Is that key of the team, taking game by game?
Yes, because you never know who you are going to play next, so you got to just take it game-by-game. You can’t look ahead.
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
They are a very good team. They got a lot of good guards. They shoot a lot of 3-pointers. It’s going to be a tough game for us, but we got to be on our toes from the beginning of the game.
Is it hard for you to play so many games, six now, and not really have been put to the sword?
You know what, we just try to focus on our opponent, whoever we play, go out there, compete as hard as we can and live with the results. So, it’s going to be another great test for us tomorrow. Like I said, they are a great team, and we are excited to play.
How much do you know about Slovenia?
A lot. We played them in exhibition, so we know them pretty well. Like I said, they shoot the ball very well. They got a lot of 3-point shooters, a couple 3-point shooting bigs as well, so kind of difficult, but we should be ready for it.
You know Dragic really well. Did you prepare something special for him?
He is a great player. He is one of the best players in the NBA, so our guards are going to have a tough challenge. But like I said, we are capable of making sure that five guys on the court can help and play good defense.
Do you think this game will be totally different from exhibition?
Definitely. It’s single-game elimination, so whoever loses goes home. They are focused. They are playing very good basketball, and we are, too, so it should be an exciting matchup tomorrow.
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers)
What are your thoughts on Goran Dragic?
I’m a big fan. All the respect to him. I played against him a few times in my career in the NBA. I’m excited. It’s always good to go against a great point guard.
How do you stop him?
There is no possible way to really stop anybody. You just contain him and try to make it tough, and that’s what me and Derrick are going to do practically all night. Making his catches tough, making his shots always be contested.
How strong do you feel as a team to make the final?
We feel good but we’re taking it one game at a time. That’s the most important thing –preparing for every team the right way and doing things the right way and feeling good about ourselves after every game. That’s all that matters right now. One game at a time.
How do you feel about taking the leadership of this team?
It’s a group effort. There is no one main leader. We all have guys who have been leaders on their team, that all bring something different. We all try to have collective responsibility and all lead in the best way we can.
How did you feel generally the other day?
It was alright. Honestly, I wish I could have felt better, but there are no excuses. I was just happy to be out there with these guys, and they picked it up. Steph carried us, as well as everybody else on the defensive end.
It looked like you were holding your back a couple of times … is it gone?
I couldn’t even sit down on the bench. But there was no discussion with Coach or anything like that on whether I was going to play. I really wanted to be out there and did everything I can. These last two days have been probably the best two days of the trip so far, just restful days and ready to get back at it tomorrow.
What kind of relationship have you developed with Derrick?
We’re around each other every single day. A relationship is going to be developed regardless, but you know we’re all good friends now. This is a brotherhood, and we’re trying to win for our country.
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
You are in a position where you say you are coming in with a U.S. lead and trying to distribute, but people expect you to score because you are Derrick Rose.
True. But at the same time, the year that I won MVP, people didn’t expect me to win MVP. No one in the world expected that, and I went out and won. It’s like my confidence is still high, my confidence doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s just making the game easy for myself. I try not to force things. When I tend to force things, like I did when I came back the first time, I just didn’t look right forcing anything. It was the same thing, like ‘Why are you not making any shots?’ It’s like I’m always going to hear it, so I’m just going to try and pace myself this time, and just try to play the game at my speed.
Does it make you confused coming into a game like tomorrow, ‘Should I shoot, should I just distribute?’
Not at all. I think tomorrow’s game, just going into it, see how the game goes. See how it is going first, and try to take advantage of the opportunities that they give me on the floor. Like here, teams are going under on me. In the NBA, I would shoot every time, but here I have to give the ball up and try to get guys touches. I remember when I came in the first game here, I think I shot, I turned the ball over, I had like three or four possession, by that time, we came out of the game, and everybody else didn’t get their touches. So, as a point guard, you got to think about that, because you got to get guys in rhythm. You got to make sure guys touch the ball, at least get an attempt up, so they can get the rust off, too, or get the jitters out, too. So, those little things I try to think of, and I go out there and try to play. But tomorrow, I’m going to take advantage of my opportunities for sure.
Is that the curse of being Derrick Rose? People expect you to score.
This is not the Bulls, and I’m just trying to get in better condition. I remember when I came back the first time last year, I was shooting up shots to get into condition. I was missing a lot of those shots because I wasn’t in condition. And here, I feel like I’m in good shape, just keep knocking this rust off, and then when the season comes, I’m going to be in condition to take twenty shots, twenty-five shots, because you can say you are going to take those shots, but if you are not in condition, there is no way you are going to be out there long enough to take those shots.
Are you accustomed to coming off the bench?
Yeah. I think when I come in, I do a great job of facilitating the game and making sure that I’m always high-energy when I come of the bench, try to get into guys defensively. Like I said, pick up full court, turn them a little bit, get my energy going. Right when I step on the floor, try to change the game defensively, but other than that, I think we are playing good.
How is it different coming off the bench?
Usually as a starter, you got to dictate how the game is going to go. So usually when I come in the game, you got to see what the game needs. Like, ok, we are not driving the ball, we’re not passing the ball to the posts, certain guys are open on this play. When you go down the court as a point guard, so many things run through your head and you got to make sure … you are kind of like the quarterback of the game when I’m out there and just try to pick people apart that way.
Is this your first time coming off the bench?
Yeah, this is my first time ever coming off the bench. This is history right here.