2019 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Quotes
Gregg Popovich (USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach)
How did the team handle the flight and arrival?
Well, just like anyone else I would assume. They are human beings like everyone else, probably tougher on some than others. But, that’s why we came out to practice, just kind of shake it out, get rid of the airplane, go get a good meal.
How valuable can a travel experience like this be in terms of rounding out a player?
Well, that’s the essence of understanding player to player, especially from different countries. In Patty’s (Mills) case for instance, when we celebrate Mabo day, and everybody in the room, initially they look at each other, and they say, ‘What? What is that?’ And then they find out, and it moves you. It makes you feel closer to somebody. And as we all know in team sports, when you feel responsible to somebody, when you care about somebody, when you love somebody, when you have empathy for somebody, things go better. So, different experiences, different cultures has always been really important, and it makes for a better team.
On this team’s chemistry:
Well, you know, all we’ve really been able to do is go to dinner. We haven’t had that much time. Practices are pretty important, because they are so few. But, going to dinner and spending time off the court and just learning about them and their families. We don’t know their wives and girlfriends and children like we do our own teams back in the NBA. So, it’s a slow process, but we try to get a little bit more familiar every day.
It’s great. We go to dinner without phones, people actually talk to each other, ask questions and learn about how each other grew up, that sort of thing. Because it is a brand new basketball team, you have to start not skipping steps and trying to learn about people, and you get as far as you can in a short period of time.
How has it been for you having a brand new team?
We start at the beginning and try to figure out as quickly as we can what suits this particular group of players. Who are your go-to guys? Who understands this offense or that offense? What kind of defensive team can we be? You look at the players and figure that out as soon as you can, and then work at it. It’s kind of a quick study in a sense, because you don’t have a whole training camp and season, you just have a training camp. But the challenge is exciting, to tell you the truth. It’s a lot of fun, because you know you have to really concentrate and get things done quickly.
On playing two games in a (soccer) stadium in front of 50,000 people?
I think it is going to be like the old Houston-UCLA game a whole lot of years ago, when they had all those people there. Players, when they start, I don’t think they really feel that, but walking in and the whole aura of it I think is going to be very, very fun.
What are you expecting from Australia?
Exactly what I see every time they play. Coach Lemanis has them – they are relentlessly physically tough. They run their offense and execute it really well. That’s a team that loves each other, been playing together, experienced, and I would think that is going to continue. That is what they do.
What is it like coaching international basketball with FIBA rules?
It’s different. I’ve had to concentrate, because time outs aren’t the same, and substitutions aren’t the same and where you get the ball is different. I’m hoping I don’t screw that up too much.
Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks/Fresno, Calif.)
On playing with USA Basketball:
It has been a lot of fun. It is a good group of guys. They are all competitors, all out here to work hard, but everyone is unselfish and is a team player.
On playing alongside Milwaukee teammate Khris Middleton:
It’s special. It’s definitely unique. Obviously, having Khris on this team is such a huge benefit for Team USA. He does so many different things besides shooting the ball, scoring. He’s a huge boon defensively – great individual defender, great team defender. So, he is just the ultimate competitor.
On playing international basketball and its different style:
It’s been a lot of fun, especially playing with other bigs from other teams. We take a lot of pride in doing our jobs each and every practice and each and every game.
On the different rules:
It’s different. It’s something that we definitely have been drilling, though, trying to get used to it as much as possible. Obviously, we play one way for eight months out of the year, so we have to drill these rules as much as possible in the time we have.
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks/Charleston, S.C.)
On the game on Thursday versus Australia:
We definitely will get tested against a great Australia team, so it will be a good game for us to learn, see what we need to get better at as far as going forward.
Have you played in a soccer stadium, or in front of 50,000 people?
No, never. This definitely will be the most amount of people I’ve ever played in front of it. So, I’m excited about it. I’ve seen (the stadium) on TV. We are the road team, which is always fun to be playing on the road like that, with a crowd like it is going to be.
How has it been for you to be one of the leaders on this team?
It’s cool. There are a lot of great players. We all lean on each other for advice, how to play with one another, since we have never played on the same team before. But, it’s been great.
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Can you talk about how this camp can help you get ready for your upcoming season with the Jazz?
I think it will me in a lot of ways. I think for me just coming in and finding ways to learn from guys … guys who have been in the league longer than me. Obviously, I’m learning a lot from Coach Pop, Coach Kerr and the coaching staff. I’m asking a lot of question and just listening. That’s one thing that’s really helping me.
What are your expectations of the Australian team?
They’re going to be physical. Obviously with them playing at home against the U.S., it’s going to be a really competitive game. Just go out there and they are going to compete. We got to be able to match their intensity. These guys have played with each other for a very long time. Obviously, we haven’t played with each other as long, so we got to be able to match that and be ready for whatever comes.
What will it be like to go against your Jazz teammate, Joe Ingles?
I really don’t know. That’s the funny part. We joke a lot and goof off in practice and compete. I’m expecting a lot of trash talking from him, and I’m excited about it. I think we’ve been looking forward to this ever since I told him I was playing for the U.S. team, so I’m excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Like I said, just go out and challenge each other and make each other better.
Has (Ingles) told you about the basketball movement in this country?
He’s expressed to me how much it’s grown. Obviously, with rugby, that’s the big sport here but basketball is growing. You got guys like (Ingles), Patty Mills, (Andrew) Bogut, (Aron) Baynes … all those guys coming over and playing. I think there is a lot more fan support. The fact that we are playing, I think, in front of 50-60,000, that shows a lot in itself. That’s what I’m really excited about, playing against 50,000 fans who are a.) cheering against us, but b.) just enjoying the game of basketball, international basketball, and I’m really excited.
What are your thoughts on the NBL-NBA preseason competition that has been going on for three years?
I love it. I think not only playing basketball and competing but being able to play against guys from different countries, I think is what makes this game of basketball special. The goal is to win a championship, and to go out and win every game. I don’t think a lot of people sit here and reflect on what this game of basketball is doing. It’s bringing the world together. I’d never been to Australia, and I’m now here to play for team USA. Yes, I’m here to win gold but just to enjoy the fact that we’re here, playing in front of 60,000 fans, playing with some of the best players in the NBA and the world. I think that’s one thing really love about the game of basketball and the fact that the NBL is coming over to the US has been pretty special.
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics/St. Louis, Mo.)
How was the flight over?
Long. Longest flight I’ve been on, but I’m happy to be here.
What are you looking forward to the most outside of basketball?
I’ve been to China before. I’ve never been to Australia. Do a little sightseeing, I’ve got my family here. So, looking to go outside the hotel and do some fun things.
On having Celtics teammates alongside him:
It’s pretty cool. There is four of us on this team. Four of us get to embark on this journey together and build some real good chemistry for the season. Especially with Kemba, adding him to the Celtics, so should be fun.
What are you looking forward to most about playing at Marvel Stadium?
The atmosphere. We are going to have fun. It’s going to be exciting, very competitive. We are just looking to go out there, compete and have fun.
What do you know about Australian basketball in general?
Very tough. I played with Aron Baynes for two years with the Celtics, and he is one of my favorite guys to play with, favorite people. So, I’m excited to play against him for a change.
How helpful could this experience be for your development as a player?
It is very big, even practices. They are just as important to our development. We are competing against the best players in the league every day, and we are getting after it. Practice has been great, and we are just going to continue to get better.
What have you learned from coach Popovich already?
I’ve learned a lot. He’s obviously one of the greatest coaches of all time, so for me to get an opportunity to play for him, there is nothing more I could ask for.
Have there been difficulties on the court?
Just playing with USA, you got to play in a different way. You have to sacrifice, because you are playing with 11 great other players. So, we all got to sacrifice something for the bigger goal at hand.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
Being a leader of this team, how have you grown over this journey so far?
I’m just trying my best to get everyone a little bit better each and every day. Our camaraderie, our chemistry is building. It’s getting better each day. We just had a 17-hour flight out here. We are on a plane, joking, laughing, stuff like that. So, it’s been great. I am one of the older guys on this team, one of the guys who have been around a little bit longer than a lot of the other guys, so it’s fun. I’m just being myself, trying to bring energy, trying to bring the enthusiasm.
What does it mean to represent the United States?
It means the world to me. This is an honor for me to be a part of this USA team. I’ve always wanted to participate in this on this level of USA Basketball, and now I’m getting my opportunity, as well as these other guys especially the younger guys. We know a lot of the big-name guys pulled out, but it’s given the younger guys an opportunity to kind of showcase what they have. We’re all so excited to be here. This is something that we’ve all grew up watching, and we all grew up wanting to be a part of. It’s a blessing for us.
What kind of opponent are you expecting from this Australia team?
We know how good these guys are, how tough they are. They still have great players. We know Patty (Mills), (Matthew) Dellavedova, (Aron) Baynes – great players. These guys have been playing with each other for years as well. We expect a great game, a great challenge. We’re looking forward to it.
How important is it to get a win against Australia even though it’s only an exhibition game?
Right now, we are just focused on getting our stuff down pat: the things we work on in practice, our plays, our defensive schemes, rotations, things like that. We’re trying to clean those things up, get better with those things. Of course, we want to win. Both teams want to win, I’m sure. We’ll go out there and battle as much as we can, but the main goal right now is to get better game-by-game, day-by-day, practice-by-practice, leading up to China.