Quotes: USA Men's National Team 90, Spain 81
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USA head coach Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
It was a good chance to jump into the fire and see what this is all about. It was like a baptism for us. It’s a new group, players, coaches, all that sort of thing. It was real experience.
Even though it is just an exhibition, how does this build comradery and help guys prepare to come back in situations like the second half where there was a critical moment or two?
There were a lot of situations that were tough this evening. The win or the loss is pretty unimportant this time. It’s more about getting better, getting together, the group learning to execute together. I thought the Spanish team was just astounding with all the offense they ran, the way they execute, with the way they read each other. You can really see the experience. We hope we can get close to something like that offensively and it’s going to be difficult to do in a short time. But it was a great example for us to see that. I was most pleased with us defensively. I thought we did a good job for a new group, communicating with each other. We rebounded well. We hadn’t done that too consistently. I thought we had a good effort and everybody on board tonight.
Will you make cuts here or bring all 14 guys to Australia?
All 14 are going to Australia.
What stat is most indicative of a Gregg Popovich coached team?
I never really hung my hat on a stat because they all come together. You could do one thing really poorly, like tonight we gave up 27 points off turnovers. That’s ridiculous. But we ended up winning because we played pretty good defense. So, it changes from game to game. It could be rebounding, it could be assists, taking contested shots, transition defense, it could be any of those things. But at the same time, if you knock down threes and you can win games if do poorly in other facets of the game. So, I’ve never thought about looking at a stat sheet and deciding that one thing. Do they have plus-minus on these like in the NBA? I’ve never looked at that because you don’t know who is in the game at certain times. And you could have a weak lineup or someone who played badly and helps somebody else get a negative game. That’s the last thing I look at if I do.
Coach you had said after the last scrimmage that if the team shoots 41 percent from 3 you’ll take it. The team shot 58 percent from three tonight. Can you talk about if that is more indicative of the style of the international game or if there is something special going on with this team?
No, I think everybody all over the world is used to shooting threes. The game has changed in that direction. It doesn’t matter what country you are from, people are shooting threes. Everybody wants to get them up. We’re going to need to a better job. And some of the threes, a decent number, came off of turnovers. So, we’ve got to make sure we sure that up to some degree. We didn’t really shoot enough tonight. We actually wanted to shoot more than what we did.
There are pros and cons to whichever way you do it. What appealed to you about bringing all 14 guys to Australia?
It seemed like the right thing to do.
Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo
I think it was a pretty good game, given the circumstances. It was a friendly game. There’s still a couple of weeks before the World Cup starts. There were good things, bad things. They outrebounded us pretty hard, this was probably a big key (in) our opponent’s win, let alone their talent, let alone their athleticism. But I won’t go back home unhappy. I think we did some good things, especially get off some fear, or understood throughout the game that we had to play with some physicality. And when we did it, we did pretty good things. So, again, congrats to U.S. team, of course they are the best team in the competition, the best team in the world. I think we competed. We did a pretty good job and we have a base to build up now.
Marc Gasol (Akasvayu Girona, Spain)
Like coach said, obviously their physicality was shown in the rebounding area. It was good to see the level and the standard that they (saw) physically. It was good for some of the guys who haven’t played against NBA type of athleticism. It was good to see. It’s a preparation game. As far as that goes, it was pretty good for us.
Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)
What does playing Spain do for this team?
It gives us confidence. Obviously, we are a group that is coming together and it has been documented how we have been doing against the select team and stuff like that so to be able to come out here tonight against a legit team, a team that has a high chance of winning the tournament is good.
Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers)
It is something I know I can be dominant at, something that if I can translate here to the season it will help me well but besides that, that’s what the role that the coaches have told me about with this team. For me, whatever it takes to get on the court and help us win is good.
On having a feel for international competition:
I mean the international game is a little bit more zone, you know especially not in the NBA you can’t do it too much because of the three second (rule), but there is no three second in the FIBA game so you know that’s one thing that we kind of really need to fine tune and really take a look at in the next few practices before Australia and China.
On being versatile:
I mean, yeah everybody has got a role and that is one of the roles that I can fill, rebounding defensively, getting after it and, you know, playmaking. Everybody knows that I’m a scorer, but I got a lot more elements in my game that I want to show off and work on now. So, that bodes well for the season.
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Pop said that he is going to take all 14 to Australia. What does that mean for the team to all go before the final cuts?
It means that guys are doing their jobs. They are making it as tough as it can be. I think that guys in camp are just being positive and working as hard as they can. So that’s a huge thing for everybody.
What have you learned about this team since the beginning of camp?
Just how hungry we are. From top to bottom, everybody is hungry and just wants to prove something and get this job done.
How much of an adjustment is it playing an international team like Spain? Pop pointed out how well they moved the ball and how well they played offensively but he also complimented your guys defense. Just your thoughts on playing against Spain.
Spain is a great team, they are an experienced team. We are going to have to run against that in this tournament. So, tonight was a great test against an experience team that has been running their stuff for a while, who know each other well, who have played in a tournament before. So, I think the guys did a great job of pulling it together as quick as possible knowing that we are going to be tested tough like we were tonight.
When did you guys find out that PJ wasn’t going to be going forward with you and were you surprised? What do you lose considering what he could have brought to the program?
Yeah, it was surprising. I think he told us about an hour or two before we took off for the game. But I mean he is just a great player, a tough guy that has been around this league, been around this game and just an experienced, tough player.
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
What did you like about the team’s play tonight?
I loved our rebounding. I think that was one thing we struggled with against the select team in Vegas, our rebounding, our transition defense. But as we got fatigued, we stopped talking, stopping doing our thing. But if we can sustain that for four quarters, we will be in good shape.
You seemed to have settled in to a bit of a leadership position with this team despite being just a third-year guy. Is that just a natural thing for you with this group?
I feel like we just have guys who really listen to each other and I think that makes it easier. I’ve always been that way, a guy that leads by voice and by example. And when you have guys that are willing to listen, because it’s not always easy for a young guy to come in here and do that. But we have guys who are stars on their own teams who come in here and listen and I think that’s what makes it really easy for me to come out here and be a leader.
When you were considering this opportunity for your offseason, did you consider how this has been a springboard for other players in a similar position to you?
Not really. For me, I just wanted to represent my country and go out there and play. I think it’s a no brainer for me. No hesitation that I wanted to play and it’s such an honor to be here. And I’m going to continue to play my heart out for my country.
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
How good did it feel to play someone other than yourselves or USA players?
It felt great. We’ve been going at it for a week or two now and we were a little tired of going against each other. So, it was cool to come out here and be on the same team again.
What did you like that you saw out there today?
Everybody was competing, playing hard on defense. I think we just have to be more consistent, especially towards the end. We got a big lead there, but we’ve got to play until zero on the clock.
Do you feel like the chemistry continues to develop for the team?
Yeah, it is getting better every day and it’s going to continue to get better as we keep playing.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
This is a young team and you are definitely a leader on this team. So how do you go about accepting that role?
Just by being myself. I’m not really a big talking guy. So, I just try to lead by example, set the tone early and do what I can to help this team. That’s it.
What is the main difference between playing here and in the NBA?
It’s just different rules. The three-point line is a little bit closer. The basketball is different. You can stay in the paint. There are just a few different rules that we have to adjust to, but we are getting there.
How do you feel about competing with NBA players that you have played against on the court?
I love it. I love it. These guys man are great. Very high character guys, very fun to be around. I’m having the time of my life.
What expectation do you have of going to China?
I’ve been to China plenty of times so I guess you could say I’m used to it. But we’re just going there with one goal, one mindset. We want to win. We want to go out there and do what we can to compete at the highest level.