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2019 USA Basketball Men’s National Team Quotes

  • Date:
    Aug 8, 2019

USA head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
I noticed in the scrimmage part we saw that some of the bigs were not playing:
We sat two yesterday and two different ones today. Just to be able to get a better look at everybody. Doesn’t mean anything.
Have you decided if you were going to bring any select guys Los Angeles next week?
We will probably decide on that this afternoon and probably wait and give everybody another shot tomorrow night. We don’t want to do anything too early and take whoever from the USA team or the Select Team and put them on the team too early or anything like that. We want to give everybody a chance as long as we can. We are going to talk about it today, but I don’t think we’ll come to a decision until to see them all play tomorrow night.
What is your plan for the format tomorrow night?
They’ll be two teams and each team will be mixed. It will not be USA team against Select.
How have you worked with the players in these sessions getting them used to the international game?
We are running drills and working at it. Like the shell drills we ran today we had to get everybody in the lane because we aren’t used to it. There isn’t any defensive three seconds, so you just drill it. Some things you don’t have an opportunity to take care of until you get there. Most things that we’ve seen in the past we will work on before we get there. We’ve all watched all the teams and all the games through the last Olympics. Coach Van Gundy is in charge of the scouting for right now, so he’s got people out looking at the teams now as they prepare, and we’ll be as ready as we can be.
Does he (Van Gundy) go to the exhibition games?
He’s like the central depository so to speak. We’ve got guys, somebody is in China, somebody in Australia to see games and to send reports back. He and Will Hardy will work on putting reports together on the opponent and they’ll give them to us, and the coaching staff will sit down and figure it out as best we can, and we’ll present to the team. That’s the process.
How much are you paying attention to other team rosters?
At this particular moment, not much. I’ve got a lot to do with my own roster so that’s where my focus is. You’re always looking at their rosters and deciding who would play against whom and it also helps you pick your teams because you know who is on the other team. You’re pretty much guessing the top five, six, seven or eight are but it helps you decide. You’ve got to look at their lineups, but I can’t think about what they are running as an offense or defense yet. There is time for that.

Jerry Colangelo, USA Men’s National Team managing director
Would you take 15 or 16 to Australia?
I told Pop he can take as many as he wants. We know we are going to have a few extra in LA for sure.  How many we go with from there, it’s open.
So, you will figure out after LA the number you will bring?
Like I say, most of the time someone makes that decision for us.
Anybody surprise you?
One way or the other? I think (Derrick) White has been very, very good.  What a story that is.  You talk about his journey. He is a very unique player. He’s got a gait to him. He’s got interesting floaters in the lane.  He’s sly. A good passer, impressive.

Jeff Van Gundy, USA Select Team head coach
Have you been told to throw certain things at the USA National Team?
Some zone, yeah. Just trying to give them an idea of what they’re going to be playing against a little bit. So, that’s the thing about international basketball, there are no illegal defenses. You face a lot more varying defenses (internationally).

How do you teach that?
You try to teach them as well as you can. But they’re fine. They’re smart. This is their job. If you can’t pick up a two-three zone, then it’s time to go.

The team is going to Anaheim and then to Australia before going got China.  Would you say the heavy lifting will be done here or will there still be the spirited, strenuous practices?
It all depends on how far they come.  Certainly, there is a lot of work to be done in LA so we will see.  Pop will make those decisions on how hard we need to go depending on travel and things like that.
Jalen Brunson (Dallas Mavericks)
What about all these guards here and going up against guys like Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker?
It’s great to just go against NBA talent.  I mean no matter who it is you try to perform your best and try to play hard.  You come out here and do what you do and play your best.
De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings)
You feel like you have a pretty good understanding about what’s coming up this weekend?
I don’t’ know. I hope I get that call to go to LA and compete with this team, but I go out there and play to the best of my abilities and try and be a playmaker and the chips fall where they may.
What has been the most encouraging sign this weekend?
Just the way the coaches have been on me.  Telling me what they want me to do, be more aggressive. A lot of times I’m playing what they want, but they tell me sometimes to just be myself. Play the way we want you to play, but still be yourself.  That’s kind of the big thing they told me this week.
I know yesterday your shooting kind of bothered you and you stayed here late.  What were you trying to work on?
Just trying to get accustomed to the ball.  All the coaches are telling us to shoot at the white line because we are accustomed to shooting at the last line we see.  The international line is a little bit closer so just trying to get accustomed to shooting at that because in the NBA technically that is a bad shot and not many people actually shoot that shot so just trying to get use to that line.
Overall for you and Harrison and Marvin to experience all this, how big is it going into next season?
It’s definitely great.  A lot of people ask about how your body is going to feel and stuff like that.  Everybody that I have asked about USA Basketball has been like after they go back to their teams everybody feels like they are 10 times better than what they were before they had the experience.  I felt like it was a great opportunity for me, and I wanted to take advantage of it.

Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)
Have you picked up on a growth in the team over the past few days of scrimmaging?
Oh, for sure. Today was a bright spot for our team. Starting on the defensive end is where you can really see the cohesiveness and chemistry really building. Today we did a great job of trusting each other and that is going to continue to build over time.

Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks)
What have you taken away from the scrimmages this week?
The team’s camaraderie already impressed me from Day 1, and to see the level of improvement in that area the past three days has been pretty astounding to me. On court, offensively with the basketball stuff, we’ll obviously work hard but I think that stuff is going to take care of itself with us having the intelligent, talented guys that we have. It’s also important for us to come together off the court, as well.

Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
When they approached you about team USA what made you want to commit?
It’s a no brainer for me.  The time to represent your country.  It’s been a dream since watching the Olympics in ’96, or probably 2000, staying up late and waking up early in the morning to watch those games.  It’s what it’s all about.

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
You’ve been around a lot of big name coaches over the past week. What kind of advice and what kind of impact have they had on you?
I’ve really tried to pick their brains as far as running the point, especially. I’m trying to figure out how to be a better overall player whether it’s my approach to the game or whether it’s a decision I make in the game offensively or defensively.

Jason Tatum (Boston Celtics)
What’s been better, going up against the USA Select Team or guys on the USA National Team pushing each other to be better?
Both, because we’re all fighting for a spot on the roster. And then we’ve got the select team coming over to help make us better. It’s been competitive throughout.

What are you learning from getting to play with some of these guys out here, especially your new teammate in Kemba Walker?
It’s a lot of fun, especially playing with Kemba and getting some early chemistry. Being out there and playing with him has been fun.

What’s it like playing with the smaller FIBA ball?
Yeah, it’s a different basketball. But I used it when I was in high school on (USA Basketball) junior teams, so I’m used to it.

Have you been working on FIBA rules?
We’ve been practicing with them all week. It’s still a learning process, but we’ll figure it out.

P. J.  Tucker (Houston Rockets)
Have you seen the growth of the team from scrimmage to scrimmage this week?
More than anything is how comfortable everyone is starting to get, starting to learn what Pop wants and how he wants us to play. Guys are getting more aggressive on defense now, picking spots, learning not to foul, the little things. For the young guys it’s big because they are so athletic and play so fast.

Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
Can you see improvement over the past couple of days with this group?
Yeah, with both groups. The select group is getting more comfortable. They really gave it to us the first couple of days, but I think today we settled in more. We’re getting to learn each other a lot more. So, with our group, we did a much better job today taking command from the jump.

Is it hard to try to prepare as a team and build chemistry and then having guys trying to make the team at the same time?
It’s only as tough as you make it. I think that everybody out here is out here with the same goal. Everybody’s pulling for each other right now. These couple of days are tough so you’re really relying on each other to get through. It’s been good because we’ve got a good group.

On many of the players coming up through the USA Basketball junior ranks:
It’s a rite of passage to be able to come up from high school to the select to the national and the Olympic group. It’s kind of a ‘pay your dues’ thing.

Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
Is it hard to try to prepare as a team and build chemistry and then having guys trying to make the team at the same time?
Not really. It can be. Because you don’t want to do too much or something like that, you’re trying to please coach. But at the end of the day you just have to be yourself and just play basketball. I think that’s what guys are doing. These guys are doing a great job. We’re trying our best to figure out our roles on the team. Pop is doing a great job as well in kind of letting us know our roles.

A lot of players have said they’ve always wanted to play for Pop. Was that something you’ve wanted as well?
Of course. No question. I would have come regardless, no question. But of course, I wanted to play for Pop. Pop is a legendary coach. My ex-coach (James) Borrego, he came through Popovich and I’ve heard so many great things about Pop from him. So, yeah. This is an honor.

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