U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team Press Conference Quotes (8/3/16)
Rio de Janiero, Brazil / August 4, 2016
USA Basketball Men's Nationl Team Managaing Director Jerry Colangelo
Can you speak to the points you focused on when working to reestablish USA Basketball?The situation back in ’06 was that we were coming off a poor showing in Athens in ’04. It was pretty evident that we had to change the culture. We had to show respect to the world basketball community, and we set out to rebuild from scratch. As evidenced by not just the results, but you heard the players introduced today and how many first time Olympians we have on this roster and it’s a testament to a pipeline of talent that we are blessed with in the United States. It’s been very successful in every age category actually in men’s and women’s basketball. We’re very fortunate to have a wealth of talent and we’re very happy to be here in Rio and looking forward to the Games.
USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski
At this point are you happy with the progress the team has made? And, is there anything that you could say that has surprised you most about the team?
Well, first of all, I want to thank the people from Brazil for the warm welcome to our team. It’s an honor to be here, playing in this great country. Our guys, although we have been together for only a short time, have bonded very well. We have the utmost respect for the game and the international community. We know that there are great basketball players all over the world. Over 20 percent of the NBA is international now and so there is a deep respect for the game, for the international games and hope that we will be able show that respect in the manner in which we play here in Rio de Janeiro.
How is the team settling in and how will that change the dynamic?
Where we are staying is great. There are also other people staying there. It’s not like we’ve just taken over one ship, or anything like that. Since ’92, the U.S. men’s team has stayed in a different (location), and the women’s team, and I think that has gone great. The people from Rio de Janeiro have been great, and we’ve enjouyed it so far. We’ll enjoy it more if we play great basketball. It’s an honor to be here, and we are acclimating ourselves real well.
Do you still get nervous?
Oh, I’m as nervous as I can be, and excited, because of anticipation, how we are going to be, how we react to a new environment. After tomorrow, I think our guys already understand it to a high level, but after they march tomorrow, they’ll understand it to an even higher level and then see wha tthat does to our pefomance in the first game. I’m looking forward to seeing how we react that way.
On the players going to Opening Ceremonies:
That’s why – they get a chance to be a part of something. They’ll never be a part of something that big, and its an honor. When we were processing in the United States before coming here, and they are trying on their Opening Ceremony (outfit), you could tell. There was an excitement. They look better than in them we do, than I do.
Do you believe Brazil has an advantage being at home?
I haven’t studied the Brazilian team, because they are not in our pool. I know their coach. You have one of the great coaches of all-time, worldwide. The players are veteran players. And I think if you have the opportunity to play in your own country in the Olympics, there would be even a heightened level of pride. Who knows with that, but Rubén (Magnano) will figure that out pretty well, I think. He’s pretty good.
What is your goal in this tournament?
Our goal is obviously to win the gold medal, and our goal is not unlike anyone else’s goal. I think they all want to win the gold medal, and that’s what makes it a great competition.
What are your thoughts on your team?
You have about four hours (joking)? I just like my team. I think my team has played really hard. They are unselfish. They support one another. We are very athletic, and up til now, we are playing very good defense.
How do you think Spain and Serbia will do?
Those teams have an opportunity to win the gold medal, and we do, too. For us, there are a number of teams here – we’ll have tough competiton here. We always do. Whether it be in the world championships or the Olympics. Even though, like a margin of victory, you say, ‘Well, you’ve won by this much.’ But, there are games that are very, very close. Lithuania almost beat us in London. We’ve had two incredibly difficult games against Spain for the gold medal. Even in Istanbul, Turkey was very, very difficult for us, and Brazil actually almost beat us in the pool play there. We’ve had tough games. So, whenever anyone says it is going to be easy, we don’t belive that.
Can you reflect on your path from 2004 to 2016 and taking on your path to team leader?
I’ve been a part of (thie Olympics) since 2004 and I know what it felt like when the rest of the world was supposedly catching up with the U.S. from a basketball standpoint. So I know what it felt like to be at the bottom and I know what it feels like to be at the top of the game and the world. For me, to be here representing the USA is … saying it’s an honor or a blessing is an understatement. For me being the leader and representing all four of these teams and now here in Rio one more time, my goal is to help this team and lead this team to a gold medal and enjoy the process and enjoy the journey.
On returning for his fourth Olympics:
I enjoyed it. The process, and the journey and still being able to go out there and compete at a high level, and being a part of some of the best players in the world and competing. I think at the end of the day, the way I look at, I would be working out and training everyday anyway, so this is the best training that I could possible get, and I get an opportunity to represent my country for a fourth time. Not a lot of people can say that.
What are you most looking forward to overall?
I would like to go see the Brazil football team play.
Not winning the gold?
That’s the number one priority (winning the gold). But for me, it’s always winning a gold medal. But also for my teammates and some of the guys who this is their first time, to enjoy this experience and kind of take in this moment and understand where we are at and what we are doing right now.
What do the Olympics mean to professional athletes?
I think from a career standpoint, this is a major step for me and the guys to come out here and represent our country, especially during times where there is so much going on back in our country. So, for us to be the face and represent our country and be united and show the rest of the world that we are united regardless of what’s going on, I think everybody understands that and welcomes that.
On playing alongside Draymond Green and Klay Thompson:
It’s been fun. It’s been great to get to know them. I’m looking forward to playing with them. Two great players who are going to make me better, and hopefully I can make them better along the way. I know I can make them better along the way. So, it’s been cool being around them. I think it’s a different setting, than when we go back to Oakland, but for now, it’s just been fun being around them.
Who has impressed you the most?
I always follow all of these guys, so it’s not a surprise to me what they do. But as a teammate, getting to know him personality-wise, it’s really cool to see how mature Kyrie Irving is. Obviously, being a champion, being one of the main guys on a championship team, you can tell that he has matured a lot. He knows what it takes to be a winner, to build great habits and to be a leader. You can just tell how he speaks and how he conducts himself. I was surprised, to be honest. Just a guy that young, you can tell he has learned a lot from LeBron James, but that is something that has been in him since he was a kid. So, I was really impressed.
Will it be more challenging without some of the USA’s most-known star players?
It’s going to be challenging either way. It would be challenging even if they were here as well. But, we have some great players here. Just because they haven’t been here before, or they might not be MVPs, or ten-time all-stars, but we got some damn good players on this team. It doesn’t matter what anybody says, I got nothing but confidence in everybody here, and I feel as though we have a great chance to do something special.
Has it hit you yet you are playing in the Olympics?
In the exhibitions, I don’t think it really had hit me but once we landed in Rio, I saw everything around me and I was like we’re here, this is the Olympics. This is one of the highest stages ever and we understand the amount of people we are playing for over in the USA.
How important is the pool play?
They are very important. Every single game is a chance for us to get better. We have to find out lineups, we have to find out just what rhythm we want as a team. And, going in, what we want to expect from one another. In order to do that, we have to play high level games and against other great countries.
Is it possible for USA to lose?
We’ll see. I know my goal at hand and my team’s goal at hand and we understand it’s going to be a fight every single day and I’m looking forward to it.
Did LeBron (James) give you any advice how to handle things here?
I feel like you kind of have to have your own experience but he understands what the magnitude of playing the Olympics is, representing your country. We didn’t have to have a big conversation about it but I’m talking to him almost every single day while he’s somewhere doing some vacation stuff while I’m over here. I’m looking forward to not only bringing a gold back to the USA but back to my organization as well.
Some athletes chose not to come due to the Zika virus … what have you been told about that? Why did you decide to play?
Because I wanted to represent my country. I don’t really fear anything in this world so I knew some of the facts but it didn’t scare me enough to not come over here. I knew what representing my country really meant and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Thoughts on Team Brazil?
I think they obviously have a home court advantage, a home country advantage. I know Leandro (Barbosa) is going to give it his all; it’s his last Olympics I would assume so he wants to give it his best, especially in his home country. I really feel for Anderson (Varejao) because I know he wants to be out there more than anything so he’s with them in spririt. They have a very talented team and everyone expects them to do well.
Thoughts on Team Australia?
I actually have three teammates I played with in Australia so it should be a lot of fun when I play against Andrew (Bogut) and Aron (Baynes) and Brock (Motem). They’re a very big team, a very physical team. And I’m excited to play them the most because I have some good friends on that team and Australians are real prideful when they play for their country so they won’t back down. They’ll present us a good challenge.
Do you feel bad for Andrew after he tweeted about his bed in the Village ?
I haven’t talked to him about it yet. Andrew’s been spoiled. He’s been in the NBA for 10 years and probably been traveling as best you can. When he gets on that court, he’ll forget about all that and play his hardest. I’m happy he’s out there because he wanted more than anything to play in this Olympics for his country. He’s going to be a force in the paint so we’ll have to deal with him.
What about the boat you are staying on?
It’s nice. It’s just like staying at a hotel. We got a meal room, our room and we got a game room. It’s not like we are cruising around on a vacation. It’s just like we’re at another hotel. But, it nice. To me, I like the balcony because it’s nice you can see the water, you can see the scenery of Rio. We’re fortunate our sponsors took care of us and we’re very thankful for the position we’re in and we’re going to make the most of it.
Is it a lot of pressure to play for a team that hardly ever loses?
I mean it does but lucky for us we’re all the better players on our NBA teams so have to face a lot of pressure and face a lot of obstacles that an average player wouldn’t. We know how to handle pressure. For us, we’re all very competitive and we raise the level of intensity in situations like this.