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Additional Quotes: USA Basketball Men’s National Team 110, Nigeria 66

  • Date:
    Aug 1, 2016

  • Houston, Texas / August 1, 2016

USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
Opening Statement:

I want to thank the people of Houston and the Rockets for their hospitality. Great crowd. You know, we’ve had five amazing crowds in these exhibition games, and it really helps a lot. I thought our guys played hard and well again tonight. The defense has been outstanding until late, like the last two or three minutes it got a little sloppy, but the extra effort that they’re giving there is fantastic. We kept Paul and Kyrie out. They’ll both be ready to play in the Olympics – nothing huge there. Kyrie got that illegal screen set on him, where it just hit him in the quad in the Venezuela game, and it’s better to give another day of rest. And, it gave us an opportunity to take a look at different things to start Kyle, who did a really good job, but also to look at Jimmy at the guard, at the point guard spot, and actually a huge, a big perimeter. With Draymond in there, that team with DeMar in passing lanes, Jimmy on the ball, Draymond was putting pressure.  I thought DeMarcus really played outstanding defense in coming up and defending away from the basket, and so did DeAndre, so I’m pleased. We turned it over, we were a little sloppy in trying to get it going, but I think that’s not going to happen in the Olympics. Overall, it’s been a good five games for us. 

Jimmy said on Sunday that he was still adjusting or maybe was being too passive in the first two games. What did you think of his aggressiveness tonight and how have you seen that progression?
We actually talked about it. Jimmy has been really good, but what we talked about is that sometimes these guys are too good a guy. So they think, especially offensively, well, they’ll do it, and they are not completely themselves. And, we asked him to be himself, and he was that tonight, and that gives everyone an opportunity to know how he’s going to play. We have six new guys who have never played for the United States before, and they’ve all been great, but we want them to be themselves. And I think we’re moving in that direction.

Could you give an update on Paul George and also just speak to that defensive intensity that you talked about?
I said that both of them will be ready to go, Paul and Kyrie, and getting those two back, then the defensive intensity will increase. Paul is as good as a defensive player on this planet. And Kyrie, in the last ballgame, actually the ballgame before that, started to play outstanding defense. It just gives us more depth and ability to pressure the ball, pressure passing lanes. And today, Nigeria is a really good three point shooting team, and it wasn’t until the last five minutes of the game that they hit a 3. We didn’t give them any open ones, and then we really closed out well. With our athletic ability, we should be able to do that, and we have been doing it, so I like that about our group.

Talk about the mindset going into a ballgame like this.  What’s the main focal point as you’re trying to get the guys ready going into Rio?
We just want to continue to build on what we’ve been doing, so the defensive has been really good. We wanted to make sure we kept up that intensity and actually brought our big guys up a little bit more, because so many teams are playing not with a low post, and that’s a little bit different than our bigs are accustomed to. I thought they reacted really well to it. We wanted to share the ball well and then try some people at different positions with different lineups, and I thought we advanced today. I thought we got better tonight.

Coach, what kind of leadership have you seen in Carmelo on and off the floor?
Carmelo has been sensational, really, as a leader, and he has been outstanding as a player, too. This is his fourth Olympics and his fifth USA competition, because his second one was with us when we lost to Greece. He wants everyone to be good and he knows us. He knows the international game, and everyone on the team respects him. I think he’s been terrific. I thought he would be good, and he’s better because he’s a smart guy and he gets it. He gets it. I think it’s helped him even playing-wise. His toughness is even better and we’re lucky that he’s with us.

What sort of challenges is it to work on the things you want to work on and address the things you want to address, when you’re playing these tune up games and winning by 30 points, is that a challenge?
Well, one of the main things, again, every coach has, I don’t look it as a challenges, but things that you have to get done. A challenge is what Craig Sager is going through, you know? And how magnificently he’s going through it. You don’t have many practices and the games. We’re trying to get our guys in shape, and I think we have gotten in better shape. We have four guys who were in a championship series, and it’s tough to get over that. It’s just very difficult to get over that, and I think they are now. They are in a good position. And then just to get to know one another – I think it’s helped us. People say what challenges? You win by 35 or 40 points, and I’d rather answer those questions than, ‘boy you eeked it out by eight.’ So, hopefully we can keep that going. The competition is going to get better. I mean, really good. We play two games against teams that we’ve beaten, but they’ll be a little bit different, in China and Venezuela, and then we play Australia, who is very good. They’ll probably start five NBA players. And then you play Serbia, and we know them from the World Championship with Miloš Teodosić and their big guys. And then you play France, who will probably have eight or nine NBA players. So, it goes up. It goes up, and we have to react accordingly.

When you leave tomorrow, do you talk them through more stuff? Is there anything you’ll do differently this time around knowing when they get there it’s the first time for a lot of them?
Yeah, we’ll give them feedback, and we have done tape and some level of practice or individual work every day to try to get accustomed to each other and to put a simple system in that they can use, but they can also make their reads. Tomorrow, we leave tomorrow, so they will be able to get recovery things set up, times to lift, get shots, things like that. But, a lot of times that’s what they need more than a practice.  They need to get back to their individual routines, so that they’ll be in better shape. And then we leave tomorrow night, and it’s off hopefully to a gold medal.

I was just wondering, because I saw the game against Venezuela and they played a lot of a slower pace. And really, in this game, Nigeria was really able to speed up, or they played a much quicker pace, and it was more a successful game for you. How do you control the pace in a game when a team is going to try to stagnate you like that and would you say that’s a weakness of team USA?
I don’t know if it’s a weakness, but it was something that, your question is right on about Venezuela. And we talked about that in the last couple of days with our team. We actually showed them about ten sequences where they stopped our fast break in the back court with fouls. And so they took away flow. Another thing that they did was try to jam our defensive rebounder with the outlet. It’s a different game then. And instead of getting in that normal rhythm, we have to create rhythm with a better halfcourt offense. And so we’ve been working on, and we didn’t have to use it as much today, but we’ve been working on sets that we can go to in that regard, because you’re right. They took away the flow. I don’t know if it’s a weakness as much as it’s something we have to adjust to. That was new. That was the only time in the five games that anybody did that.

Coach you mentioned the newcomers, DeAndre Jordan obviously being one of them. What have you thought of his adjustment to this game playing inside the cylinder and just his progression during these first games?
He’s been really good, and it gives us a one-two punch with DeMarcus and him, and then a different punch if you want to use Draymond. They are all different. When DeAndre is running the court like that, he makes people go with him, and that opens up areas for us to drive and get some 3-point shots. His defensive stuff is terrific, because he not only blocks shots, but he can defend the ball screen really well even if he switches. He was down in his stance, and he was doing it. Again, we’re lucky to have him on our team.

How DeMarcus has played in these five games? This is his first real international competition and what have you seen there?
DeMarcus helped us win the (FIBA) World Cup. He had 13 and 10 in the gold medal game. I’ve coached him before, and he knows international competition. I thought tonight he played really well, and he has played well. But he ran well today, and he really defended out on the perimeter. It’s just something unusual for those big guys to be out on the perimeter like that, and they are adjusting to it. He gives us a low post threat, and he’ll pass out of there, too. He’s very unselfish.

Both of you are playing with not only great players but great coaches. Talk about the camaraderie between both. What are some things you all feed off one another and being so much talent on the coaching staff as well as on the court. What is the balance there?
That 20 bucks I paid you to ask that question worked, didn’t it? (Joking) What a great coaching staff we have. For me, I love working with these guys, and I just think we’re honest with one another, and we trust one another and we’re all on the same page. It’s as simple as that.

Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Both of you are playing with not only great players but great coaches. Talk about the camaraderie between both. What are some things you all feed off one another and being so much talent on the coaching staff as well as on the court. What is the balance there?

For me, it’s more a respect factor. Just being able to open ourselves up and be held accountable, being willing to put the work in with those coaches and just utilizing them. It’s a great staff that we have.

You didn’t go for 37 in 14 minutes like the last time you played them. What’s it going to take to get that scoring going?
For me, it’s just more about repetition and finding the rhythm. Not so much of a scoring rhythm, but a rhythm of just playing with a different group of guys – finding your place out there on the basketball court. The flow of the game, knowing where to be at on the court. Knowing when to attack when not to attack. For me, it’s just more about having fun playing the game of basketball, and not putting that scoring burden on that shoulders that I have to on my own respective team.

How do you see your role now different than perhaps your first Olympics?
I think it’s the same. I think it’s the same to go out there and to be myself and not try to be nobody else. Not try to do more than I have to and just do a little bit of a lot when it comes down to it. So, for me I feel comfortable in these situations, regardless of what type of game or style of play each team is going to bring to it. I think I’ve seen it all over these years, and that’s what I bring to this team is that experience.

Pushing the ball up the court – is that something you’re looking to continue?
As players, we kind of set standards before the game amongst ourselves, and defense and rebounding was a key tonight. We wanted to get the ball out quickly, get up and down the court and find our pace of the game. Early in the game they tried to slow the game up. We have to get used to teams over there taking away our fast breaks, stoppage of the game, but we’ll get used to that. Today was more about just defensively talking, communicating, rebounding, getting the ball out fast, quick, and you saw different lineups out there today, you know, without Kyrie and without Paul. So, you saw a different type of team out there throughout the whole course of the game.

How do you feel the team is coming together with so many new players and how much do you look forward to the process tomorrow?
This is an exciting part, knowing that we are about to go to Rio. We’re about to just lock in in just one location, and we can just really focus on playing basketball and getting better individually and as a group. For me this is a very exciting time to just get there, get settled, have a couple of days before the first game, get those reps, get used to kind of just being in Brazil, being in the gyms over there. And as a team, I think you’re going to see a much different team over there once we get those reps underneath us, once we get comfortable playing over there in Rio.

What are some of the most important things you are going to make sure to pass on to some of the newer guys for their first time going out there on the court?
The leadership just comes naturally for me. You know, I think people are putting a lot on it, because now whole world is seeing it. For me, I do it every day. It’s natural for me. It’s genuine. It’s not nothing I’m forced to do, or I’m forcing myself to do. I do it every day all day. I’m the same person. I’m the same guy, nothing changes about me. Now it’s just more visible to you guys, so you guys are seeing it a little bit more than you guy see it during my own respective team and my own respective season. There’s no cameras in practice and things like that. Now we have practice where it’s open, so you guys get to see how we react with one another. So, I think that’s the difference. I think you guys are starting to see more of me doing that rather than in my own season.

You said your role hasn’t changed in four Olympics. But how about just the familiarity of having been through all of this – these different styles of international basketball. How do you feel just personally at this point?
I actually feel excited about this journey we are about to take on – a new group of guys, a much younger group of guys than before. Before I was one of the young guys, now I’m kind of one of the elder guys on the team who’s been around the block a couple of times. So, for me the excitement is still there. To know that we have an opportunity to do something special with a new group of guys, new faces of our country, and for me to be a part of that, I’m excited about that.

Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls)
What does it feel like to be back in Texas?
It felt good, a lot of familiar faces from Tomball, you know, Houston area.  But whether we’re in Houston, Chicago, L.A., wherever it is, it’s always an opportunity to represent Team USA. 

What does it mean to represent your country?
It means the most to me, man. I never thought it was in my cards growing up, through college and my first few years in the league, but it’s a dream come true. I’m on the team with a bunch of great players, great guys at that, so, I’m happy and I’m very fortunate.

DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
On different opportunities with USA Basketball:
It is always fun. That’s not a look I’m used to, but Coach K is giving me a couple of chances to get in the rhythm of that, so I’m just trying to take advantage of those situations. 

On playing with the FIBA basketball:
It’s one thing to get used to the ball, that’s always the most difficult thing for us, but, your touch is not usually the same as it is with a regular ball. But it’s going to take reps, take time in the gym, but I think it’ll come around.

DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors)
On his approach to his role on the team:
Just got there and do whatever needs to be done. My main focus is to go out there and play defense, and after that whatever else comes, comes. 

On the team’s progress:
It’s about just finding a rhythm. We find rhythms later in the first quarter and the second quarter, and now it’s just about starting from the gate.

On playing for the fans:
The fans come out here to see all these great players come together for a great cause, so most definitely. We just try to go out there, entertain the fans and have fun.

On tonight’s game:
We understand what we have to do. Getting that comradery and sharing the ball, that’s what it’s all about. We’re just trying to go out there and have fun and try to win at the same time.

On leaving for Rio tomorrow:
Reality is kicking in now – understanding that everything from here on out counts. It’s the real thing, not this cheap talk, and that’s what it’s all about.

KEVIN DURANT (Golden State Warriors)
How are you feeling heading into Rio?

We are excited to go. We played five exhibition games, trying to find our groove, and I think we found it, and we are looking forward to playing. 

How is the camaraderie of the team?
Good as it could be. Everybody loves playing with each other. We are doing a good job of playing together, we just have to take it over to Rio and try to get a gold.

What has the experience been like on joining the Warriors and now playing with some of those guys on Team USA this summer?
I’m just thinking about Team USA. I haven’t really thought about it. I’m just getting lost in the team. I’m not worrying about individual teams. I know who my teammates are this upcoming season, but I’m trying to stay locked into USA mode.

What has DeMar DeRozan brought to the team?
Just excitement, he is just so athletic. He can play basketball. He’s got great footwork. He can score in the post in the post. He can dribble. He’s just the total package. And athletically, it is just amazing to see.

Where do you feel this team is heading into Rio?
We are right where we want to be at, we are right where we should be at, we are looking forward to playing. 

How do games like this prepare you?
Just getting on the court, trying to figure each other out, and figure out the offense and getting out on the court is always the best thing for us. You can run on the treadmill and lift weights as much as you can, but nothing compares to a game environment. So, it is great to play a game, and we are looking forward to our next game over in Rio. 

What do you have to accomplish in these games?
You just have to win. No matter how it goes, we just have to win. We want to play good, but in this thing it is one and done, so we got to win. So, that is all we are worried about – the matchups and all of that stuff will take care of itself, so we just have to win.

Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
Where do you feel you all are as a team heading into Rio?
I think we got our legs under us, and now we have four days. I think we’ll be good, and I think we have a situation where we can continue to grow and get better.

On DeMar DeRozan:
He is a high-flyer. He is a guy you literally just throw it up to him, and he’s going to go get it, so that’s what I’m doing. 

On the crowd:
Great, great crowd. The fans that support us are giving us so much energy and support, and we appreciate it. And now, we got to go to Rio and do our thing for the gold.

Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
On Carmelo Anthony:

This is his fourth Olympics, so anything we need knowledge on, we just go to Melo or K.D. They’ve been through it. 

Do you feel nervous?
No, not really. I’ve been in very high pressure situations, so I know how to handle myself.

How is the energy level? You’ve played a lot of games this year.
We are excited. I’m young, I can do it. If I was 34, it would be a different story.

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