Practice Quotes >> Preparing For Semifinals
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University)
What can you learn from the last couple of times you played Lithuania?
Well, they are different. They are consistent in that they are always good, always well coached, always have great spirit. But there are some new guys. The leader of this team, Seibutis, has been with them, but he has emerged. Maciulis has been playing with them forever. Their big guys are young now and very good, and the strength really of their team is their depth at the bigs, because when they bring in the Lavrinovic brothers, and Jankunas, the left-handed shooter, you really have five bigs who can play at a really high level in international basketball.
What difference does Valanciunas make for their team?
Well, he so far is going to be the best low-post presence that we will have faced, and he gets a piece of the paint in numerous ways, and then he is a great offensive rebounder, not a good one, but a great one. I think he is a tough guy to match up with … just the opposite of Slovenia where you are trying to match up solely with their perimeter and their bigs take you outside. These guys take you inside, and so trying to outrebound them, that will be a challenge for our team.
They were also 10-of-19 from 3-point against Turkey. What challenges do they pose?
They always have good ball movement, and that’s part of what a Lithuanian team does. They move the ball from side to side. I think what happened against Turkey is that the inside established themselves, and then Turkey overcompensated, and it created opportunities for their outside guys to hit. And remember, one of the guys who hit from the outside was one of their big guys. Lavrinovic hit three threes in the second period, which turned the game around for Lithuania.
How crucial was Anthony Davis’ offensive rebounding early in the game yesterday, when the USA wasn’t shooting well?
I think not just him, but Kenneth (Faried). Our offensive rebounding has been really well. You know we played well in the first half. We didn’t shoot well. We weren’t sloppy or anything like that. I thought we played a heck of a game last night. Sometimes when people see you miss, they say sloppy, and I don’t understand that to be quite frank with you. I though we had good shots, and the team we played was really good, so the offensive rebounding to muck out some buckets when it’s not going was critical.
Do you almost feel like you have a new weapon to deploy in Derrick (Rose)?
We believe in Derrick, and I think the lid came off, the jar was opened, or whatever you want to say, yesterday. He had his look. I think he was just trying to be a team guy, or whatever, and he was a team guy yesterday, but before being a team guy, he has to be his guy. And then you saw how excited our whole team was in response to his performance. He was excellent yesterday.
Has this team flipped a switch?
I think we’ve played well. I don’t know what everybody has been watching, but you know, our guys have played their butts off. They have great camaraderie. You all, some of you, think that flipping the switch, or whatever, is when we start hitting shots. If any team just had to wait for that, then they are flipping that switch all the time, because you don’t hit shots all the time. What can you do is play hard, play defense and rebound. And you can do those things all the time, and our team has done that all the time. So, then when you start hitting shots, everything looks good when you hit shots.
Are you pleased how this young team is handling expectations of them?
So far they’ve been great about it, and I think part of it is how we handle things. Like the mood we try to create. You want to be serious, but not to an extent where you become tight. They need to be loose. Even like at halftime yesterday. I thought we were playing 20 points better, but the score was seven points. We just asked them at halftime, I said look, I’m proud of you because you haven’t (gone) whacky because you are missing shots. You are still playing D. I said just be a mature team and we’ll be fine, and boom they were, and we got 70 points, I think 70 in (the second half). So, you can’t be ranting and raving and stuff like that. Even today, in the NBA, a lot of them wouldn’t’ want to come to the gym today. These guys, I asked them, what do you think about coming? ‘Let’s go. We need to go to the gym. We need to do this; we need to have a meeting.’ That’s what they have been throughout, and I like that about the group.
Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets)
What are the priorities defensively against Lithuania?
We got to stop them. Make sure we limit their touches. Make sure they work for every touch, if they do get it, make sure they work for every basket and don’t let them get the second chance. When they shoot it and miss, try to hurry up and get it back, can’t let them get those, and we got to box out and rebound a lot. And then run them on the offensive end.
How big of an advantage is to get offensive boards?
That’s a huge advantage. We need that, because guys are not going to come out always just on fire every night. And Steph wasn’t on fire like he was the first night, and James wasn’t on fire like he was the night before that. We just got to come out, ‘Ok, he is not on fire, we got to go rebound.’ Me and A.D. (Anthony Davis) got to go to work, and we got to get the baskets, the chip-ins and the little things in order for us to win.
Can you do that against a big team?
We can do that against any team. I’m not worried about that. I’ve been doing it my whole life. So, I don’t care how tall, how strong, how big, I’m going to find a way.
James Harden (Houston Rockets)
What is the expectation of your team and of Lithuania?
Our expectation is the same as every game – make sure we compete, play for each other, offensively move the ball and make sure we make the extra pass and defensively help each other out. Lithuania is a very good team. They have very good guards, and obviously their two big men are tremendous: Valanciunus and D-Mo (Motiejunas). So, it’s going to be a big time game for us.
What do you have to do to beat them and make it the final?
Our guards got to help our bigs out. Like I said, their bigs are very good, so we got to do a great job of pressuring the basketball, making sure we have intensity for 40 minutes.
What has the experience been like for you?
I’m having a good time with these guys. We’re playing for a gold medal. This is a great opportunity for each and every individual to not only represent ourselves and our families but our country. We take that to heart, and we’re going to go out here and compete and play for one another.
Derrick Rose (Derrick Rose)
Did you give 100 percent last night?
Hopefully it looked like I gave my all. I’m just trying to play hard, team to play hard … just trying to win the game while I’m out there and just bring energy to the game when I’m on the floor.
What advantage does Lithuania’s size create for them?
If anything, it should be to our advantage. We play a quick, fast-paced type game and usually when we play against bigs, we kind of make the offense a little bit easier because we have quick guards and quick bigs like Rudy, and he’ll be able to pop and shoot the ball. A.D. should be able to get lost, because some of them are slow on their feet.
How would you compare the 2010 team to the 2014 team?
We’re a totally different team. We’re trying to find our identity right now. It’s through defense. I think with the 2010 team, it was an offensive team. We really dominated right when we got on the floor, got people out of the way in the first quarter. This team is all about energy and just coming together. We have a young team, and we know that we have to stick together throughout the whole game and not get frustrated when we missed shots.
How is your team chemistry?
It’s coming along. We’re playing good. We always have that point in the game where we tend to get teams out of the way, and we’re just going to try to do that from the beginning.
Did you have much association with Anthony Davis in Chicago over the years?
I met him a few times, met him in high school at the McDonald’s game. I watched almost his entire year when he was in Kentucky. Just having the opportunity to play with him and be around him … he’s just like me, just a Chicago kid and just trying to be great.
Is he like you in that he’s serious about the game and very humble?
He’s very serious. Not only him but all the younger players on the team. You can tell he’s improving on his game. He’s lifting almost every other day, taking care of his body, just becoming a pro. I wish I would have done it when I was a little big younger.
Has he improved a lot this summer?
I know how good he is as an athlete. Just body-wise … just looking at his body, he’s gained more weight, got stronger, and you can tell he’s trying to play in the post a little bit more.
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
What is your main motivation for tomorrow’s game?
To play to get to the gold medal game, that’s the main motivation. And tomorrow is September 11, an infamous day in American history, so we just want to honor our country in that aspect.
What is your opinion on Lithuania’s game?
They got good big men who can shoot the ball. They got a good big man in Jonas (Valanciunas), who is physical and they play with great passion. It’ll be a tough game.
How important is the bench on this team?
I think that’s what separates ourselves from a lot of the other teams. We’re so deep, and we can throw different waves of guys in there who can keep the pressure on. It’s going to be essential to winning the gold.
Lithuania is expected to have lots of fans here … what is the right way to handle that?
Can’t let the atmosphere affect you. We’ve all played in crazy arenas, so we just got to focus when we’re between those lines and focus on the court. You can’t let the crowd affect you. You can’t let the emotion of the crowd get to you.