2019 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Quotes
USA head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
You’re about two and a half weeks until the first potential game, how are you feeling about the team right now?
Making progress, just going day-to-day. Trying to put a team together so they feel confident. Every day is an opportunity to work on execution and put a year’s worth of business into a couple of weeks. So, every day is a little bit better.
Has anybody been standing out?
Well, I wouldn’t talk about that. They’re all doing a good job. They’re working very hard. We worked them hard last night and worked them hard again today. The effort has been great, and we still have to make some choices and that kind of thing. But I wouldn’t give anyone a leg up by saying so-and-so is playing better than somebody else right now.
Before you guys came out here, Marvin Bagley was someone that dropped out. Curious if you could say what impressed you about him last week and were you surprised that he wasn’t going to be here?
Well people have lives. People have things that are going on. But he did a good job. He was very active. Rebounded really well. So, I was impressed with him.
Is there any curiosity or weirdness or anything to you being at the Lakers facility doing these practices?
No. It’s basketball and it’s a gym with rims.
How are the players adapting to the kind of ball movement you’re looking for?
They’re doing really well. They’re probably over doing it, actually. They’re a good group, they try to please, and they want to play the right way. It’s really a teachable group. Willing to learn and play together so I’ve enjoyed them a lot.
What is the biggest challenge on your end right now as this week leads up to the game against Spain?
Well everything is on our mind. We’re putting the team together so that entails a lot.
De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)
How long did it take you to get comfortable being here with USA Basketball?
Probably like the first two days. It was kind of different, just the guys that you’re around, wearing USA on your chest, being coached by coaches you have never been coached by. So, it was definitely a little bit different but at the end of the day you have to let that happen fast and continue to get ready. As I said before, these other teams have been together for a while now and we’re a team that not a lot of guys that have ever played together before. So, we’ve got to be able to figure this thing out.
How much has your relationship with Harrison Barnes grown out here?
It’s definitely grown a lot. He’s one of the only guys who I’ve ever really played with here. We’re on the same team, obviously, so we’re really comfortable together. Just being able to go through this process together, (and) for me, to be able to ask questions because he’s been through something like this before, for me it’s definitely still a bit of a learning experience and I can use him as a vet that’s been through this before.
Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
How has the team progressed over the past week and a half?
We’re still trying to figure stuff out here and there. We’re putting in a little bit more stuff from more of a tactical perspective. We’re changing up the offense a little bit, some of the sets that we’re doing. A lot of the stuff that we did last week was pretty rudimentary and basic. So, we’re trying to implement a lot of things on the go. We’re not putting in a ton of stuff, but it’s enough in a short amount of time where you’re really having to focus on it. We had a little quiz this morning on the terminology to get everyone on the same page. So, we’re still working out some kinks that way, working out some kinks of knowing the personnel, knowing who you’re playing with. But, collectively we’ve gotten better every day and a lot of it has to do with great coaches and smart players who are able to figure it out on the fly.
How much does chemistry play into winning mindset?
It’s huge. Pop hit it on the head from the get-go. He talked about how a lot of these other teams, Australia, Serbia, Lithuania, you name it. They all love each other; they’ve all played together for a long time. We have a short amount of time to get a group of guys who might not know each other that well, to get super close and start playing with that sort of continuity and chemistry. So, we’re trying to get bought into it, figure it out, making the effort to get to know each other better off of the court so that we can play with more chemistry when we’re on it.
Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)
Can you speak to what it is like being coached by Popovich?
Well you see him on TV and understand how he is through kind of a lens. But when you’re up close and personal with him, you really understand just how much he cares and how passionate he is about the game of basketball.
Have you guys talked Lakers-Spurs or anything like that?
No, not at all. USA Basketball, that’s the goal right now.
Have you talked to Steve Kerr at all and has he imparted any wisdom upon you?
The whole coaching staff, not just Steve, not just Pop, but everybody from them down. Everybody brings something to the table. That’s why they’re here and it’s been a blast being coached by everybody.
In talking with Brook Lopez for a minute, he said your shot has really improved. Walk us through what you’ve done with it during the offseason.
I’ve just focused on trying to get a higher release point. Really trying to flick my wrist. Nothing too crazy, not over thinking it. Just trust the work that I’ve done.
And you feel more comfortable?
Not more comfortable, but more confident.
Did you watch yourself film to break it down? How did that actually come about?
Not film. I don’t watch film from my jump shot just because I have an entirely new one. So, I don’t like to watch things past things when I have a new type of skill going on. It’s all about having that muscle memory and doing it every single time and trusting it.
LeBron and Anthony Davis have both played USA. Did they give you any advice going into this?
Not so much. Not so much, not really.
When you were growing up and watching these players in these international tournaments and the Olympics, which players stood out most to you?
Carmelo Anthony. That was one. Obviously, every time he played in the Olympics it was kind of big time. Always big-time performances. Guys like Dwyane Wade who attacked people on the defensive end and Kobe, when those guys were getting after it for two straight Olympics. I’d probably say those guys.
Anything different today from yesterday that you guys worked on?
Put in new offense. That’s one thing that we’re doing. We’ve got a lot of different sets, a lot of different types of offensive initiations. So just learning the concepts and the terminology and finding pieces still.
Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
The guys on your team, you play against them all season, but you have a real comradery on the court. What is that like when you get back to the regular NBA season after you’ve had such a good time together on the USA team?
We all have the right competitive mindset and everything like that. Obviously, nobody is going to be pulling any punches or anything like that [laughing]. And that’s what’s great about this team. We’re ultra-competitive. Whatever we have to do. We have to come together, learn on the fly, get to know each other on the fly and go out there and try to beat whoever comes up against us.
Is there any team in particular that you’ve got your eyes on that you think might be your biggest challenge?
Well I think we are just focused on ourselves right now. I think we’re the answer. We’ve got to go out there and try to improve each and every day. We can’t take a practice off. We don’t have a ton of practices. So, we’ve got to work hard every day and just take it one day, one game at a time. And really the focus is all us as far as we’re concerned.
How is it working with Pop?
It’s great. You know he is just such a great coach. A cerebral mind. He’s a little different too. So, it’s been a really enjoyable experience so far.
He’s [Popovich] got an amazing work ethic obviously.
He does. No question. I’ve always admired Pop for a long time being a basketball play and growing up. And so, to finally get to play under him and learn from him it’s been really cool.
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
After two weeks of this are you starting to feel like it is a team unit?
It is coming along, I mean, we are all new faces to each other, strangers in some ways but Pop and the guys around here have made a huge emphasis to get to know each other, create a bond because it is going to be a special bond at the end of the day. To go through what we are about to go through as a team we need to have that chemistry, that bond, that love for one another.
How have you guy gone about forging that bond?
We have the group text going already and just in practices, constantly talking to each other that’s one thing we have always known. The bus rides, the breakfast meetings, there’s no phones, just talk to each other, just get to know each other and see what they are all about see how they are, just get to know them.
When you came back here did it hit you that this is going to be the family for the next 40 days?
It hit me definitely in Vegas. You look at that schedule and what’s ahead, look at what could be ahead of us, but it is a special group of guys that you want to play with and play for.
Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets)
What is your assessment of the team’s progress in coming together and how you’re doing so far?
It is steady, man, we still have a ways to go but we got to have some good practices here before we head to Australia. Guys are making the effort to give the coaches what they want. I think we just need to get a little more fluid with it.
What is it like to play Donovan Mitchell in camp?
He’s been great. You know, you appreciate his talent right away, his athleticism, his ability to get to the rim and to rise up and knock down shots. So he’s fun to play with.
How’s he (Mitchell) handled the 1 -2 position?
He’s had no issue with that. You know he’s good with the ball in his hands and he’s good playing off the ball as I’m sure you guys know. So it is an advantage that he can move position to position no problem.
So many young guys and new faces on this team, how do you think guys have handled it?
There’s always pressure when you’re on the USA team but you make a good point, it is a younger team, probably more unknown internationally but I’m looking forward to us coming together and answering the call.
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
For you, what are you looking to get out of this experience?
I really enjoy the practices. These competitors are some of the best players in the league, so you have no choice but to get better.
Is it kind of a situation where you can take a little bit from what this guy is doing and what another guy is doing? Are you cognizant of that as practice is going on?
De’Aaron Fox is a guy who came into the league the same draft class as you. Having seen the kind of improvement he made from year one into year two and being around him, what stands out where he is right now as a player?
I mean he made a great jump from the first year to the second year. And we all expect him to make a bigger jump going into his third year. And I’ve known Fox since like, third or fourth grade and then we entered the league together as rookies. So, we just keeping working to get better.
Looking at the speed De’Aaron Fox plays with, is it different having him on your team and seeing how that speed translates versus playing against him?
Yeah, you’d much rather have him on your team than have to guard him. Probably the fastest guy in the league and I’m happy that he’s on my team.
Can you talk about the feeling of being selected to the team and wearing a USA Basketball jersey?
I’m happy to be here, happy to be a part of Team USA. Experience the opportunity while at the same time trying to take it all in.
Can you talk about the team’s chemistry so far?
We’re getting better every day. It’s a work in progress. It’s the first time all being on the same team. New coaching staff, new system. But we have some intelligent people here so, we’re going to figure it out.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
As players took their names out of the hat was being with three of your teammates a factor for you to be here?
I mean, I was already coming regardless. Before I even signed to Celtics, I was already committed to this so it had nothing to do with it really.
So, this has just been a bonus?
It has just been a bonus for sure, for sure. Yeah, I mean what more can you want? I’m the new guy and I got three of my new teammates on the team so yeah it is great to get an early start with those guys.
How valuable do you think this is going to be for you especially as the new guy integrating you into their (Celtics) system?
Not really, I’m really just focused on USA right now and whenever we get to the Boston Celtics, we’ll get to that. But yeah, like I said being around them has been enough for me. Real cool guys, super down to earth and they are making it easy for me. I’m very comfortable. Now I’m thinking as we do get to the regular season with the Celtics I’m thinking it will be an easy transition because I’ve been around these guys for quite some time now. They have just kind of welcomed me with open arms, so it is pretty cool.
As a point guard how important is it for you to learn not just their tendencies on the court but their personalities?
Oh, it is important. It goes hand in hand. It goes hand in hand and for me I’m all about the comradery, I’m all about the togetherness. I’ve always felt that your off the court relationships translate on the court. I’ve always felt that way, I’ve always been big on that way so that’s why I’m trying my best to get acclimated to those guys as best I can.