2019 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Quotes
USA head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
Knowing that you guys are still a work in progress and that Spain is probably still a work in progress, what can you take away from tomorrow night?
Well we just want to get better. We are trying to form a basketball team. You know familiarity and comradery is important, understanding who they are playing with and what each other does on the court. That’s all new to our guys. So that’s one thing. Just understanding how we want to play in the system we think we need to play to win. Just taking further steps and hopefully not skipping any. And working on both ends of the court to ensure that they have the knowledge, both individually and team-wise we think is necessary to get this done.
Is there something about this experience for you that rejuvenates your coaching perspective, working with new talent and up-and-coming guys?
Well it is always exciting to be around top-notch players. These are guys that you really work on in your scouting reports when you are playing against them. So instead of playing against Khris Middleton or Kemba Walker or whoever it might be, now you get to coach them. And that’s a real privilege and really a lot of fun. It’s kind of like being at the All-Star game, being around all the players. But you don’t really coach there, you just sit there and watch. But here you get to actually coach and see who they really are and how they continue to develop and that’s a really big thrill for me.
Did you sense that guys were motivated in today’s practice after yesterday’s scrimmage results?
They’re motivated because they want to be here. They’ve all got great character, great work ethic. If they weren’t motivated, they wouldn’t be taking their time out to sacrifice and be where they are to play for their country.
Is there a benefiting carry over, not just for these guys, but for all the international players around the league participating in FIBA, when they get back to camp after participating?
Well you know basketball has become so international with so many great players everywhere. Everybody benefits, it’s a win-win for everybody involved. When they get back to their NBA teams, most everybody is probably a better player with more experiences and all the competitiveness they have to exhibit in the tournament, it carries over.
I know you’ve gotten used to making cuts over the years obviously. But will you think twice if you’re making final cuts for the Olympics?
Well, when you cut people from your regular NBA team it’s difficult. We’re going to have to do that and it’s going to be even more so. So, I’m dreading having to do that. But it’s got to get done.
When you’ve got so many players from so many wonderful teams and different coaching styles and they’re all coming together, what kind of adjustment do you have to make?
Well luckily, they are all coming from really good coaches who know the game. And it is basketball so all the fundamental things that can win or lose you a game are all the same no matter what team anybody is playing for. So, in that sense, it’s just more a matter of them getting together with each other and feeling that. But the basketball isn’t that new to them. They’ll get used to what we are trying to do pretty quickly.
USA assistant coach Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors)
On the difference between the 1986 FIBA World Cup and the 2019 FIBA World Cup:
The biggest difference is now it’s a huge operation. Just the fact that everybody is here, you’re here. We didn’t have this back in 1986. There were one or two writers at the end of practice and the gold medal game was on tape delay. People didn’t even know it was going on. And now, it’s a big deal and a big operation.
How difficult is it having a long season and then committing to the USA National Team for six weeks?
Everybody has to assess their own circumstances. A lot of guys dropped out because this is a pretty big commitment – six weeks in total. It ends two weeks before regular training camp starts. A lot of guys assessed it and said ‘No, I need rest’ or ‘I need to get a head start with my new team’ or whatever it was. These young guys, the guys that are here, I think are looking at it as what a great opportunity to improve their games, to play for their country, to play for Gregg Popovich. And that’s how I’m looking at it as a coach. I never worked for Pop, I played for him for four years, but to coach with him is a whole new deal. To see him behind the scenes. So, I’m doing it for the experience. I think it’s fun – the travel, the comradery, and also to learn and try to become a better coach.
Thoughts on kids specializing in one sport versus playing multiple sports:
It’s tough because if you play multiple sports, you almost get left behind by the kids who are playing one sport. But I also think there are some advantages too. Playing different sports, you learn different lessons, you play for different coaches, you use different muscles, you see the game differently. I’ve always felt that the best passing NBA players are the ones who played soccer growing up. I think of Steve Nash, Toni Kukoč, Manu Ginobili, they see the game as they would see a soccer field, triangles and angles and leading, trying to create scoring opportunities. You can’t play one-on-one in soccer and score a goal, generally. So, some of that exists when you play multiple sports. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson played baseball growing up, they played football, they golfed. And they didn’t seem to get held back. So, I think there are advantages. But it’s understandable that you feel like you get left behind because other kids are playing one sport all year long and they’re developing some really good skills.
On the DeMarcus Cousins injury:
I saw that. I’m devastated for DeMarcus. I read about it on the way to practice. It’s been a couple years of hell for DeMarcus with injuries. First the Achilles and last year in the playoffs with the quad. I was really hoping that this would be a year for him upcoming with the Lakers where he could get healthy, get his rhythm, get his conditioning and really start his comeback. We’re all crushed for him. Everybody in this gym, all these fellow players and coaches, this is a small community. So, everybody’s been talking about it. We all reached out to him and we all just feel terrible for him.
Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)
How fast can you adjust to different coaching styles? Here you have Steve Kerr, you’ve got Pop so how quickly do you adjust to a different coach?
Pretty easily. I pick up on it pretty quickly. I’m a fast learner, I think. In high school I used to go to multiple schools and had different coaches, so I’m used to that. So, I’ve had a lot of coaches. But when you’re focused you can pick up on things quickly.
What are the main two differences between Steve Kerr and Pop?
I mean, they are both great basketball minds. Coach Pop is obviously one of the best to ever do it and Steve is too. He’s got the rings to show it. They both do. They’re both championship level competitors and I’ve learned a lot since being with these guys.
Anything specific that they’ve been emphasizing with you?
Defensive rebounding. That’s going to be my calling card with this team, and I think I’ve been showing that pretty well and doing it. Just trying to improve my overall game and I think they’ve been pleased so far.
The USA Select Team gave you guys a pretty good run yesterday. Did that give you guys any extra motivation today at practice?
Yeah for sure. For us, we’re going to be the hunted. That’s how it is every single year playing USA Basketball. This country is the cream of the crop for basketball. So, we have to realize that every single night, every single game, we’re going to be the hunted. So, we have to play like that.
Talk about getting the chance to be on this team?
It’s a dream come true. I never really thought I’d have the opportunity to do this growing up and coming from where I come. So just counting my blessing and enjoying being here and trying to make the most out of it.
Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
On finishing this part of training camp.
We’re feeling great. You know, spirits are definitely at a high. What I think is important is, regardless of x’s and o’s on the court and everything like that, the team is getting along so well and that is going to be so important coming into these games obviously here in in Anaheim and then Australia and China. It is a great group, and everyone gets along, and we have a great team dynamic.
On playing Spain tomorrow.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it is kind of like the beginning of the NBA season where you’ve been in training camp, you’ve been scrimmaging for a month and you’ve been beating each other up. So it is finally time to play against someone else and it’s definitely exciting and I think our guys are ready for it.
P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets)
There have been some special classes come up through USA Basketball. Do you feel that way about the 2017 guys?
Yes. For sure. These are the next guys and they’re proving it every day. Every day those guys come in and play hard, regardless of what everybody’s saying about the team. We’ve got a lot of really good young guys who are putting the work in. I think they’re going to surprise a lot of people throughout this process.
What did you make of yesterday’s scrimmage coverage?
Nobody gave the whole perspective of what happened. They just threw the score up and said, ‘they lost.’ It was two quarters after we’d been playing two hours. And they just come in fresh and everybody kind of … we played. We didn’t play a game. That was two quarters of practice and whatever. We come in today and nobody talked about it. We’re doing what we do, working hard and practicing. It doesn’t matter. It matters when the game starts. We’re just going to keep working and get to the point where we’re comfortable with each other and playing together and fighting for each other.
On the process of making the team.
Yeah, but I see all these guys, and everyone is coming in and working together getting better, individually and as a team. I think when you look at the roster and everyone is talking about who ain’t here, but you look at all these young guys a lot of these guys will be all-stars and have long great careers and it is just early. Kind of the same way KD (Kevin Durant) kind of came in early on you know what I’m saying? It is always like that. But I think it gives everybody a chance here who does make it to go and not (just) prove everybody wrong but kind of prove themselves right. Guys are supposed to be here, all these guys can play, everybody here can make the team and play on this team, but nobody is looking at it like that honestly. The competitiveness, everybody working hard together and kind of gelling together. It has been fun.
On your perceptions of teammates coming into camp.
Honestly, I swear all these guys are better than I realized. It is crazy, playing against people a couple times a year is one thing but when you get here and you’re working every day, or you see how these guys work. All these young guys like De’Aaron Fox is amazing, he is way better than I thought he was, not saying I didn’t think he was good, but he is really, really good. I play Donovan (Mitchell) all the time with Utah so I know how good he is, but he’s been really great. Jayson Tatum is great. All these guys, I’m serious, top to bottom, all these guys are really good, and they are really going to be great in their individual careers.
Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs)
On being out for a second week with USA Basketball:
It’s been great. I’m here with some of the best coaches around the NBA, around basketball, so as much as I can learn and soak up from the coaches, the players, I’ll use it to my advantage.
On the team’s comradery:
It’s going well. Everybody’s getting to know each other off the court, learning what they like to do on the court. It’s been good. Everybody’s joking around on the bus and stuff like that. It’s been real good.