USA Men’s World Cup Team Quotes - Aug. 29
Gregg Popovich (USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach)
It’s your first day in Shanghai, what do you think about it?
We just got here today and haven’t had a chance to walk around, look around, but from what we have seen, the people have been wonderful in the hotel and out on the street. Everybody loves basketball it seems to me. It seems pretty popular. So, so far it’s been great
You place high value on team unity and chemistry of this team, what do you think about the atmosphere and chemistry of the team right now?
Well, they’re getting to know each other day by day, better and better. It’s a good high-character group. They’re very motivated, very coachable, so they’ve been a lot of fun to be with, and they’re getting better all the time.
You played four warm-up games and lost one of those, is it a factor in the team’s confidence?
You learn from every loss, every win. It’s a game of mistakes, and there’s always things you can learn from.
How do you feel about all the (player) absences?
All that I care about are the people on my team, and it’s a wonderful group.
Where are you in the process of still working on comradery and figuring out what you want to do versus putting in a game plan for Sunday?
You do both. It’s not an either or. They’re not mutually exclusive. You build comradery all the time. If it was a regular NBA season, you could be in the 58th game and your still building comradery. Here you have to do that a little bit quicker, obviously. But a lot of that depends on character, and their character is high, and they understand they have a big challenge ahead of them and they’re serious about it. I couldn’t be happier about the progress they’ve made.
Is there a team you’re more concerned about?
There are a lot of teams that are very good and have an opportunity to do very well in the tournament. So, we don’t take anybody lightly. It’s about respecting your opponent, and we do that, without any doubt.
Your first game is against Czech Republic, how much do you know about this team?
The Czech Republic is a very good team. They just played a really good game against Lithuania, which has been an experienced, fine executing team for a very long time. They’re big. Their sets that they run are very good, so the challenges begin with game one, and that’s the way it is.
Do you feel like your offense is ahead of your defense or vice-versa at this point?
It is what it is, I don’t know. We’re just working on both. Coaches never feel good about anything. We’re sick people.
Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
How does the team feel now that you actually are in China?
This is do or die now. There is no more exhibitions, no more mulligans at it. We talked about how important every single possession is in the FIBA game. You have forty minutes of – you can turn the ball over, can’t have careless mental mistakes. All that stuff is out the window. That’s why we had the three or four exhibition games that we had leading up to it, was to get work those kinks out of the way, work the mental mistakes out of the way. Now, it’s forty minutes of being locked in, trying to play perfect basketball.
We have enough depth on this team on this roster that guys are going to be cycling in and playing maximum effort whenever you are on the court and trying to make the most of your time out there.
On his role:
My role is very similar to what it is even on my NBA team. I knock down 3-point shots and help space the floor. That’s my role. That’s what my job is.
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Now that you’re in China, does it feel real now that the World Cup is here?
I think so. It’s an elevated level. I think guy’s concentration is a little bit higher. For us, just continuing to build. We approached the preseason the same way. Obviously, we lost, but we approached it the same way that you can’t lose. You can’t lose either game at all. As far as us being here, I think we’re ready for it. We got a good practice in today, and we’re just going to keep going.
You’ve already traveled 15,000 miles, how have you held out with all this going on?
I think we’re good. I’m getting a little older, so I feel it a little bit. But, I think we’re doing well. Like I said, we got in this morning, but guys’ energy in practice was just great. Guys were sharp. When you start to worry about how much you’ve been traveling, that’s when it starts to impact you. For us, we’re worried about finding ways to build and become better as a unit.
You’re back in China again … what are your thoughts on China?
I’m excited. Obviously, I came for my shoe tour about a month and half ago. I’m excited to be back. China’s always been great to me. I’ve been here three times in the past three years, so I’m excited to be back and represent my country out here.
What is it like to be around this coaching staff and these players and how has it made you better?
Learning from coaches like Pop, Steve Kerr, Coach (Lloyd) Pierce, Coach (Jay) Wright from Villanova. I think being able to take certain things from each coach, whether it’s pay attention to detail to even how to come off a screen, or how to lead a team, or how to become a better defensive player. In trying to take my game to the next level, this definitely helps. Being around guys like Mason (Plumlee), like Kemba (Walker). Kemba’s a guy I grew up watching my entire life. So, being able to be on the same team and just pick his brain a little bit. Another guy, Khris Middleton, Harrison Barnes, guys who’ve done it for a long period of time and had success have definitely helped me for sure.
Do you feel those people have made you better already?
I think so. I think I’m at an elevated level, but I have a lot more room to grow. Playing in this tournament, hopefully, if I do what I’m supposed to do, I will continue to build upon it. My focus in this past month has definitely helped me trend this way.
Have you tried to establish yourself as a leader on this team?
Definitely. For me, it’s not so much about voice. I do a lot of leading by voice naturally for me, but I think by leading by example, whether it’s by getting after a guy defensively, because that’s what sets the tone for the defense, finding ways to disrupt the other team, because a lot of teams are not used to our pressure. So, being able to set that tone from the jump, I really pride myself on. It gets everybody going for that possession, and we can go on a run after that.
When you came into this, did you see yourself filling that role?
That was my original thought. Obviously, with guys coming in and out, my role shifted a little bit. I wanted to see it be the same, being a guy who can lead. The biggest thing about being a leader is being able to listen to others, not just being able to be the voice. Listen to guys, listen to Myles Turner, Kemba Walker, Harrison Barnes, Brook Lopez and also give my feedback as well, and also lead by example.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
Has that tournament feel kicked in?
Yeah, it’s kicked in. Next game we play, it’s for real. It’s the real thing. We’re just focused. We’re locked in and just ready to play.
How much has the travel and being together helped fast track the process of building team chemistry?
We get along really well. It feels like we’ve known each other for years, but that’s just because of the guys we have – very high character guys, very passionate guys, guys who wanted to be here for this opportunity. We’re all here for one goal, so it makes it easier for us to get along.
Do you like the fact that there is doubt out there about this team?
We don’t pay attention. That’s a done deal at this point. A lot of us have grown up with doubt coming into our careers. It’s nothing new to us. That’s unnecessary at this point. Nobody really cares what people think. At the end of the day, we want to win. We have one goal: we want to win. We want to win a gold medal. It’s going to take game-by-game. There are really good teams in this tournament. At the end of the day, we want to be here. We’re the ones who took on this opportunity to play for our country and represent our country. Who cares about the outside noise at this point? It really doesn’t matter.
How do you feel about all the absences from the other players who chose not to be here?
It doesn’t matter. It’s all about the guys who are here. That question has been asked so much through this process. There is nothing we can do to bring those guys. It doesn’t matter. We are the ones who are here. We really wanted to be here. We’re the ones who are going to take on this challenge and do what we can to represent our country the best way we can.