2019 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Quotes
USA head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
We’re over a week into this. Has there been clarity on what you want the final roster to look like or is it still an evaluation?
We’re still evaluating.
Any update on Marcus Smart?
He’s going to be a day-to-day type of thing. Probably won’t practice the next couple of days I wouldn’t think.
Are you going to go easy on Patty Mills down in Australia given that you have inside information on him?
I’m going to take him out to eat. Get him drinking and eating stuff that he’s never eaten before and just fill him up. I know what he doesn’t like. I’m going to fill him up. And try to make him fat while we’re there so he can’t move around so quickly.
Are you going to see a bit of Australia while you are there? You’ve taken a bit of interest in indigenous culture down there. You going to take an opportunity to see more?
I don’t think there will be an opportunity to do that. Brett Brown told me once, he said when you go to Australia, don’t come unless you have at least two weeks so you can do it right. And in that short of a time, it’s going to be all basketball and it’s going to be tough to see all the things you’d want to see, especially the places that Patty would want to take me. I think we’ll each have a little bit of a different focus on this particular trip. Someday, coming back, I’ll do that for sure.
How has Kyle Kuzma looked so far?
He’s doing well. Everybody’s doing well. I’m not going to talk about one person doing well and one who’s not. But it’s a really good group. We’ve all been impressed with, first of all their sacrifice, taking the time. But they’re all committed, they all want to do this. They’re really attentive. Their work ethic is absolutely wonderful.
What do you think about the Spanish team?
It’s a very good team. I know coach [Sergio] Scariolo very well and he’s a great coach. They’re a team that’s experienced. They’ve got good talent. They’ve played together a long time and they’re going to be very formidable. It’s a heck of a program and it’s been that way for a long time.
There are a couple of guys that were second round picks, I know it’s been a while since it happened but…
Yeah, it doesn’t matter where they were picked, that doesn’t mean anything. Manu Ginobili was picked 56th and he turned out to be a pretty good player. So, I don’t care where any of these guys were picked or anything like that. I care about their character, their ability to learn and how hard they play.
What I was going to ask was…
Did I go a different direction there [laughing]?
Yeah kind of, almost the opposite [laughing]. I was wondering if it [having second round draft picks on the roster] could give the team a little edge. You know they’ve had to work a little bit harder to get to this point in their career.
Well you know with social media these days, I’m sure they read things. They are confident in their own right. They’re great players. They don’t really worry about who has this pedigree and that pedigree. They just want to come together and play. A lot of these guys have known each other and played together. They’ve known each other through the different steps that they’ve taken to get to the NBA so it’s a group that enjoys each other. And you have to have that. All the good teams have good comradery. They want to play with each other, they care about each other, they love each other. So, we’re trying to establish that in a pretty short period of time, but I think we’ll get it done.
Have you heard any of the Serbian coach’s comments the other day?
What did you think of his comments?
I don’t really pay attention to it much. I’ve been doing this too long. But he’s a hell of a coach. He’s a competitor. He’s been a hero in Europe as a player. He was fantastic. And he has a program that goes way back and with lots of success. So, they do have a heck of a team. There is no doubt about that. They’re deep, they’re talented, they’re going to work their fannies off. And they want to win. Just like we do and anybody else who is in the tournament so. People will talk but that’s usually not something I respond to.
Do you think Spain is weaker than in the past without Gasol, Mirotic, Ibaka?
I don’t think of any team as weak. It doesn’t matter who is on these teams. In general, the teams from overseas who play in the NBA, they play even better when they are with their national teams. They basically become super heroes. I mean they’ve play together, they’ve loved each other. They’ve competed and been responsible to each other for a long time. So, it doesn’t matter who is there. Every team is going to have some people who aren’t there. But we just go play.
I understand that you talked about patriotism when you got together in Las Vegas. In your experience, these are young guys, does that grow as they get older and play on the national stage?
I think they first understand it when they look at their jerseys and it says USA. It’s a level above what we do in the NBA. Those are our teams but this involves a lot of other people. We’re responsible for protecting the game that we started. We’re responsible to all of the other players and coaches in the league, to the people in our country. And everybody feels the same way about their country. It’s a higher level of commitment and a bigger challenge and that can bring greater satisfaction than our regular NBA teams.
I saw that you said something about, you can’t fix the divisiveness in our country and that patriotism isn’t necessarily waving a flag or one sided. Can you sort of refine patriotism for this basketball team?
Well patriotism means a lot of things to different people. There’s people who are truly committed in that sense and there are people who are fake. You know the “show of patriotism” I think is a bit inappropriate and that’s not something that I think we want to emulate. Just because someone hugs a flag, it doesn’t mean they are patriotic. Being a patriot is somebody who respects their country and understands that the best thing about our country is that we have the ability to fix things that have not come to fruition for a lot of people so far. All of the promises from the beginning of when the country was established are fantastic. But those goals have not been reached yet for a lot of people. So, you can still be patriotic and understand that there still needs to be criticism and changes and more attention paid to those who do not have what other people do have. And that’s where we have fallen short in a lot of different ways so. Being a critic of those inequalities does not make you a non-patriot. It’s what makes America great, that you can say those things and attack those things to make them better. That’s what a lot of other countries don’t have. You lose your freedom when you do that. You don’t lose that freedom here. To negate that part of what we are able to do is ignorant on anybody’s part, to make those people out to be unpatriotic. Like a Kaepernick. That was a very patriotic thing that he did. He cared about his country enough to try to fix some things that were obvious. That everybody knows about but does nothing about. So, in that sense, I’ll just stop there.