2019 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Quotes
USA National Team Quotes
August 7, 2019
USA head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
What is it like to look around today and have Coach K here….
And Spencer Haywood (1968 Olympic gold medalist)!
There are just so many basketball minds in this room. What has this experience been like for you?
We were anxious to get Coach K into town and spend a couple of days. I’ve already talked to him, as you might imagine, and gotten advice. But to have him here see this scrimmage and we can go back, and I’ll talk about what we think needs to happen. Having him here to have that added experience is invaluable. There is a lot of basketball people here. I’m learning a lot every day. You get to listen to all these guys and we make decisions.
What’s the balance right now between installing, getting a team ready to play and alongside that constant evaluation process and figuring out who belongs out here?
They have to happen simultaneously. The guys deserve that. The guys wanted to be here. They came. They deserve to have us evaluate properly and give them enough time to show what they can do. But at the same time, we’re looking to see if they can fit in to what the team will have to do in a short period of time to play teams that have been together a very long time and execute so well. Both dynamics have to happen at the same time.
Taking over this program is this something you’ve always wanted to do? Did you think that it wouldn’t come?
The thing I always wanted to do was be on the Olympic team and play. That was always my dream. I got cut in ’72. So that was a dream, but you don’t sit down and say I’d love to coach the Olympic team on day. When asked you don’t’ refuse for sure. Especially when it’s Jerry Colangelo asking. He’s got a way about it.
At this point in your career you don’t need to prove anything. Did you have to think long and hard about coaching this team? It’s not an easy yes.
I thought about it. I met with Mr. Colangelo. I took a little bit of time. We talked several times. I know what it’s like. I was there as an assistant in ’02 and ’04. Those were not happy gigs. So, I knew what I was getting into but it’s your country. You say yes. You man up and try to surround yourself with as much brain power as you can and then go forward.
USA assistant coach Steve Kerr (Golden State Warriors)
Through these three days, have you seen where tough decisions will have to be made to pare down the roster? Where do you think the toughest decisions will have to be made?
They’re all tough, all tough. There’s a roster full of guys that are really good players, or they wouldn’t be here. Cutting players is always hard, even in a training camp. Every year we bring guys into camp who we know are who we know aren’t going to make the team, and they know they aren’t going to make the team. Yet to sit down with them and say this is it, it’s brutal.
We’re going to have to do that with a handful of players here and it’s going to be even more difficult because they’ve all cut time out of their summers to come here and try to play for their country. Everyone wants to be part of it, but we can only take twelve, so it’s going to be tough.
Before Sunday, how much prep did the coaches do together as a staff?
We met in San Antonio about a month ago at the coaches’ meetings and talked about stuff.
What kind of preparation was that? More about style of play?
Everything, everything. What kind of player we were looking for, what our roster was shaping up to be, the difference with International and FIBA rules, what our roles were going to be for the staff, and we’ve all be in contact since then with calls and texts. So, we got a good head start before we got here and we had time on Saturday and Sunday to get everything squared away as well.
De’Aaron Fox (USA Select Team) (Sacramento Kings)
How’s it going so far?
Played with more pace today, which is something coach has been on me about. Playing with pace and getting into the paint, making guys come and help and be able to create for others.
Do you feel like you’ve made this team?
I don’t think anything is set in stone. I’m coming out here and playing to the best of my abilities and trying to help the team. If I do make it, God willing, I’ll go out and try to help the team win.
When you were told you’d be moving off the USA Select Team to the USA National Team, what was your reaction?
Definitely grateful. It was an honor to be one of the guys to move up and I want to take full advantage of it.
Jaren Jackson Jr. (USA Select Team) (Memphis Grizzlies)
How has it been for you to be out here with USA Basketball again?
It’s great. It’s kind of nostalgic, because I’ve been around these guys for so many years and we played USA Basketball when we were younger. So, seeing all of us now in the NBA, it’s great.
How much are you learning from Jeff Van Gundy?
You learn that mentality is half the battle. You can’t really go into anything with a soft mentality and little things really do matter. The little things that you do and the habits that you build really translate over to the game, so you want to make sure you do them in practice so in the game it comes easy.
Guys in the past have been on the USA Select Team and a year or two later are on the USA National Team. Is that something you’re striving for?
It’s always the main goal. You want to play overseas with USA Basketball, you want to make a difference for the country. So, you just have to keep working at it.
Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)
Coming from Flint, Michigan, did you ever imagine you’d be here with USA Basketball?
You always think you’re going to be in the NBA, but you don’t really think about being with USA. That just comes along with a successful journey. For me, all my hard work’s paid off.
Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
It’s only been three days, but has anyone stood out to you?
Just as a team, the camaraderie has really stood out to me. And the select team’s camaraderie has really stood out to me. I think the select team has been really special, too. They’ve been coming out, giving it their all each and every game. They really gave it to us yesterday and they haven’t backed down. That’s going to be huge in helping us prepare and get ready for the World Cup.
What improvements did you make today over the USA Select Team after yesterday’s scrimmage?
We came out with the right mentality. We realized what happened yesterday, so we came out trying to be more aggressive, be tougher and not make things as easy for them.
Who on the select team has impressed you?
There’s been a lot of guys. Derrick White and Trae Young have both been impressive in leading the teams, being the floor generals at such a young age. A lot of the bigs, Mitchell Robinson, Jarret Allen, they’ve really impressed me as well. And then, I’m a little impartial, but I feel Pat Connaughton, my guy Pat, he’s done a great job of going out there, bringing energy, not backing down, shooting the ball, playing defense and just doing the things that he does.
Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets)
What did you work on today?
We put in some more stuff on offense. I think guys played a little more free today. There’s definitely some willingness from this group to do what the coaches want and get organized. Today we were just aggressive and played.
Any pressure to get upset by the USA Select Team?
I don’t think there’s pressure. I just think that it’s a focus on trying to play the way Pop wants us to play. Once it becomes natural and once it becomes instinctive, we’ll be a better team for it.
What have you shown to the coaches so far this week?
A willingness to do what they need when I’m on the floor, get guys open if they can shoot, get on the boards, play defense, the things you need from the big men.
Is there anything out there in practice where you feel a need to improve?
I think the one thing that is helpful is we played the Spurs in the playoffs and Pop wants to play a certain way so understanding that is helpful.
The last two days of scrimmages what kind of improvements have you seen from yesterday to today?
There is a willingness to do what the coaches want so there was a bit of hesitation yesterday. Today the guys were playing more free, being aggressive, attacking, a little more pick and roll on offense but we’ll get better day-to-day.
You’re a guy that knows what this tournament means. How important it is and what it takes to get to where you want to go? When you are in this locker room all the talk has been about all the guys that declined to come and not as much as the guys that are here. What can you say about this group and what you can do?
We can win the whole thing. It’s not about who’s not here like you said it’s about who is here, and we like our group, we like our staff and that’s who we got.
How’s the intensity been three days in?
It’s high, it’s good, guys are locked in and focused. The scrimmages have been good and there has been improvement day to day and that’s all you can ask for.
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) is here for a couple of days does that add to this overall experience?
Of course. The more time I get with coach the better. I only had a year with him, I’m always thankful to have his approval and get his thoughts.
Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
What does it mean to you that the USA is going for a third straight (World Cup) gold medal?
There’s not a lot of talk about what we have as a group. We have young guys, a very talented group at that. The fact that we were chosen to come here and represent the USA means a lot.
Three days in, where do you feel the roster is at?
We still have a long way to go here as we’ve never really played with each other before. Some of the world teams have been together for a while now so we are trying to establish that same chemistry. We are all NBA players so we should be able to adapt quickly.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
What do you feel you are bringing to this team?
I am trying to bring the energy. Bringing enthusiasm and excitement and trying to be as positive as possible. I am one of the older guys on the team, but you know I am not trying to overdue the leadership thing, but if anyone asks me for some type of advice or voice my opinion I will, but for the most part whatever Pop wants me to do for the team is what I will do.
Over the past couple days have you guys had any bonding moment? I know you spoke about how important it is to mesh off the court.
We eat together right after practice. We ride the bus together. We are always talking and trying our best to try and learn each other as much as possible. Especially out here we are constantly communicating and trying to get better each and every day.
Do you have a favorite Team USA moment?
Its Carter’s dunk. The dunk over a 7-footer. That’s easily my favorite moment.
Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls)
How special is this experience for a veteran like yourself?
Anytime you can represent your country and put on that jersey with USA on the chest it’s huge, especially for me. I’m going into my 13th season and to have this opportunity I need to take advantage of it.