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Gregg Popovich, Donovan Mitchell

2019 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Quotes

  • Date:
    Aug 5, 2019

Jerry Colangelo (USA National Team managing director)
On Harrison Barnes
His experience is a factor, in terms of making final determinations as to who will be on the roster. It will be a group of guys who will put us in the best position to win. That’s the whole purpose. So, he has that experience working for him.

On the talent at the camp, despite the athletes who dropped out, and looking forward to showing people that this is not a transitional year:
I do. I’ve said that we’re going to be fine and by that what I really meant is that we’re blessed with a lot of depth in USA Basketball. All of the players here want to be here, there’s no question about it. And that’s a big part of the battle itself. And so, when you look at the enthusiasm, the youth, the athleticism and versatility, that’ll really work well for us because our depth will be a factor. These are not ‘C’ players. You’ve heard a lot of criticism about who isn’t here, and I keep repeating that it’s about who is here. There’s some really good talent and it’s going to be difficult getting to a 12-man roster when you really think about it. So, every day is important to these players and I would say today’s effort was terrific. We had a great first day of practice.  Certain individuals did an outstand job. Overall, it was terrific.

On players such as De’Aaron Fox moving up from the USA Select Team to the USA National Team pool?
Well, it’s happened before. It’ll probably happen a lot more in the future. It’s just the nature of our business right now. When players can come for the select group and move up, that’s encouraging for them that they have a legitimate chance. If you look at the history of USA Basketball, in ’08 we had 12 players when we won the gold medal in China and in ’10 we had 12 different players and four of those young players, (Kevin) Durant, (Derrick) Rose, (Russell) Westbrook and (Stephen) Curry all went on to be MVPs, but they were 21-, 22-year-old guys at the time. So, some of the young players here are in that same boat. They have the opportunity to showcase … Donovan Mitchell, (Kyle) Kuzma, Fox, whoever they may be, it’s kind of exciting. Because, if you’re looking at them today, on the first day, there’s a lot of good talent here.  I’m very optimistic about how well we’re going to be because of the talent, the attitude and because of how they shot the lights out here on the very first day of training camp.

USA head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
It was a high energy and spirited day of practice.
This is a wonderful group. I thought they were very excited. Very upbeat and played very well on the first day after summertime. I was impressed with the group.

This team has evolved a lot more a bit over the last month and what has that been like? 
I don’t even worry about that. I only care about who is here. I’ve got a fine group of guys and we are going to try and get them to form the best possible team we can.

Have you talked to them (players) about what it means to have USA on the front of their shirt?
We do it every day. This is what it is all about. This is beyond playing for an NBA team. This is the highest level you can be, and it means so much for all of these guys down the road when they’re retired from all basketball. This is the most satisfying form of putting a bunch of guys together and them having empathy and love for each other to form the kind of team that they are going to have to have to beat some very good European teams.

What is the goal for this week?
Our goal is to get better every single day and take advantage of every practice and every minute we’re together to form a good group. With so many teams that have played together for so long and with us not having played together we have to take advantage of every practice. So, it’s just a matter of trying to get better every day and hopefully that will serve us well.

This is a pretty accomplished group of players you have, are you doing teaching during these practices or kind of trying to turn them into a cohesive unit? 
Well, it’s a little bit of both actually because you can’t help but teach here or there but your comment about cohesive unit is the most important point so that they are a team and they know how to react in different situations.

You are going to go out in the world to multiple countries with USA on your chest. As part of your preparation have you thought about that responsibility and communicated that to the players?
Of course, we have and of course I have and it’s something I will continue to do.

Something you’ve talked to them about? Brought up today?
We already brought it up last night. It’s our responsibility to not only become the best team we can be but it’s the way we conduct ourselves and the USA on our shirt is what it’s all about. It’s beyond the Hawks and the Spurs and the Clippers and so on. That takes a backseat to this because we are representing a lot of people and we have a huge responsibility not only for the country, to do this in a classy manner, but to continue the success that USA Basketball has had for the last 12 years. That’s a big responsibility.

De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)
How big was it for you to get the call about being in the mix for the USA World Cup Team?
It was great. Of course, I had some questions about the camp and everything that goes on with USA Basketball, not having done something like this since I was in high school. It was definitely great. It’s an honor for me to be here and an honor to be able to compete for one of these spots.

What do you want to get out of this over the next couple of weeks?
Just to get a different understanding of the game. I talked with everybody in our organization, especially Luke, and he was saying every player that he’s either played with or coached who went to USA Basketball has come back much better, a lot better of a leader, so that’s what I want to get out of this. Of course, if I make the team, help the team win a gold medal.

On having several members of his high school and NBA Draft class in the mix for the USA World Cup Team:
It’s great. It is great. Just seeing our draft class and Jason (Tatum), my graduation class out of high school, it’s cool to see my peers being able to do this and achieve a lot of things together. It just shows how good our draft class was.

How much did you think this could be a possibility?
I wasn’t really thinking about it honestly. Being on the select team, that’s what I was expecting, come in here and work for a week. Play against the guys who are competing for a spot on the team and just finishing the rest of my summer. My agent’s getting married September 1, and I was planning on going to that. But he was like, ‘Go do that. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’ It could change the rest of my summer.

Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)
Question unintelligible:
I just want to be a great player. I don’t like to sit out; I like to play basketball. It’s my life. So, for me to have the opportunity to play for USA Basketball and have a chance to go and win a medal, you can’t beat that. You don’t get that opportunity all the time.

On playing for USA head coach Gregg Popovich:
He’s my favorite coach of all time. Growing up, I’m a hoops junkie, watching a lot of the Spurs teams and he’s won. He’s won at every level he’s been at. So, to be here and learn, to be around him, it’s really great.

What are you hoping to learn here from Pop? 
A little bit of everything. He’s been around the game for years and years and years, so I want to be a sponge. Not just Pop, we have Jay Wright here, Steve Kerr, so many great coaches. To learn from everyone is going to help me out tremendously.

Having the 15 players you have out here, does it make practice more competitive?
It’s going to be competitive regardless. We’re a competitive group. We have a lot of great players, a lot of young players that really want it and get after it. So, it’s super-competitive for sure.

How many guys out here are your familiar with?
A lot of young guys, playing in Rising Star games, being around the same class, being around the guys like, Donovan (Mitchell), JT (Jason Tatum), Jaylen Brown, all those guys.

How important is that familiarity when you only have a few weeks together?
We have a few weeks, about a six-week commitment. For us it’s all about getting that camaraderie right now and being able to gel in time for China.

What are your goals individually and as a team over the next few weeks?
To improve. I like to try to improve every day and as a team, obviously, it’s to win. That’s the standard that USA Basketball has put out for the longest time.

Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics)
How did you feel when you got the call to come and be a part of this?
I know it’s cliché, but every athlete always dreams of representing their country and representing something bigger than themselves. We’re all here and we’re all blessed to get that call. We’re just happy to be here, and it’s a good feeling.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind about being out here this week?
Business. This is a business trip for us all. We’re going to have fun, we want to have fun, we’re going to enjoy each other. But we came down here knowing that we had to do something, something greater than ourselves.

What are your goals for this week, both as an individual and as a team?
First, I want to make the team. And two, to show the different aspect that people probably don’t see from me, individually, and from each other. We’re not big-time name guys, a lot of us. And we understand that. Guys are seeing all these other guys dropping out and … we want to go out there and prove everyone wrong.

Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
As one of the leaders on this team, what are you trying to bring to the group?
I am one of the leaders? (laughter). I didn’t hear that. I’m happy to be here. I’m one of the older guys so I’m trying to have fun, bring energy, bring enthusiasm and show some leadership. 

To play for your country is like a once in a lifetime opportunity for a lot of us. This is a chance to get on the big stage and showcase our talents.

Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Why was it important for you to wear this USA jersey?
It’s all about representing your country. Not a lot of people get to put on these three letters and play a sport. To be here is a huge accomplishment and an honor.

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Does it feel odd that so many NBA players are stars on their own team yet feel they have something to prove here?
I think that’s what makes basketball fun. At times we all have something to prove during the NBA season. This isn’t anything different for guys like myself. We have to be ready to come out there and be ready to compete and play. Kyle (Kuzma), De’Aaron and myself have been pushing each other since we were 16.

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