U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team Quotes (8/9/16)
August 9, 2016 / Rio de Janeiro
Managing director Jerry Colangelo
(Question unintelligible, talking about the 2010 USA World Championship Team):
On that team, which were all new players, if you look at what transpired once they got back to their NBA teams, Durant had a bust-out year, so did Westbrook. Derrick Rose was MVP. Love had a big year, kind of a bust-out year. Tyson Chandler had his best year in the NBA. I may be missing some people, but that prepared them for their season. That team had a lot of cohesiveness, and Durant was the leader offensively, and he’s been a joy to watch from day one. From the first time I met him when he was a freshman in college thinking about going pro, when I invited him to our camp, and his eyes were as big as you can imagine. He said, 'I’m there, you can count on me.' And that’s the way he’s always been.
How much do you see that 2010 experience playing in role in coach K leaning on him, knowing that he’s the man as far as minutes, as far as scoring?
I think familiarity with the player, and then the relationship that is built between coach and player and then flat-out performance. He’s one of our main guys, and you’re going to count on him.
Scoring is normally distributed well, but Kevin Durant dominated the scoring in 2010:
I think what transpired is that the players recognize that he had the hot hand, so we just went to him. It’s no different than Carmelo in the game in the Olympics in ’12, when he got the hot hand, they just fed him. So, I think recognizing who has the hot hand is an important part of this.
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski
At one time Kyrie considered playing for Australia. From your conversations with him, was that a hard decision for him?
I don’t know if it was a hard decision, but it was a decision in that he had a choice. So, I’m not saying it was a hard choice for him. To know (he had) a future, a high future, I just wanted him to always think of the very best that could happen for him. Obviously, playing for the United States and maybe being the starting guard on an Olympic team, that’s the highest. He had the capability of doing that. I knew that at a young age, so I’m glad that he decided to do that. But, it wasn’t like you had to put any pressure on him or anything. I think he just needed to know that once you make the decision, that that’s the country you are going to play for.
What is special about this team?
The fact that they all want to play defense. They’ve played hard every play. Even when we’ve had significant margins of victory, because we are better those teams. But, I think we’ve played as hard or harder than anybody that we’ve played against. When we play against Australia, you are going to play against a team that plays as hard as anybody, so we have to match that effort.
How do you keep them focused during a blowout?
I don’t think it’s something we as coaches are doing. I think it’s just the environment of them having pride in playing for the United States. They use the game to get better. In other words, they’re not going to be practicing long, because they come from long seasons. And so the game itself becomes somewhat of a practice for them, so they are practicing good habits. And, we’ve gotten better as a result, especially defensively.
How does Matthew Dellavedova’s style of play epitomize what you see in Australia?
Well, he’s just a continuance of the Australian teams that we’ve played against in my 11 years. They’ve always played, first of all with great spirit and togetherness. As good as they are individually, they’re greater as the sum of those parts. They make each other better. They have great comradery, and they are talented. They’re all NBA players, and so they understand what it is to play against our guys, to play with our guys. And then he’s (Dellavedova) their leader as far as toughness goes, and he’s had an amazing two games with 23 assists and one turnover and really setting the tone for his team.
Dellavedova knows Kyrie was well as anyone and will try and frustrate him. What do you tell Kyrie?
Well, I think his (Kyrie’s) father knows him better than anyone in the world (laughs). But, I think they know each other pretty well. And, Kyrie has the ultimate respect for him, because he knows how good of a player he is, how much he pushes him. A long time ago, when you never saw players, it was like, ‘I wonder how this guy is going to play.’ Well, now these guys play against each other or on the same team. That awe factor is not there. There is a respect factor. And so, Kyrie knows that Dellavedova will bring that tomorrow.
Has Kyrie developed into the player you though he would be?
When I saw Kyrie as a youngster, I told him, I said, ‘You’re going to be a great guard. You could be the guard of your era.’ I’ve always had that vision, and I think he has that vision. But, more than having that vision, he has the ability. And, it’s not just physical ability. It’s mental. He’s really smart, and he gets it. He’s really mature about everything. The great players have that.
What is your goal for this Olympics?
To win the gold medal and play great.
You recruited Harrison Barnes. What have you seen out of him now?
Well, I really see the things I saw in recruiting, and that is that besides being a special player, he’s really a smart, good guy, and he’s a team guy. And, that’s what I see. He’s a hard worker. He fits in real well. It’s a 12-man team, so with 40 minutes, you are not going to get everybody, and we have more depth at the perimeter. But, Harrison’s been terrific. We’re getting from him what I thought we would – that’s a great guy and a special player.
On the team’s chemistry:
We’re a very close-knit group. Sometimes when you have teams like this, you can have different packs. There are no packs here. We’re all on one. We’re all trying to do the same thing together. We hang out together, we laugh and joke together, we eat together. We do everything together.
What’s the difference between these games and London?
I think the energy is a little different, just being in Rio. Everybody knows Rio is an upbeat place, a party town, so the energy is a lot different. The crowd has been unbelievable. The fans have been unbelievable. The energy in the building is great. We look forward to it getting better and better.
What do you know about the Flamengo Club where you’re training?
I know this is one of the biggest clubs that’s out here. Some of the premier players that are out there have come from here. They’ve produced some good players. There are some good football players coming out of here. I’m just happy that I can say that I practiced here.
I love watching soccer. I want to go to a soccer game, one of the Brazil matches. It’s only right (to do so).
What do you expect to see from competition?
I think every game is a different game. Last night was a different game, where we had to really focus in and make those adjustments after the first quarter. I think the issue is that everybody expects us to come out of the gate in the first quarter and be up 20 points, and that’s not going to happen. Some games it’ll be like that, some games it won’t.
On starting and ending his Olympic career with Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi:
I had the luxury of coming in and playing back in ’04 when they came on. Back then, they were kind of the young pups to right now, they’re kind of the face of women’s basketball. It’s been a long road, and for me to experience that as a basketball player, as a competitor, it’s special for me, because I was there from the beginning with them.
We had conversations on the plane, coming over here, talking about our past experiences, the games, where the women’s basketball game is at now, where it’s going to be at, where it was at years ago. There were some very insightful conversations that we had.
What do you expect to see out of Australia?
I have no idea – a competitive one. Everybody asks me that, and this is my first time here. I have no idea, except for maybe three people who are on their roster. No disrespect to them, but this is my first time playing in the Olympics. I don’t know too much about them.
Being that it is your first Olympics, have you settled in?
Basketball is basketball. Olympics, Chicago Bulls, junior high, high school, college – you got a ball, and a basket, and you got to guard somebody and put the ball in the basket. Basketball is the same to me.
How close does this team become?
You gain a bond that is going to last a lifetime, because, in the moment we probably don’t think about it, but once it’s over and we look back at all these guys that are on one team, and you realize we did something that will never be forgotten about. We will be the 2016 U.S. Olympic Men's Team. That’s something you can never take away from us. That is something that is always going to keep a bond within all of us. Every single day, we are living in a boat, doing every single thing with one another. That automatically gained that unbreakable friendship.
Who will be your toughest opponent?
Whoever we play next. We try to take it a game at a time, and we respect every team. We can’t look past any opponents. So, Australia is up next, and they feel as though they can beat us, and we feel as though they can’t. So, it’s going to be a clash.
Are you having fun off the court?
I’m having a lot of fun. We saw Christ the Redeemer today, and that’s something that I always wanted to see. I can cross that off my bucket list. So, I’ve been having a lot of fun, being somewhere that I had never been before, it’s a great experience.
It looks like you guys are having fun, does that make it easier for you to give up your off season?
It does. It definitely makes it a lot easier, because when you have sacrificed your off-season, but also when you’re having fun, time flies. So, guys have really been enjoying being around each other, enjoying the process and really taking it all in, taking the whole experience in.
On whether this team has a weakness:
Every team has weakness. It’s what you do to overcome those weaknesses. It’s what you do to hide those weaknesses. It’s what you do to make those weaknesses as least important as you can.