USA Basketball Men’s National Team Post-Practice Quotes
Las Vegas, Nevada
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University)
Coach, I know you like to draw the team together the night before and deliver a message. What was the message last night?
The main thing is how excited we are to represent the United States. We have six new guys who haven’t played on any of the teams and then we always talk about how we’re going to live together. So, we have what we call our standards meeting. We get input from the guys and this – it was very good. We have a good group.
Knowing what expectations are, regardless of who is on the roster, how do you come together since these guys haven’t played a lot together?
They get along real well. Look, they’re really outstanding players. They have high expectations placed on them every day that they compete. This is a natural progression for them where that team has that level of expectation.
What are your expectations?
We just want to play as well as we can. Be worthy of winning the gold. And also be worthy of winning the respect, continuing to win the respect of our country and the world as we’re doing it.
How has all this changed from your first one to now, you’re leaving?
Well, I’m not leaving yet. So, I don’t know how it is to be leaving. I’ll tell you that when it’s over. But, you bring up a good point – all of us need to be in the moment. Not, this is my last time. Or this is the third gold medal for Carmelo. Or the second. No, it’s this team. That is what we’re trying to do. Be in this moment with this team. And each team has its own personality that we’ve coached for the United States. And I think this one has the capability of being as good a defensive team as we’ve had because we have a lot of interchangeable parts.
… inaudible to start, save that nostalgia for afterward?
Coach K: Yea, I’m not nostalgiac until something is over. It’s one of the biggest mistakes a competitor can make – is to be in only your moment, unless you’re a golfer or a tennis player. They’re not going to play because it’s my last time being the Olympic coach, so I’ve got to coach them like it’s my first time. And that’s the way we’re going to do it.
Coach, knowing your roster now for the last month, has that made it easier to devise your schemes?
Yea, it’s kind of like Beijing where we – a big thing we want in USA Basketball, and our young teams always have this, is once you get to 12, it’s the angst that you go through in that week of determining, going from 16 to 12, it takes away from your preparation. We have had none of that, and so that’s a huge advantage. And for these guys also. You’ve got 12 guys who – since it’s been announced, they’ve been completely focused on being on this team. It’s really a good advantage.
What about Carmelo and the fact that he’s been on four Olympic teams?
Well, Carmelo is our leader. Unfortunately, you can’t see the whole practice. Carmelo was a great leader today. And we need KD, and he was really good. Carmelo is more vocal. And we know each other. So, he knows. He’s been on three of the teams that I’ve coached and we have a close-knit relationship. And he’s able to put that across on the court along with Kyrie. DeMarcus was very good today in being vocal, too. And that will spread.
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Why is it important for you to be here with USA Basketball again?
A lot of people were telling me, ‘don’t do it. Don’t do it.’ But I actually enjoy it. I was a part of USA Basketball since I was a junior in high school, a junior or senior in high school, and I enjoy it. It’s also an opportunity to go get another gold medal and I didn’t want to miss out on that opportunity.
Do you play differently with this team than you have to play with your team?
I think everybody does. There are different roles for everybody, different team, different situations. I don’t think we as individuals have to do as much as we have to do on our own respective teams. I think that’s why guys like to play on USA teams, they don’t have to do much. They can just have a role, just go out there and play a game, rely on everyone else, rely on the best players in the world. Sometimes it comes easy to us and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s a matter of having the opportunity out there.
On people saying that athletes shouldn’t speak out on social issues:
At the end of the day the tragedies that happen, it affects people. And at the end of the day we are athletes, but we are human beings at the end of the day, so we’re affected by all of it. We have families that are in those cities, some of those cities and in those situations. So, we’re affected. Just because we’re out here playing basketball, doesn’t mean we’re not affected by it.
On being a part of the resurgence of USA Basketball:
After 2004, I think it was ’05 when Jerry (Colangelo) took over and made it more organized. That ’04 team was put together in two weeks and they told us to go over there and try to win a gold medal. But when Jerry came in, he organized things. He sat down with us as individuals. He gave us this whole plan. And I was a part of the plan since then.
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
With so many guys not having Olympic experience, how will you work together for one goal?
Basically by leaning on each other. Depending on one another. We have a couple of guys who have (played in the Olympics), we have coach K, who is very experienced in this area, so we’ll follow their lead. And the only way we’re going to do this is together.
On Carmelo Anthony playing in his fourth Olympics:
He’s getting all the old jokes right now (joking). But he’s been great so far. He’s been a great leader for us. He’s obviously the most experienced guy here, so we’re going to follow his lead.
On Carmelo Anthony’s speech at the ESPYs and if the team has had a chance to talk about it:
We haven’t had a chance to talk about it yet. Our main focus is this right now. We have a long time together, so I’m pretty sure that topic will come up and I’m looking forward to it.
As someone who played on the USA Select Team in the past, how invaluable is that experience for Willie Cauley-Stein?
It’s going to be great for him. He’s playing with some of the best players in the world and he’s playing against the upper group right now, and he’s playing with some of the best talented young guys. So, I think this experience is going to be great for him, he’s going to learn a lot and hopefully he comes out a better player from it.
What are some of the things you learned from being on the USA Select Team?
A lot of small things. You don’t come into these situations and learn how to shoot or how to jump high or whatever. There are a lot of small things. A lot of small detail things that you can only learn from guys of this caliber. So, just picking up those small little (things) and adding it to your bag.
On being a member of the USA National Team:
It’s the obvious. I get the chance to play for my country. That’s the biggest stage. It’s an honor for me. I take pride in what I’m doing and I want to represent well.
Is it extra special, given what this country is going through right now?
Absolutely. It’s a rough time for America right now, but our main message right now is unity. And that’s from every guy on this roster. We’re also spreading the word throughout this country. It’s the same thing. The only way we’re going to get over this is to unite.
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
On his professional growth as a player:
Some nights I can’t believe all the things I have achieved and how far I’ve came. Coming from Compton and overcoming all the obstacles that I maneuvered through. Seeing myself here and being able to represent my country in the Olympics is an awesome feeling.
On the uniqueness of representing the USA while playing in Canada for a career:
It’s awesome. Once I am done and finished, I will be able to look back and realize I did something special. Playing in Canada is a big deal and hopefully winning a gold medal for your country in the Olympics would be great.
On today’s practice:
It was great. A lot of fun. The (USA) Select Team did a great job and we competed at a high level. That is what it is all about.
Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
How was the first day of practice?
It was good … trying to feel the team out, feel out roles on the team, the sets we are going to run, the defensive schemes. So it was good. It was good to get back out in a team setting. It’s great playing with these great players. I’m excited.
What was it like to see Monty again?
It was great just to see him smile and enjoy being around the game again. He’s one of my favorite people in the world and I’m excited I get to learn from him again. I’m looking forward to working with him the rest of the summer.
Thoughts on the team?
It’s cool. Just having a group of guys that really enjoy each other, the whole team. It’s just fun. We all went out to eat last night and hung out and came to practice today and worked extremely hard. This is a great bond we have, all of the guys and I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer. When you have a mutual respect for each other, it’s kind of easy to get together and bond, especially when you are competing all these guys. It’s just a matter of you getting in front of them. I had guys I didn’t know in 2012 that are really good friends now. But, I think it’s having that mutual respect, that what makes the friendship come together a little easier.
Do you sense more of an urgency because it’s an Olympic year?
No, it’s just basketball. We are excited to play basketball. We got one goal and one goal only and that’s to win. Nobody cares about stats or who plays. We are just trying to come out there and win. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s a game, first off and we love to play this game but we are going to have fun in the process but we are going to be super prepared and focused every day.
Are you ready for the leadership role?
I think we throw that “lead” word around a lot. In 2012, LeBron was our guy but he wasn’t in here tossing people around and telling them where to go and talking all the time. We all did it together but we knew he was our guy. It wasn’t like we all sit down and Lebron talks to all of us while we’re sitting in chairs and he’s running around in huddles. We all got to do it together an that’s the best part of this group. We got guy who lead in different ways and It all comes together and works. Kyrie out there talking, Melo out there talking, I am, Jimmy, Klay … we’re all just trying to give our input and just going to work together. Because we respect each other, we respect the game and we want to win.
On the meaning of returning to the court for the first time for the USA since the injury:
It means a lot. This is like redemption for myself. All the bad that happened that night and now I have this opportunity again to represent my country. It’s special.
On his two-year journey since the injury:
It was a bump in the road. But it’s part of the game. Injuries happen. A freak accident that will probably never happen again. I put myself in that position, it happened and now it’s about how I return. I’m very much appreciative of this moment.
I understand what Coach K wants from me but I also know what I need to add. We have so many guys that can do so many things. I pride myself as one of those guys. I feel like I am just adding on to the environment and DNA of this team. Coach made it very clear of what he expects from me and I just need to be myself.
DeAndre Jordan (Los Angeles Clippers)
On Chris Paul’s advice playing on the Olympic team
I talk to Chris all the time. He definitely has given me some pointers. Even though he will definitely be missed on this team, he has given me input on how to help the team win and what to expect on this journey.
On how goaltending is allowed in international play
Yes! I am excited about that. It will take a couple of practices to get used to but I will figure it out.
On taking the court for the first time as a USA player:
I was excited. We’ve been together and we have been counting down to this practice. It was good to get out on the court, play with these guys and get some live action.
On today’s practice:
I thought we did well. The guys were excited and a little anxious. But we have four more days and it’s going to be good.
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
For the U.S. team – playing against all of these countries that are seemingly getting so much better at basketball:
The challenge is not to take them lightly. Respect your opponent. We shouldn’t lose because of talent or depth. If we don’t pay them respect – teams like Spain, Argentina, Australia, France – they have multiple NBA players and other players that play in great leagues around the world. So, you can’t take it lightly. We have to respect our opponent. That’s going to be the biggest challenge.
Talk about what it will be like to play with KD now.
Surreal. I’m already playing with a two-time MVP. To play with another one, it’s unbelievable.
How exciting is it to play in front of the fans in Oakland as part of the USA Basketball Showcase?
I can’t wait. I expect KD to get a huge ovation, as well as Harrison – he’ll get his due because he gave us four great years, a championship and lots of great memories. I can’t wait to get back to Oakland and see the Warriors fans and give them some fun basketball.