Additional Quotes: USA 84, Argentina 83
USA head coach Jeff Van Gundy
On his thoughts about tonight’s game:
Well, the game was a high-level, intense game. I have so much respect for Argentina. Their program, their depth of quality players and they just play great basketball. It was very fitting that Reggie, who has participated in the most qualifying games for us, was the one to hit the shot. I was very happy for him.
On the type of game it was:
Back and forth. Argentina was in a game like that the other night versus Puerto Rico. What I respect about our guys most is that both teams were qualified, both teams could have just gone through the motions and both teams fought with every ounce that they had. I just hope they take that type of passion and intensity back to where they are in the G League.
On what his plan was for the final play:
Initially, before Argentina took the timeout, we were going to try to lob to Josh Adams, because there was four tenths, but when they put more time on the clock, coach Hernandez called timeout, and they were zoning up the basket area. So, we knew that we couldn’t get that. We had Josh Adams curl and try to brush screen Reggie’s man, and Reggie just popped to the corner, and he’s got the quickest release on our team. With one second remaining, you need a guy who can really just catch and get rid of it. Travis put it right in the shooting pocket, and I didn’t know if it was in time or not. You never know those things, but that would have been a brutal way to lose if that goes in and it doesn’t count. I was happy it did count.
On his takeaways from the FIBA tournament:
I think the biggest takeaway is my respect for the G League players. The grit, the perseverance, the commitment they have to their career. There is such economic disparity from being the last player in the NBA to some of the best players in the G League that you have to have a mental fortitude about yourself, and it wasn’t enough for us to win and qualify. Equally important to us was that they enjoyed their experience, that they would want to do it again, and most importantly that it helps their career. I think exposure to this level of competition, a lot of them haven’t played in this high-level or high-intensity game that meant so much since college, so we just wanted to be good for that. So many of our guys have gone on to play in the NBA. Not because of what we did, but because Sean Ford picked the right guys
On what it was like for him coaching team USA:
When Sean and Gregg Popovich approached me about it back in June 2017, I was an absolute novice when it came to FIBA basketball. Learning day by day about how good the teams are, how hard they play, just how rough FIBA is, like that’s 90’s playoff basketball in the NBA. Hand-to-hand combat, fist down your throat, elbow in your chest on every possession. You have to get used to it, and you have to embrace the differences. I found it fascinating the level of coaching and playing all around the world has improved, and I thought I started to get a better handle the more I did it about just what it took to win in FIBA basketball.
A lot of credit to Argentina. They’re a really tough team to play. They set a lot of ball screens. They play intense. Everybody on their team can shoot. So, it’s really tough to play against them. They bring the best out of us. That’s three games we’ve played against them (including the 2017 AmeriCup) over the last year. It’s a pretty good rivalry. So, a lot of credit to them.
In terms of us wrapping up this process, it’s been long, it’s been hard, it’s been unprecedented for the U.S. to go through these qualifying games. This is our first time doing it, but I felt that we did a good job. We had a lot of different guys, there are way too many people to thank right here, but a lot of different guys contributed to it.
On his shot to clinch the win:
To be honest, I was actually pretty calm. Before Argentina called their time out, the play was for Josh (Adams) to curl the other way and go for the lob. But then Argentina called the time out, we saw (Marcos) Delia was in the middle, so we didn’t think we were going to get that. So, the plan was for Josh to come around the other way and screen my man, have me go to the corner.
To be honest, I think God has brought me a long way in my career. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I thought God just provided a fitting opportunity for me at the end.
In terms of the shot, I knew that if it was coming my way, I was going to rise up, and I felt pretty calm about my ability to put it in. I started thinking in my mind about the mechanics of turning and watching the ball go in. So I tried to visualize it. So, calm going into it … crazy hectic afterwards.
You and Argentina already qualified and could have just gone through the motions, but didn’t. Can you talk about the intensity of the game?
Absolutely. And not just against Argentina, in the Panama game, too. Any of us guys out there, when we get out there on the court, we’ve been playing this game since we were little, and it brings out our competitive nature, our desire to win. To just go through the motions, it wouldn’t be fun. It wouldn’t be worth our time. I think it’s the same for Argentina. We both came out and even though it didn’t matter in terms of qualifying, it mattered to us in terms of getting a win and competing. So, both teams produced a thriller of a game for the fans and it’s definitely something we will remember for the rest of our lives. I think the U.S. will remember it more fondly, but both teams played their hearts out.
Any other game winners in your career?
I think I had one in my first season when I played for the Idaho Stampede, we were playing the Lakers, but it’s nothing like this. This will definitely go down as one of my favorite memories in basketball.
What can you take from this in the future?
Just the camaraderie with the guys. Memories like this are really special. You don’t just have them with anybody. Michael, Travis, Cam and X, guys who I played multiple games with. Just being with those guys, having those memories. I will bring those back with me, but also the things that I learned from coach Jeff Van Gundy, coach Thompson, coach Fox. They are coaches with a heck of a lot of experience. They taught us a lot at practice. Our minds really had to be focused in practice to take in everything. There are a lot of principles, offensively and defensively, that we can take back to the G League and apply to our games to help us get to the next level that we want to get to. I just want to thank USA Basketball and our coaches again, because coming to these windows really elevated my career. I think most of the guys that have come would say the same – that they learned a lot from this that they can bring back to their careers. Not only do we get the experience of playing for our country, but it helped our individual careers as well.
On being down 6 with 1:30 to play and not giving up:
In those times, we have played in FIBA windows before, we’ve played in close games, and that’s when it really gets fun. That’s when it’s money time. That’s when moments like we had today are possible. All of us, Michael, all the other guys, we’ve played a lot of basketball. We’ve been in a lot of situations where we’re down at the end of the game and faced adversity. So, I don’t think we were fazed. We just knew that there wasn’t going to be a lot of room for error on the last few possessions.
Michael Frazier II
It was a great game tonight by both teams. It was a great effort on both ends of the court from both clubs. Coach mentioned multiple times throughout the game that it was a high-level basketball game going on. It showed our togetherness. This is a new team, we have a bunch of new guys. We had a few returning players, but for the most part it’s a new team. The fact that we were able to get so close in such a short amount of time, it showed on the court tonight. It’s incredible. It speaks to the players and the people who make the decisions to bring the players in for USA Basketball. It speaks to us as players, it speaks to the coaching staff that everybody was able to come in and contribute to the win tonight.
What was going through your head during the shot?
Honestly, when coach drew the play up I was like, if Reggie gets the shot, I know it’s going in. There’s no way he’s missing the shot. It’s only right. We call him Captain America. That’s his nickname, so it’s only right for him to end it all the way that he did. And then after, you all saw it, everybody was so excited and so happy, happy for him, happy for us as a ball club. It’s a great feeling when a guy can knock down a shot like that after all the ups and downs in the game. Then to come out on top, there are really no words. It was just an incredible shot by him.
How will you use this experience moving forward in your career?
First of all, I have to thank Sean Ford, coach Jeff Van Gundy and everybody at USA Basketball, the coaching staff, coach Mark Fox, coach John Thompson. It’s just been incredible, an incredible experience for me to represent my country. I got to thank Reggie for allowing me to end it the way I did, the way we did as a team. It is such an honor, this is a memory that I’ll take for the rest of my life, the rest of my career. It’s something I can tell my kids and my grandkids about.
On the overall intensity of the game:
It was a high-level basketball game. Anytime that you have two great teams, two great basketball clubs going against each other, it’s going to be a hard game. Nothing was given to us. We didn’t expect, coming into the game, that it was going to be easy. We knew that they were going to make runs, we knew that we were going to make runs and we did a great job of sticking together, staying together when the going got tough. Late in the game we stayed together. We didn’t break apart from each other. Our point guards, the guys on the bench, everybody just stayed locked in, locked into the game and we were able to come out with the win. I think it was because we were able to stay together when it got tough.