Additional Quotes: USA Basketball Women’s National Team 88, USA Select Team 84 (7/25/16)
Additional Quotes: USA Basketball Women’s National Team 88, USA Select Team 84 (7/25/16)
• Los Angeles, California
USA head coach Geno Auriemma (University of Connecticut)
Well, I thought the way the Select Team played was really cool. They played as if they play against these guys all the time, which they do. There wasn’t going to be any sense of intimidation of who they are, which is why we play these games. We need the challenges. We need to look at different combinations and figure out what works for us and what doesn’t. For us, in the two days we’ve been together, we did a lot of really good things and we’re going to get better and better every day. And for the future of USA Basketball, there were some unbelievably positive signs out there of what the next group could potentially look like. It was a good day, I think, all the way around.
On playing the exhibition games leading up to the Olympics:
Auriemma: We have to use these games as almost a 40 minutes or an hour and forty five minutes practice session again. It’s just the nature of things. These next three games – of course it’s important to win. I’m not one of these that this game or that game doesn’t mean anything. Any time they’re keeping score it means something. We really want to win the next three games, but at the same time, we need to find out before we get on that plane to go to Rio, what we have. I know who we have. I know what they look like; I know their names. But we’ve got to find out what we have. What can we count on? What’s going to be our strength? What are the things that we’re going to build on that are going to sustain us down there? And that’s what these next three games are going to be all about.
Taurasi: They’re three really big games for us against three teams that are going to be at the Olympics that we’ve played before. We know what kind of team they are, what kind of quality they have. It’s going to challenge us to go out there and play hard and play really well to win. When you put this jersey on, as coach said, there are no moral victories. At the same time, these games are there to prepare you, to get you in a position where when we get to Rio, we know what we’re going with and the things that we’re really good at. It’ll be a tough and competitive three games.
On Michael Jordan’s comments:
Auriemma: I’m old enough to have lived through the late ‘60s and it was really bad. I think because of athletes and the tremendous amount of criticism that they took in the late ‘60s for speaking up – I think there developed a sense of, you know, I’m going to do my part, I want to play. I’m going to do what I’m going to do and try to set example by how hard I work or by the commitment that I have or whatever. But I think there was a real tendency from everybody to just shy away from anything that was controversial. I think as you get older you gain some perspective. You start to realize that 1968 not a long time ago, but that’s a long time. We shouldn’t be dealing with the issues that we’re dealing with. I can’t speak for Michael Jordan, but I think there comes a time as you get older and your kids get a little bit older, as his boys have, you start to see things in a different light. Regardless of his reasons, Muhammad Ali went to jail for what he said and what he did. Most athletes don’t have that. Most people don’t have that. But when people like Michael say the things that they said, it’s way more powerful than anyone else can say.
Taurasi: I mean we’re in a generation where – I can’t speak for the sixties. But I can speak for my generation of people of my last 15 years from going to college, from being a professional athlete now for 12-13 years. I think what you see now is people with an opinion and they’re not afraid. And for a long time, I think people were afraid to say anything if you wore a jersey of any kind – baseball, basketball, soccer – that maybe you didn’t earn the right to have an opinion. This country is about having an opinion. And I’m proud of the people who have stepped up in our league, in any sport, in any realm, it doesn’t have to be an athlete. It takes a citizen of this country to step up and speak up when something is not right. I think that shows a lot of courage. Looking at it from the outside and now being a part of it, you do feel a sense of pride. The only way things change is by people talking about it and then putting it to action. So I think it’s something that needs to continue. And as much as we need dialogue, we need actual change. The only way to change things is to systematically change things, not just talk about it and politicize it or give a speech about it. And that’s up to the people we elect in this country. I’m sure it’s not easy because that is a tangled web. But our generation is trying to move it forward, and for that, I think a lot of people deserve a lot of credit.
On what Diana sees from the team that she likes moving forward:
Taurasi: Yeah, like coach said, I looked around today in the locker room and you feel good because you have a lot of good people in that locker room. You know everyone is moving toward the same goal. When you have that sort of synergy, you feel good going on the court. Today, at times, when things weren’t going well, that could have easily been a game where if you don’t have a team that’s together then it could have went south real quick. But we found a way to pull it together. And I think that’s the one characteristic that our team has on day three that most teams don’t even get on year three, so that’s a positive note. And as far as being my fourth Olympics, I’m going to treat it like my first, I really am. I’m going to get there and enjoy it. I’m going to enjoy the whole experience. When you do have that memory of you think you know what’s going to happen. You kind of don’t get as excited. I always talk about my favorite memory of my Olympics is when you’re coming down that tunnel with all American athletes and you can’t wait to get back in that tunnel. Because that’s an amazing feeling to represent your country when you walk out there.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Overall thoughts on the first game:
It was close, and people are going to see the score and wonder what happened. For us, we are focused on the whole process, the whole journey, and this was just the first game. We’ve only had a couple practices together, so it was really good to be challenged in that way by the Select Team. It really showed what we’re going to need to work on and the level that we have to play at moving forward.
On the close finish:
The fourth quarter, you know, this was one of those games where we had a lead and relaxed a bit. The Select Team didn’t. They went zone at one point which slowed things down for us, but they were still pushing it offensively. [Natasha] Howard hit some shots, Jewell [Loyd] hit some shots, everybody it seemed like, hit shots. Before you know it, it's a tight game. I think our team did a really good job, even though we let up off the gas pedal there, once it got close, we made the plays we needed to make.
On Storm teammate Jewell Loyd’s performance with the Select Team:
Jewell is fun to watch. Today was one of those games that you could tell, right from the start, that she was feeling it. We’ve seen that in Seattle, and you know it’s going to be a long night for the other team. Unfortunately, I was on the other side of that tonight. Stewie [Breanna Stewart] and I were the other team. Jewell did a great job, when she’s in the zone like that, it’s hard to get her out.
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
On the game:
I thought it was very competitive and the Select team did a great job on challenging us. It was something I definitely didn’t expect. They are a hungry group. Very young, very talented. It was a fun game for the fans. I’m glad we won.
On the Select team’s performance:
They played with an edge. The game was televised so we were happy to put on a good performance out there.
On this year’s Olympic squad:
I feel confident. We have great leaders on this team. Great vets who I think will lead us to victory down in Rio. I feel very blessed to be among this group and I am just going to soak everything in.
Elena Delle Donne (Chicago Sky)
On the game being a good test for the USA National Team:
Yeah, the Select Team is solid. Definitely gave us a run for our money. It was a great wakeup call, but also, we are not trying to peak right now. We’ve had two days together; we have a lot to work on. Still happy with the outcome and I feel like we are going to just keep going up from here.
On what the team needs to work on:
We are everyone’s championship game. Every single team wants to beat Team USA. If they lose to every other team in the world but can somehow beat us, they’d be happy with that. We always have to play with a chip on our shoulder and be just as hungry.
Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky)
On the game:
It was kind of tough on us at the beginning. It wasn’t a pretty start but we got a win so I’m grateful for that. They (Select team) gave us a good idea what to look for and how teams are going to come out and play against us. So we have to be ready from the jump start and put it together collectively for 40 minutes.
On the strengths of the team:
Everybody can score. We are a pretty long team and when we get out on people on defense it really helps out our offense.
On the Olympics:
There is a lot of talent out there in Europe. A lot of teams will be gunning for the USA. We have to be ready from the start to go out there and get it done.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
Thoughts on the game:
We’ve been only together for three days but we were able to get some work done. We started off slow but we started to come together at the end. This is good. I’m glad it was a close game and not a blowout. It leveled us out. Don’t want to get a 50-point win and come out big-headed.
On the Select team’s performance:
All the women stayed and practiced against us. They could have gone on vacation. They stayed to practice against us so we could get better to go win gold. Big ups to them.
On developing cohesion in a short amount of time:
We are professional athletes. It’s our job to do that. It’s hard but the more days, the more games will bring out the best in us.
On playing in the Olympics:
I’m super excited. I wanted to enlist when I was younger. My dad enlisted in the military. I have a lot of military and law enforcement in my family. To be able to play for my country means everything to me and my dad.
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
On what this first exhibition game meant to the national team:
We want to get it right, to find out what everybody brings to the table. We’re competitive and we’re going to play for each other and that’s what we did tonight. Nobody gave up on any play or on any portion of the game, which is good to see.
On the effort that the Select Team brought to the court:
They played hard and they were aggressive. When we tried some things and they didn’t work out, they took advantage of them. We really appreciate their competitiveness and think it helped us prep for Rio.
On the way the USA National Team overcame a strong, late-game run by the USA Select Team:
We were trying to accomplish a lot. We were putting different lineups out there on the court, trying different schemes, trying to see what we could do…and the Select Team was very aggressive in terms of those moments when we weren’t completely on the same page. But we were able to respond and finish the game the right way. Hey, we could have easily lost this game. So I’m glad we were able to come through and build some momentum for the next game.
On Michael Jordan stepping forward, joining the fight that you guys started and providing a $2 million grant in the Black Lives Matter discussion:
I can’t speak to how much that means in terms of leading with action. For someone of his caliber does something with their heart like that, as well as with their pocket book, it’s just inspiring to so many people and encouraging to so many people, especially to the communities that will benefit from his financial gift, the communities where that gift will make an impact and provide some of the resources to do some of the things we’re talking about doing like education and coming together. His backing is great. This is a great moment to continue the conversation and I’m happy to see his involvement for sure.
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
On adjusting to her role with the National Team:
Yeah, I’m just focused on just doing whatever I can, whenever I get in the game, making sure I’m producing, whether it’s a rebound or an assist or points, and trying to always bring energy off the bench.
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
Yeah, I think like coach said, we’ll take a lot of good things and bad things from this game. It’s pretty much the third day we’ve been together. Like he said, the Select Team was great today. They played great. They had some young kids that are going to be really good for USA Basketball and just for the WNBA in general. There’s a lot of talent, which is great for our country. But looking on our side, we’re excited to get going. Today was just the tip of the mountain for this team. We’re going to get a lot better in a lot of areas and it was good to go out there and play a competitive game, a game where you look up and you have to make plays at the end of games and it kind of solidifies who you’re going to be as a team. We know that in close games we can make some plays to win it. Those are the positives that we’ll take from it and like coach said, go back and look at film. We have a lot of things to clean up, which is good because those are things we can take care of just by being on the court for two hours. And that’s what we’ll do in the next couple of days.