Additional Quotes >> Day One At USA Men's National Team Minicamp
Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball Men’s National Team managing director
On Paul George:
He came here because he was requested to be here. The team had some other plans for him, and he had some other commitments. But, I’m happy and satisfied that he came here to be with us.
What does that say about Paul George’s character?
It says everything about his character. He’s a great guy. He’s a terrific player. I think he’s going to come all the way back. We’re hoping and praying for him in that sense. And if he can do that, he’s going to have a spot on our team.
On LeBron James not being at training camp yet:
He’s coming in tomorrow. We said this was a loosey-goosey kind of a meeting time we’re having here in Vegas, and some people have shown up like they were requested to do. Since we don’t have any kind of competition to get ready for, we could have that kind of attitude. But, I’ve said very publicly that if LeBron wants to play next year, he’s got a spot. That’s his position. He’s earned that. He’s one of the great players of all-time, certainly in the NBA today, and he’d have a chance to play in his fourth Olympics and that’s pretty significant. We’d like to see him have that opportunity if he so desires.
A year ago, it seemed that he probably wouldn’t join you next summer. Have you see something that has changed in how he might be looking at it?
I think LeBron is very competitive, and I think his juices flow when the time comes around. I know he enjoys his time with us, with USA Basketball. He’s had some great experiences in winning gold medals. I think if he’s healthy, I think he’ll want to be there. That’s my expectation.
What are your thoughts for the final cuts?
What I’m thinking now is that we may not have a minicamp before the big camp. We may just very well use the NBA season as the final look-see on all the players, and select 12 and go with our 12 players without a minicamp. That means 12 players would show up. We’d have a select group come in and scrimmage against them. A lot of it has to do with the timing of the end of the NBA season, playoffs and how quickly we have to turn it around and be ready for Rio. So, I informed the players of that this morning, as a matter of fact, that it was important for them to be here to show commitment and to let them know the lay of the land as to how we were going to go through the selection process. As I said, we’ll be watching with the microscope all year long. We’re putting in some other methodology, a little bit that will be our vision of how we’re doing analytics.
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University)
What do you hope to accomplish during this three-day period?
It is a non-contact, non-competitive time, so the very first thing we want to do is find out who is interested by their participation in a part of or all of the camp. The second thing, we want to celebrate what these guys have done and then start the mental and emotional journey to get ready for Rio, which is to re-introduce them, or introduce them for the first time, into our culture. We’ve had two good meetings with them. Obviously, this (practice) is just shooting and getting to talk to them a little bit, and we will even have a shorter thing tomorrow.
What is it like to see Kevin Durant back on the court, especially after his injury?
He looks great. So, I’m excited for him for this upcoming season. Kevin has been committed to USA Basketball since he got out of Texas. He almost made our team in Beijing and was the Most Valuable Player in Istanbul at 21, and London. What happens for all of these guys is that injury, contractual problems or personal things can enter into it. So, we are cognizant of that. That’s why we have to have a pool of players. It’s good to see him again.
Is it hard to not want to do more with this much talent?
Actually, no, not right now. One thing, and I think they would tell you, we as a staff have learned how to coach them and not over-coach. So, this is a good example of trying not to coach at all, as far as Xs and Os, but to let them know what USA Basketball is again. Especially for the veterans. Some of the tapes that we show, we make up little inspirational videos. For them, when they see it, it’s, ‘holy mackerel, I remember that.’ That is what we are trying to get them (to feel). Remember how it felt, remember what it was to get a gold medal around your neck. Remember how it was to hug one another, and remember how honored you were to represent our country. So, that’s what we are trying to do again, because they are away from that.
For a guy like Gordon Hayward, who is on the fringe of your roster, what can he do over the course of the year?
We’ll watch all of them. We made a point today with our team to say it hasn’t been like the 12 best. You could all vote for who the 12 best are. It’s how they fit. I gave the example of Tayshuan Prince. In 2008, if he is not on the team, we might not win the gold medal. In the gold medal game, the first half, we were in foul trouble and he did a great job. Andre Iguodala would be here, but he got married on Saturday. He was willing to postpone his honeymoon. We said don’t do that. He was our defensive stopper in Istanbul, and on the 2012 team he didn’t play as much but he was there. Instead of saying someone is on the fringe, someone might fit exactly right when the time comes, because you can’t predict injury, contracts and personal (matters). So, that’s what we’ve tried to cover in that regard.
Will you postpone the final selection for as late as possible?
A pool will probably be announced during the season, but the team would probably be announced after the NBA season. Wait until it is all over and announce it. And we will make a decision as to whether or not we have a minicamp. The Olympics come early. The gold medal game is August 21st. And then we want to talk to the guys here. I’ll have a meeting with some of the veterans, a couple of the guys, about timing. Here are some things we could do next June and July, what do you think about them?
When you are looking at the 12 spots for next summer, how do you see the center position?
We don’t see it right now. We’re just seeing everybody and who is committed and all that. We’ve never picked a team just based on position. We pick the team based on talent, compatibility, quickness, shooting. We went a little bit big last year in August and September thinking that we would need it, and we did against Serbia. We were down 15-5, and (DeMarcus) Cousins comes in the game and he turns the game around. We win by 37 … those four 10-minute periods go by pretty fast, so he changed the game for us. So, that’s what we need to do, is make sure we have guys who might come in and be game-changers, too.
Is it hard for you to be out here and not do stuff?
I always take the lead from the guys. We’re always asking their input. How do you feel? Like for London, LeBron and Chris would ask me as we were getting ready to get into the gym, and they’d say, ‘What do we need?’ I would say how are you guys? (They’d say), ‘We’re good.’ Or, ‘I think all of the guys would like a little bit more time with their individual workouts. So, they know that we will constantly seek their input, and then they have ownership. That’s a huge thing. It’s not about us coaching them. It’s about us working together to do this, so everyone has ownership.
What is it that makes you want to continue to coach with USA Basketball?
It’s been a tremendous honor, but also the commitment we want. The continuity of doing this has helped tremendously. The main person to have continuity is Jerry, and then the USA Basketball group with Jim Tooley, Sean Ford and those guys. And then coach Boeheim, for Jim and I, to have done this, it’s a familiar face for the players when they come back.
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks/Syracuse)
What’s your most vivid memory from USA Basketball?
Getting that bronze medal in Athens. Walking up on that podium and getting that bronze medal. It changed my life, and I think it changed USA Basketball life. The perception of us at that point in time was not good. We hit rock bottom. So for me to be able to be a part of the rebuilding process and get it back to where it’s at right now, I am excited.
How about a high point?
’08! That first gold medal. Putting that team together and everybody buying in and everybody saying we are going to do this and we are going to do it the right way. That moment right there was special.
Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards/Florida)
Thoughts on this year’s camp:
I like it. I like how these guys, we all know how busy we are in the summer, and we all took time to come together for a few days and work out. I love it. It shows that we’re working and we’re serious about USA Basketball. We have a group of talented guys, and I must say that I’m definitely blessed and fortunate to be here.
Like you, a lot of the guys here started playing for USA Basketball when they were younger. Do you think that helps drive the passion to be out here?
I think so, because it’s so much fun. You grow up with the same guys that you play with. It’s kind of been the same with me. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, but it’s like now I’m on the big stage. I’m not a little kid anymore. I’m out here playing with the USA National Team, and it’s like a dream come true. It’s something that you always wish you can do.
Is it fun being out here with John Wall, as well as your former USA Basketball teammate Andre Drummond?
It definitely is. It’s fun to see that we’re both representing our city, representing D.C., representing where we’re fun back home. It’s fun to see Drummond, being in the same class as him, and Anthony (Davis), the same thing. Just seeing them, and how much we’ve matured, and how much we’ve grown as players and to see that all of my hard work is paying off. To be in this situation is amazing.
How difficult of a decision will it be for this team to be selected?
I don’t know how they’re going to do it (laughs). I don’t want that job. I definitely don’t want their job, because you have to tell 20-plus players no, and that’s hard to do, especially when everybody is an All-Star, everybody is that caliber of being an elite player. It’s always tough. But, at the end of the day, you can’t hang your head about it because it doesn’t matter. You could pick any team, put any of this group of guys together and I’m sure we’ll all figure out a way to work it out.
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings/Kentucky)
How many years is this for you here (with USA Basketball)?
This seems like the most laid-back, stress-free environment this year:
It’s not really about competition. It’s just really about getting the guys together, getting that vibe around each other.
Coming off of FIBA last year, what kind of confidence does that give you as you move forward?
A lot of confidence. It gives me the confidence that, you know, you’re able to do it. You kind of know your role coming in. You know how to play with one another. It will be a lot easier this time around compared to the first time. Honestly, coming in the first time, you’re feeling your way in, feeling your way out, trying to learn your role. I expect the same type of situation – coming together to try to win the gold.
The camaraderie around this team seems like it’s at an all-time high. Does it help being around the same guys year after year?
Yeah. It’s a good group of guys that gets along and likes each other.
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors/Davidson)
What is important about this minicamp?
I think it is important to remember the sense of pride that we have in playing for Team USA. How much fun it is to be in a different setting with your peers and suit up for a common goal. I have been fortunate enough to be on two gold medal winning teams. I’ve never played on an Olympic team, so that is something that I want to experience. This is a part of the process. For me, this gym signifies where it all started last year, and we are back here getting ready for next year. Everybody continues to get better individually and understand that how they put a team together is about compatibility, picking the right guys to form the right team to win a gold medal, and you want to be a part of that.
Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans/Kentucky)
What message did Jerry Colangelo give to the team in the first meeting on Monday night?
It was really more of a welcome for the guys who are new and the guys who are back, welcome back. They showed a video of what we did the past four years. That was really it. It wasn’t anything too intense. Basically they were saying, ‘Thank you for being here. We know your time is valuable,’ and gave us a break down of the week.
What is the importance of this week?
Basically they said this is a celebration of what we have done the past 10 years, and for guys to get back together, having fun, reminiscing a little bit about USA Basketball. That’s really it. Just basically, be here work out with each other.
How is it for you to be back basically as a veteran?
This is my third time here, and I’m very comfortable. Coach K, he kind of wants me to be that leader. And whatever it takes to win, whatever it takes to get this team going, I’m definitely willing to do.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder/Texas)
How is your foot feeling?
I’ve been feeling great. This is about my fourth week really getting after it, and I’ve been feeling really good. It’s good to be back in a team setting.
How much are you able to go at 100 percent speed?
I can go 100 percent. I’m not going to go five-on-five just yet. I’ll ease my way into that part, but everything else is no restrictions.
What’s it like getting back out with these guys again?
You remember Christmas as a kid? It’s just like that.
When did you start to feel comfortable with the foot?
I’ve been feeling comfortable four weeks after surgery. It’s a long process, and I try to stay patient with it. I didn’t feel any pain in my foot after four weeks, but I had to be patient and let the bone heal. I’ve been getting after it, and it’s four months after surgery and I’m just excited I’m back on the court.
Players have said that when they have a serious injury like you did, they appreciate the game more:
I feel like I’ve always appreciated the game, but then there was one side (of me) that you take it for granted just a little bit because of the routine. It is just so repetitive every single day. I miss the routine the most. Getting up and going to practice. Getting my shots up before practice. I missed all that part and hanging out with the guys in the locker room before the game. I think that’s what I missed the most, and you can take that type of stuff for granted. I think I did that, and I’ve learned my lesson.
Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers/Duke)
Why is it important to come to this camp, even if you can’t participate?
I think the brotherhood that we’ve created here, that coach and Jerry Colangelo have created here, has just been awesome. Guys, we have our respective teams, we have our respective goals, but when we come here, we all put that aside, and it’s just about each other. It’s about having fun, enjoying the game, but also playing for our country and representing something bigger than ourselves.
Knowing how little time there is to get ready for Rio, does that add to the importance of being here?
Absolutely. It just shows people how committed we all are. Whether it be new guys or guys who have some equity in the USA Basketball pool, we’re all here together. That’s from the top guys all the way down to the guys who are being added. For me, this is my fourth year being a part of this USA Basketball camp. I started out as Michael Carter-Williams, coming in and playing against the older guys. And then the next year, it was another warm-up year. Then, being a part of the World Cup Team. So, when you’re a part of that pool, you’re part of a fraternity forever, and you have an opportunity to make something great happen for your country. Some people want it to happen right away, but for me, I came in, I was like, ‘I’m going to enjoy this experience. I get to play against all these top guys every single day for five days. And I’m going to get better, so that’s all that matters.’
Back in 2010, you chose to play for a USA Basketball U18 National instead of Basketball Australia, which had all but guaranteed you an Olympic spot. Did you make the right choice?
Looking back on it, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Obviously, I was born in Australia; I have my ties there. But for me, it was just about the bigger picture.
Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers/Wake Forest)
What is it like to be back in camp in a veteran?
You think about how many guys play in the NBA that never have this opportunity to represent their country. There is no greater feeling. Thinking about my first time playing on the USA team was 2006. And now we are in 2015, so it’s cool to talk about the journey of how we got here, but like Coach K said, now it is all about getting ready for Rio.
What is your main focus?
I think it is just about getting the guys together, and like Coach K has been talking about, the commitment. Everyone here is obviously is making the commitment and wants the opportunity to be a part of that 2016 Olympic Team.
Mason Plumlee (Portland Trail Blazers/Duke)
How is this camp compared to last year?
It’s a lot different, because nobody is competing for anything this summer. There’s no competition to prepare for. Like coach said, it’s a lot more about getting together and seeing the guys.
On the group of athletes at camp:
It’s a great group. Obviously you have the best of the best. It just shows you how many people want to play for the USA team.
How difficult will it to be to pick the team next year?
I think it’s going to be very difficult. Last year’s team, there were a lot of injuries. I’m sure there will still be some, but the Olympics is something that everybody wants to be a part of, so that’s why you have such a good turnout.