Quotes: USA Blue 97, USA White 78
USA head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
It’s a beginning of a new tournament. Another World Cup, in this case the FIBA World Cup. I think our guys are making progress, having never played together before. They showed great effort, doing a good job in a lot of different ways, just trying to get used to each other and form a team. We’re still in the early stages of trying to get together and figure out how we want to play and learn about each other. Tonight was another step.
Pop, I know you have to start five. Is there anything to read into with the five you chose? Is that a group that separated itself?
would say that’s an incorrect assumption. We are still trying to figure out how people fit together, and what’s best. Not just who should start and who’s going to come off the bench. You don’t necessarily have to play the most talented guys together. It’s got to be a good mix, you got to have something coming off the bench. What we are doing now is just mixing and matching and taking a good look at everybody.
What are the biggest challenges when you have so many talented players together, to put together a team?
I think it’s incumbent upon staff to figure out the best combination as far as roles are concerned. Some players are more talented than others, but a lot of jobs have to be filled. You got to rebound, you got to play defense, you have to have people who can score, people who can shoot. Leaders. People who play basketball intelligently, but for us overall, we are looking for people who are committed defensively, who are totally unselfish and can move the ball and move themselves in the offensive end.
With the international game, what are the challenges to get these guys together?
I think more than anything, there’s been so much success over the last eleven, twelve years. It’s a matter of getting a new group to understand the task at hand. The difficulty and the challenge and figure out how to play up to that. You get to the tournament phase of this journey and we’re hoping up to that point toward as a group we can face whatever may be, whether it’s physicality, a fine running team, a fine executing team. We have a lot of respect for all the teams we are going to play and a lot of them have played us tough in the past. We’ve come out on top but it’s a lot of good teams and they have a lot more pro players then they did three years ago, as far as NBA players go. We know what’s ahead of us, but having people that are mature enough, that care enough, is really important to have a whole group of those guys.
Coach Pop, not sure how significant you are going to consider tonight’s stats but 41 percent from three and 20 assists on 38 made field goals do any of these stand out to you today, were you pleased?
If we can shoot 41 percent from 3 every game, we’ll take that. I think we’ll up our assist total even more than what you saw tonight as we become more familiar with each other and feel more comfortable in the system.
Other than the fourth quarter team white scored 20 points and 14 points in the second and third quarter. Can you talk a little bit about what you liked from your defense today?
I think just recognition as much as anything. People were figuring out the terms, what things mean. It’s a new language for some players. It is basketball but often times you use different words for different actions on the court. As they get used to that the defense gets better.
There’s been absolutely no problems with the effort and physicality, that sort of thing. Now it’s just a matter of getting wiser, coming more habitual, everybody reacting correctly more often that is what we’re looking for.
Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball Men’s National Team director
We are always happy to be back in Las Vegas. I say the same thing each time because it’s our second home. As far as this new group, this new coach in Gregg Popovich, it’s a good feeling in the locker room and in the practices and it’s going to be a good group for us to bring together. We got the right guy coaching and we got a number of good, young players, including the guy to the left of Coach Popovich. If he’s says we are going to be ok, we are going to be ok. That’s how I feel.
Jerry, what happens roster-wise between now and the reconvening in LA?
We let two fellows know that they won’t be going to LA, Thaddeus Young and Bam (Adebayo). We’re bringing a couple of young players from the Select Team so we’re going to be patient with the rest of the squad because we have plenty of time, we have two weeks to decide who will be the final 12.
Forty-eight hours before Game 1 in China is when we have to submit a roster, so we want to make sure everyone gets a real shot. The staff is sorting through all of that.
There’s some things we like about every one of the players but how do we come to 12? We don’t have to make the decision now and we want to give everyone a real shot.
Who’s going to LA?
White and Bagley.
Pat Connaughton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Pat you play against these guys in practice all the time. Was it a little different tonight?
Yeah, it’s much more fun when you are on their team you know what I mean. It’s a lot easier, a lot more fun to play with them. Being on the other team is not as fun, but it’s similar to practice. They were great and they (Middleton & Lopez) played great.
Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
How was it playing with your younger teammate like Jarrett?
It’s awesome, it’s an honor. You get to kind of see how far we have come with the young guys and one of the core pieces of the organization to play on the big stage.
What do you feel the team needs to work on coming off tonight’s game?
We have to take a little more ownership of keeping guys off the glass, making sure we get a body every time down because we are so talented offensively as long as we get the ball and get out in transition we’re going to allow ourselves to get some easy baskets.
Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies)
What did you get from the week?
I took a lot from the older guys. The whole weekend was a success in terms of learning and taking what you learned back to the team.
What does it mean to you personally to wear that jersey?
It’s great. You represent something bigger than yourself. You represent the bigger picture and you’re playing for the country.
There’s been a lot of talk about players that weren’t here and players that didn’t want to be here, but the players that are here are pretty good players, aren’t they?
You should never focus on negatives and should just focus on the positives. Which is everybody who was here came to work everybody wanted to be here and everybody gave their all.
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
What do you think about this team that has come together?
I think Kemba (Walker) said it best the other day. Now we got a chance to show what we can do. The LeBrons, the Hall of Famers, they’re not here. Perfect for us. We got a chance to do great things now.
Adjusting to the ball as a shooter, why is it so hard to adjust to that ball?
I would say first you think about it. I think that’s the main thing with shooters and ballhandlers. You have to forget about it and go out there and shoot the ball and play like you do with any type of basketball. It’s definitely different. Smaller, lighter, different grip but it still bounces and still goes in the rim.
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Similar to what they said, we all competed all week in competitive practices. Today you saw us all go down to the floor. We all communicated, we all defended and as Coach Pop said, this is the beginning of a long journey. I think we are a lot closer this past week and we will continue to build that relationship on and off the floor. It’ll help us communicate and help us to win.
I think the biggest thing as far as my reads go is to slow it down. A lot of time, and especially since this is my first year, is to go and a make a read out of that, understand where the big is at, understand where the help is coming from, and not only being on the rush. One of the things I’m really starting to work on coming off the pick and roll, even in transition, is going 100 miles an hour and being able to change pace and find the open guys, and not just score as well.
How much fun did you have on the court, you found the guys easily with beautiful passes. For you that’s something new on the court.
Coming into Team USA it’s an honor to be here, to be able to play with guys like Kemba Walker, talking to Kyle Lowry, an NBA Champion, guys I grew up playing with like Fox and Bam. For me to be here is a lot of fun to go out on the court and compete.
As far as finding guys it’s all about reads. I think building that chemistry off the floor allows you to trust guys and guys will trust you to find and I think a lot of my teammates trust that I’m going to find them like I trust De’Aaron, I trust Kemba, I trust Jayson, whoever it may be, to find each other as far as our drive and kick and that’s what we’ve been preaching all week.
At the end of the day it’s basketball and playing for my country and I don’t want to be anywhere else.
You stated practice this week and in 25 days you have a real game. Your style, Kemba’s style how do you think they mesh and how much chemistry can you guys build in 25 days?
I think we mesh very well. You look at tonight, we came out and defended and I think that’s what is really going to help us to be locking in defensively.
I look at how he plays the pick and roll, he’s a guy the coaches have really challenged me to watch how he gets over screens and how he mixes it up on defenders. If we can get the pressure on defense that makes our offense that much easier. Us coming in making the right reads, the right plays, finding the right guys we showed a lot of that tonight.
We’ll continue to build on these as the 25 days go on.
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
What is it like for you being a part of this training camp this week?
For me playing for Team USA is obviously a great honor. The other thing I love about it is how competitive it is within practice. Playing against the best players in the league every day, you know you can get better from that. That’s what I look forward to the most, coming out and competing against the best. It’s challenging. Every drill, every practice, every play we are going against each other.
How has it been with coach Pop this week as it is something different for you?
He kind of gives me the same feeling when I played with Coach K. Two of the best to do it and it’s an honor to play for some great coaches early in my career. I’m happy to learn from Pop.
What do you guys think you accomplished tonight, specifically?
Just another chance to play with each other. It’s only been four days or so. It’s the first time in a game together, we weren’t perfect, but we’ll work on it.
What’s the biggest priority for next week as far as taking another step?
Just keep building our chemistry and one thing I know we can work on is not fouling so much. We fouled a little bit too much tonight. The more time we spend with each other the better we’ll get.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
What is your evaluation of your play and the team’s play tonight?
I think I played pretty well. Thought the team did a great job of helping me get open. As far as a team I think we got better. From day one of practice to the second day to the third day we got better. We are trying our best to learn each other as much as possible as fast as possible. I think we are on a great pace right now.
Do you feel like you’re going to have to be a leader on this team?
I do. I am not a very verbal guy, but whenever things need to be said I will say it. Whenever guys need to step up not just on the court, but on the sidelines or whatever. I am going to try my best.