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Quotes: USA Men's National Team 102, Australia 86

  • Date:
    Aug 22, 2019

Gregg Popovich (USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach)
Opening statement:

It was a physical game, the competitiveness was great on both ends. I thought the Boomers run some hellacious offense, really hard to guard. They do a great job moving and cutting. Coach Lemanis has got them at a high level in that regard. We’ll watch the film, and I think we’ll learn a lot from what we had to guard tonight. I give them a lot of credit, really impressive

Do you feel your defense improved through the course of this evening?
It did. We got used to the physicality and changed up a couple a things, and we had some guys that did a good job. Myles Turner came in and gave us a big punch there. He was great. Obviously, Kemba (Walker) in the pick-and-roll is pretty tough to guard. So, we’re learning what we should be running offensively and what we should be doing based on our personnel. We’re obviously not an experienced team. These guys have never played together, so I think they’re doing a really good job of trying to come together quickly and learn about each other.

Talk about the end of the second quarter, and the run that the Aussies made:
Our transition defense was poor, and they got three 3s in a row and that’s what happen down the stretch in the second quarter. I think they scored 12 points in two-and-a-half minutes and three of those buckets we those 3s.

Speaking of transition defense, is that just something with communication with guys, guys that haven’t played together?
Sure. Every coach moans and groans about transition defense. It’s a game of mistakes. But our communication wasn’t great in the first half in transition, better in the second half. But one thing we did do was board the whole game. We hit the boards hard, and that’s been a little bit of a problem for us. So, it was nice to see us do well in that regard tonight.

What was it like to coaching in front a crowd like that?
It felt like I was in a movie, like as in a movie set. I kept looking behind me, because I knew I was going to fall off the stage. And then I’m talking to my coaches down there, I don’t know what is going on. It was just a really weird coaching situation in that regard. But, once the ball goes up, you sort of pay attention to what is going on there and don’t worry about that so much. The weirdest thing was walking down; it felt like I was on a runway at an Armani deal. All the way down and everybody’s hands are out, and if you don’t hit all their hands, then they think you are a jerk. So, you are going up and down the aisle thing. That was weird. I’m not built for that.

On the third quarter run:
One of our big mantras has been composure and poise. Things are going the other way in some games, and the way you respond to that is really the measure of how you are going to do. So, that was a real downer, the end of the second quarter. I think what were we up, 10, 11, 12? I can’t remember. And all the sudden, it was basically a one-point game. So, to come out in the third quarter with that sort of focus was impressive and tells me a lot about the group.

On Kemba Walker; how do you see him as an extension of you on the court?
That’s what he is. You just described it. That is what he does.

Do you feel like your team is getting closer and closer to being able to swarm other teams defensively?
We feel we have a long way to go, that we can improve a lot, because we are so new with each other. But, we know that defense and rebounding is our ticket to being successful in this tournament. If we don’t do that, we won’t be successful.

What do you think Australia has to do to beat the USA?
I can only coach one team at a time.

Coach Lemanis has taken some criticism for his roster selection. What are your thoughts on putting together a team in this situation?
Everybody knows the answers for sports and politics, right? We all know that. But, that’s the universal truth, that basketball teams at this level are not made up of all-stars, or you are going to lose. But, there is probably some mom or dad who thinks their kid should be on the team, because he is an all-star. Coach Lemanis is smart enough to know it’s the way people fit, and he’s done a good job of that.

On Patty Mills:
That’s Patty. I’m so happy he’s on my team back in the NBA. But playing him here, he’s a real pain in the ass. He is. He moves. He cuts. He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s a pain in the ass.

What did you tell Patty after the game?
I just tried to intimidate him (joking). Tell him that, you want a contract, let’s talk. Make a deal here, because you are not going to play like that against us. He’s lovely young lad, you know that.

Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
What were your thoughts on the atmosphere tonight, playing in front of 50,000+ people?

It was an amazing experience, because of how unique is. There is a couple of guys on the team who played in the Final Four, and that’s the only thing that’s really comparable. To be out here in a foreign place, to play in a unique setting like that, it was an amazing experience.

Was getting the opportunity to start a good way for you to get going early?
At the end of the day, we are all competing and trying to do what we can to help the team win.  That’s all that matters. We’re out here to continue the rich tradition of USA Basketball, and at the end of the day, we’re just competing, busting our (butt) trying to get wins, and that’s all that matters.

What was different the second half that allowed the team to get on the run and put the game away?
In the second half, we just did a better job moving the ball. The ball offensively got a bit stagnant on us in the first half. It was sticking a little bit, staying on one side. But, we did a better job getting the ball moving, and then defensively we just kept ramping that up a notch.  Obviously, we have the luxury of having so much depth that there’s tons of energy. First half, second wave, third wave, we just keep coming and keep coming, and our defense led our offense a little bit more in the second half.

Kyle Kuzma  (Los Angeles Lakers)
On the game:
I think it was a good game, being able to finish it off. We did a pretty good job defensively and got the win.

How does tonight impact the second game against Australia on Sunday?
We need to make a few adjustments, a few mistakes that we had. Obviously, they are going to make adjustments, and we just got to react to those.

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
What were your thoughts on how the team played tonight, particularly the third quarter?
Hats off to Australia. Give them credit. They played really well. They went on a huge run to end the second (quarter). You can feel that chemistry that they have with each other being able to move without the ball, the backdoor passes. I think Bogut had a behind-the-back pass. Just that chemistry they have. We have guys that are just starting to play with each other. We got off to a little bit of a rough start in the first half, but the third quarter is where we really picked it up defensively, and we did what we were supposed to do.

What does it feel like when it clicks in like that for you guys?
We feel like we can be unstoppable if we play like that for 40 minutes. That’s the feeling if we can continue to build and build upon that. Not saying we are there yet. We got a long way to get there, but we’re in good shape.

Did Joe (Ingles) try any trash talk tonight?
He tried a little bit. He tried hitting me and nudging me, but I got him once. I got him with a little slap. It’s all fun and it’s all part of it. This is a blessing to be here and be part of this. It’s been incredible.

What’s it been like to play here against so many guys you see during the season?
It makes it easier on the scouting report, I’ll tell you that. Coming to a different country, you keep it all in perspective. You’re over here to win the gold and to win games, but (you) really need to keep it in perspective. We’re playing in front of 55,000 people. That’s incredible. Not many people can say that in the world, so that’s really at the end of the day what I’m looking back at. Obviously, you want to win games, but playing guys you play in the NBA and then playing overseas, it’s incredible.

Are you ready for the Boomers to come back at you Saturday?
For sure. They have pride, and they’re a very talented team, and I think we just got to be ready for them to push back. I think we did a lot of things that took them out of their offense. We just got to be ready to execute and do the same thing on Saturday.

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
On the game:
It was an incredible atmosphere, unique experience.

On what players he has been enjoying playing with:
Besides the guys that I play with on the Celtics, it’s cool to play with Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma, guys that I got drafted with. Khris Middleton, somebody I played against a lot earlier in my career, especially in the playoffs. Mason Plumlee, he went to Duke, so it’s just cool having these connections.

Will you incorporate any parts of their games into yours?
Yeah. We all compete against each in practice every day I’m learning and just trying to get better.

Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
On the game:
I think we are getting better and better. That’s the whole thing. We got to make strides. We have to do what we have to do day in and day out, and we are getting there.

How does tonight impact the second game against Australia on Sunday?
It definitely changes everything, because they kind of see what we are about, what we do. We just have to be ready for them.

How do you think the team executed?
There’s definitely a lot to work on. We got to work on finishing games better, moving the ball better and cutting our turnovers down. So, there is a lot of stuff we got to work on, but it all comes with time.

On his role with the team:
My role is to go out there and just be a force on defense and get on the board. The biggest thing for me is getting rebounds and going out there and doing whatever the team needs me to do.

Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
What were you seeing in those pick-and-roll reads tonight?
Coach Pop, all the other coaches, are just telling me to be aggressive. The big was pretty far back, so we just wanted our bigs to get a small piece of the guards. I was trying to get to my spot as much as possible, which is the mid-range spot. I was able to knock it down a few times.

What was it like to play in front of so many people tonight?
It was amazing. It was an amazing time. I’m super excited to even have the opportunity to play in front of that many people. It was a blessing.

What did you think of Pop’s hustle on that loose ball?
Oh, man. That’s our leader right there. We got to follow that. It was great hustle. The crowd went nuts, too. It was great.

On playing with such athletic wings:
They just make the game easy for me. You know, I don’t have to do too much, just get rid of the basketball. We are preaching not holding the basketball too long. So, it’s really fun to be able to play with guys like Donovan Mitchell and Jay Tatum and Jaylen Brown – guys who can make plays for me. I don’t have to be out there making all the plays, so that’s pretty exciting.  

Do you feel like your team is getting closer and closer to being able to swarm other teams defensively?
I do. And, that’s something that we are trying our best to take pride in. I know for myself, as one of the leaders, I’m trying my best to be out there setting the tone from the jump ball. But, yeah, just like Pop said. That’s going to be our ticket. That’s going to be what gets us over the hump. Defensively, we just have to be monsters. We have to.

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