Additional Quotes: U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team 119, China 62 (8/6/16)
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
I thought our guys played really hard. I thought China played hard, again. We’ve played them in two exhibition games, and they have a lot of young players. They are getting better, and we were good. Obviously, we’re older and more talented, but they have good talents. We played really hard, and we shared the ball. I think we had 31 assists. In the third quarter, every bucket we made, it was assisted. We keep playing hard and sharing, I think we are going to keep getting better.
Were you surprised to hear that a couple of guys were a little nervous before the game? No, I’m not. The Olympics are different. They are big. For 10 of the guys, it’s their first Olympics, and for six of the guys, it’s their first game ever on international soil. So, it’s different. It’s new. I don’t know if it was nervous, as much as being excited. They were really excited. They know from being at Opening Ceremonies last night, this is a huge stage and a very important one, a global stage. So, I was proud of my team tonight. I thought they did a really good job.
What do you like about your second unit tonight and how they played?
When they came in, it looked like there were seven guys on the court. Their lateral quickness is so good, and they don’t have a position. They can switch everything, and they have great attitudes. They are good about doing that. They want to do that. It’s just a different look. Our team can have a few different looks, and if one of them is going real well, they all know that we’ll stay with that. Thank goodness they give me an opportunity to make those decisions. Great attitudes by all the guys on the team, and we just have to keep that going.
Why does this team seem to enjoy defense?
They don’t have to make as big of an adjustment there. Ego-wise, they can go, boom, right into it. It’s not number of shots they’re getting or where they are getting the ball, so they can be themselves. Actually, they can be more, because they don’t have to pace themselves, and it’s an easier part of the game to put themselves in. And I think we are adjusting really well offensively, but we felt that with the group, they would just jump in defensively, and they did for the very first day.
On Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant: Carmelo has four Olympics of experience. I’m proud of him. He’s been really a selfless leader and a warrior, and the guys ultimately respect Carmelo. And so, he’s taken that leadership role really well. And K.D. (Kevin Durant) is K.D., man. He’s one of the best players in the world, and he’s playing defense, and when he gets going like that, that’s a pretty neat thing to have. But, he’s been a part of two gold medal teams in Istanbul and London, and so just the experience of playing internationally, how you take the ball in side-of-bounds, the pace of the game, there aren’t very many timeouts, there are no TV timeouts and things like that. I thought today we learned a little bit more about the international game, and those two guys help us learn more about it.
What do you expect going into a game? I just expect us to represent our country at the highest level, no matter how much experience they have, and these guys have done that. Really, it’s become as close of a group as we’ve had in this short period of time. They have really bonded, and I just help we can stay healthy and keep getting better. You know, it’s two weeks. You have two weeks. We have seven games now in about two weeks. Just if we can maintain our focus and stay away from energy and keep getting better, keep getting better. I like the fact that we don’t play the score. We just play every play, and that’s what we need to do if we want to win the gold medal.
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
To know we have somebody on the sidelines that’s in tuned to us, he’s pushing us and he’s keeping us uplifted.
On being the veteran player and being looked up to by the team:
It’s easy. It comes natural. I enjoy it. When I’m out there on the court I enjoy it, just being around those guys, and vice versa.
Anything to take away from this game to improve upon for the next game?
I know it’s easier said than done, but for us to come out here and win by 60 tonight, and still can be better, do some things better, that makes it scary. That makes it fun for us.
Harrison Barnes (Dallas Mavericks)
What is your role?
My job is to come in and be aggressive. I know might have a lot more responsibility and that’s something I’m prepared for. I just have to be ready to go.
How does this help prepare you for next season?
It’s different competition, that’s for sure. But more so playing with these guys every single day. There’s not a gym in the states that I can walk to and find 11 guys of this caliber, so I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from them and take that back to Dallas.
Are your practices harder than the games?
No, I wouldn’t say that (laughs). No, these guys played really hard tonight.
DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings)
I think we started the game off the right way, which is a defensive mindset. So, that being said, I think that brought a lot of energy to the game and got the game flowing in the way that we wanted it to go. We were able to pick up the pace of the game, and kind of went forward with that. With China, one thing I did notice, they picked up their physicality. The previous two times that we played them, it wasn’t as physical, but tonight it was a lot more physical.
What feels different in this game than in the NBA? Well, the main thing, my responsibility isn’t as big as it is during the regular season. So, it’s not as much pressure on one individual. With that being said, we share the responsibility, so it makes it easier for every guy on the team on a nightly basis. That’s probably the biggest thing.
Why does this team seem to enjoy defense?
That’s our identity. That’s something that is preached on the daily. That’s something we’ve accepted as a team, and we are just trying to go out there and perform it. So, every night we come in, we know that is how we want to get our game started – defensively.
DeMar DeRozen (Toronto Raptors)
On being in the Olympics:
It’s everything you dream of. Having the opportunity to represent your country at the highest level and giving ourselves a chance to win a gold medal.
You haven’t really been tested yet:
I think it’s a test to have 12 players to come together as one. All these guys have a great load on our respective teams. To bring that together in one and put something you specialize to the side and try to do other things to make the team gel, that’s the biggest challenge. But, we’ve been doing well with it.
Have you been trying to work on chemistry with that second unit?
Oh yeah, I think it’s obvious. You’re able to see it in how aggressive we come out, more so defensively. We try to feed off of that, getting stops, running, and try to build the lead.
What’s the team’s approach every day?
Just keep playing. Let’s just keep playing. We’ve been here a couple days. Today was our first game and now we got to wait another day until we play again.
Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
On his 3-point shooting:
I think when you get hot, you want to see your bench get excited for you. I think that’s better than making the shot, to be honest, and to see my teammates getting excited for me, that’s what kept me going. So, after the first one, they just kept telling me to shoot the ball, and Kyrie was trying to come to me every time. I think that is better than making the shot to be honest. So, the bench was great, and we played a good overall game.
On the team’s defense compared to a past USA team:
It’s two different teams. I don’t want to compare, but defensively, we were pretty good. I think when we put Draymond out there and we are just switching everything, that makes us even better. And then we have two guys that are different rim protectors in DeMarcus, who takes charges and covers the paint, and D.J. (DeAndre Jordan), who blocks shots at the rim. We just got every area covered. Then, we have long defenders on the wing and great point guard defenders that use their hands. So, we got to continue to lean on that. We’ve been having slow starts offensively, since our first exhibition game, but our defense has always been on point.
Do you think you’ve gained appreciation for defense because of the emphasis put on it and coach Thibodeau?
I think as I got older, you know what it takes to win basketball games. I can appreciate defense more. But being with Thibodeau, he’s definitely making me a better defender by just listening to his voice and his teaching. So, I’m grateful that I get to play under him.
Have you ever seen a crowd that hyped when you are up by fifty?
No. I saw three waves. I was telling Kyrie and Melo (Carmelo) that the wave never dies, and that doesn’t happen in the states. So, they were very, very energetic and enthused about the game, and that was just fun to see.
What is your biggest motivation to play in the Olympics?
Well, just having my country across my chest. Not too many people get this opportunity, so I just want to take advantage of it and try to get a gold medal.
What about the process of starting a game and maybe not getting off as quick as you’d like?
We got to get over those slow starts. I think everybody is just so anxious and excited to play. Hopefully after a couple of games, those jitters just go away and we just play a great game of basketball from start to finish. But, as the game went on, we settled down. We got stops. We scored the basketball. Our defense has been consistent throughout this whole time so we got to lean on that when we’re not making sure. But overall we had a great game.
What about the atmosphere of this game?
I was excited to see how the crowd was going to be. They came out. They showed out. We fed off the energy the whole game. We are going to need that support the next game and throughout the rest of the tournament. So it was a good first day for us.
Paul George (Indiana Pacers)
On returning from injury to be in the Olympics:
I was very positive and optimistic about it, coming back to a healthy season. And a healthy summer after that season. So, it presented itself. I felt healthy enough this summer to continue on competing.
How do the Olympics compare to what you imagined it would be like?
Oh man! It’s surreal. This is a totally different game than what we’re used to. The energy here, just walking around, being an American, all the other Olympians here, there’s just so much pride for each country. That’s what makes this so enjoyable, being a part of.
How is the process going with development of the the team?
We’re still learning. Some shots we’re passing up that we should take. Some shots we are taking we should pass up. It’s a little give and go on that end. We’re still trying to figure this thing out. The best thing about it is our energy is phenomenal. Our effort is phenomenal. You put those two together with the talent that we have and everything else will kind of all into shape.
What’s the difference between this and the NBA?
Just their style. They play a physical game as well like we play. The ball is obviously different … the ability to knock the ball off the rim when it’s still on the cylinder. That’s kind of new to us. We’re so set on playing this specific style in the NBA whereas these teams play this international game. We’re trying to figure out their game on the go.
What about playing in the Olympics?
It’s really special. Representing our country was amazing and doing so by doing what we love to do makes it that much more sweeter.
Would you like to play against Brazil?
We’d like to play against anybody. I’m just happy for these games.
Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors)
On the game:
We showed up, and I think it was more about what we were able to get done as opposed to what they didn’t do.
What do you think of the arena?
I think the arena is great. I think it’s a great setup. The fans were great, and it’s a great place to play. We’re excited to be here.
What game are you most looking forward to?
I think every time the United States comes into one of these, whether it is the worlds (FIBA World Cup) or the Olympics, they are a favorite. One thing we can’t do is try to make one game more important or more exciting than the other. Some games might be more of a challenge than others, but we have to approach every game with the same mindset, the same intensity level that we would approach it with anybody.
Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors)
What do you think of how DeMar DeRozan has been playing?
DeMar has been awesome. He’ been playing great. He’s been a highlight reel. It’s just fun. He’s enjoying himself. Like I said, we’re all enjoying ourselves, and we understand the situation that we are in and are just happy to be a part of it.
On playing Venezuela next:
They’re going to be a tough match up. We have to do out there and execute, do our thing and have fun.
Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
On the game:
We have respect for them. They played really hard. Like I said before, it was a great way to start the tournament.
What do you think of the arena? It’s great. It’s phenomenal. It’s always fun to play in front of a new fan base, and coming down here to Brazil and seeing a bunch of NBA fans is incredible. We don’t take it for granted.