Quotes: USA Men's World Cup Team 89, Brazil 73
Gregg Popovich (USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach)
On tonight’s game against Brazil:
It [Myles’ comments] was well said. We played a very good second half. The first half Brazil was outstanding. Their execution and their passion, they played very well. I think we picked it up defensively in the second half. I think that’s what changed it for us. We feel good about the win and looking forward to moving on.
Do you need to be better defensively, or can you win the cup playing the way you’re playing?
I guess when we play the game, we’ll find out if we can.
How did you like seeing the Brazilian players you know, and what are your thoughts on the Brazilian National Team?
I’ll try to make my answer as long as your question, but I probably won’t. I just said I was totally impressed with their execution but always have been. Those guys have been together awhile, and they see things – your little backdoor step and the overhead passes. They’re very hard to guard, and they do a great job of execution. They’ve always been passionate players. I know several of them pretty well, so it’s great to see them. We just talked about friendship and personal things that aren’t really for the public, but it was great to see them all.
How important is it to clinch a 2020 Olympics berth?
We’re thrilled that we qualified for the Olympics. With this new situation of qualifying, you don’t want to have to do that every year. So, it’s a pretty big grind. Coach [Jeff] Van Gundy did that for us. He’s done a hell of a job. So, not having to do that again is huge. We’re thrilled that we’ve qualified.
On Jaylen Brown playing power forward and how he’s impacting the team:
He’s a strong player. For his size and strength, he moves well. He can really penetrate. He can catch and pull or get to the rim. He unselfish and will find other people. He works on defense. He’s just kind of an all-around player. As you say, he’s stepped in a given us good minutes on both ends of the floor for sure.
Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)
On the game:
I think in the second half, we did some things that helped our defense, kind of locked in mentally, didn’t make as many mistakes, didn’t have as many backdoors and just breakdowns. So, that’s what allowed us to get that offense and then run.
Well, I think we have to unwind from this game. At this stage it is just one game at a time. You can’t afford to look past the next game. Haven’t put any thought on France, just been focused on Brazil.
Can the USA play this way and win the tournament, or do you have to do a little more?
Yeah, just looking at this game, I mean, better starts. You can’t afford to get out to a slow start, you know, mentally in these games. If a team is coming out, they are hitting shots, are executing right, you know, you tip your hat to them, but we are giving them backdoors, we are not meeting force with force, teams just outworking you, that’s what you can’t have. So, I think there is a lot of room for growth for us.
Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
On his improvement over the USA’s five games:
I’m just getting started, just playing, being aggressive, doing what I’ve been doing all my life.
On playing the four position:
At the end of the day, it’s basketball. I feel like I’m not a position player; I’m a basketball player. Four, three, two, whatever, five, I played some five today. Whatever coach needs me to do, make the adjustment.
On being aggressive over the last three games:
I’m going to come out and be aggressive, regardless, and whatever opportunity I get, I just try to take advantage of it. Obviously, with Jayson being out, there is a little more of an opportunity, so maybe it was a little bit more visible, but every time I step on that floor I’m aggressive.
Do you feel like your chemistry with Kemba Walker is building?
Absolutely, absolutely. I think chemistry is built once you hit adversity together and you got to push through it, and we’ve been challenged multiple times on this trip since we started on Aug. 4. Now, it’s what, Sept. 10th, 9th? And so, we’ve seen a lot together. We just got to keep getting better.
You finished the NBA season strong. Are you building off that?
Definitely building off of it. The guy behind me right here (Donovan Mitchell) has been a big help, for sure.
Just trying to be aggressive. Obviously, we still have a lot of improvement to go. I think we made some improvement as the tournament has gone on. But, I think we can’t be satisfied until each and every game is won, and we are standing up holding that trophy.
Just being aggressive. I think we are focused on us. We still haven’t played our best basketball yet. I think we came out, played good in the second half. But as far as (40) minutes, I think we are yet to get hot, hit a lump sum of shots. So, I think the law of averages, we are due for a lot of makes. So, obviously these next few games … the next game is important, but all of them are extremely important, so we got to come out and play our best basketball.
Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
How have you guys spent any time checking out scores and seeing what else is going on in this tournament?
Yeah. Most of us have that FIBA app on our phone, so we can check and see what’s going on. A few of us that were watching with some of the coaches last night the Serbia-Spain game. Everyone keeps tabs. It’s fun. This is the only basketball that’s on this time of the year. It’s fun to just tune in and watch the other games. Obviously, last night was fun. Everybody was just excited to watch Serbia and Spain kind of go at it.
You have France next … (Evan) Fournier had like 100 tonight.
Yeah, I saw that. Him and Patty (Mills) both were going back and forth, apparently. France has got a lot of talent top to bottom, and they probably play the closest in similarity to us as any team that’s in the tournament.
Just in terms of getting up and down more. Guys that can make plays individually like Fournier. You put him in a pick-and-roll setting, and he can make plays for himself or for other guys. They have spot-up shooters, guys that have played in the league a long time. (Nicolas) Batum, even (Nando) DeColo. DeColo’s an NBA-caliber play; he just played overseas for a while. They have a lot of guys that are solid players over there.
Do you feel like Jaylen Brown’s been a big lift with (Jayson) Tatum out?
Yeah, this is the way that he can attack. He’s playing the four, so his athleticism, his length, his ability to attack. He didn’t even shoot but just puts so much pressure on opposing team’s fours, and then he can pretty much defend every position, too. He’s really versatile for us on both ends of the ball, especially offensively, just being able to attack against team’s fours.
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
How big was your 3-pointer than put you up 11 and then Marcus’s shot at the end of the third quarter?
Just finishing out the quarter strong. That’s always huge. Even in the NBA, even over here, you finish the quarter as strong as you can. It gives you a little bit of momentum going into the next quarter.
How ready do you think you guys are for the knockout round?
I think guys are excited for it. This is what we came here for. This is what playing on this team for, these type of games, these type of moments.
How big of a deal is it that you now just have a short bus ride to get ready for your next game?
We can’t wait for that, instead of flying a couple of hours and staying up all night, or what not. Hopefully, a short ride will give us a little bit of an advantage.
Do you think the small lineups Pop uses will work against a guy like (Rudy) Gobert?
It could be. I don’t exactly what Pop’s going to do yet. We’ve play small lineups every game, and that really hasn’t hurt us so far. So, we’ll see.
Varejao said that you guys looked like you’ve played a long together … are things trying to click together more offensively?
They are. Both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. We are starting to see how we need to play, the style of play. We’re talking and communicating on the same page.
Do you feel like things offensively are quicker?
Guys are able to get to their spots a little bit easier, a little bit faster. The ball is moving. We’re just finding the open man and playing unselfish.
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Do things feel like they’re clicking a little bit more, especially offensively, than they were earlier?
I think we’re just slowing ourselves down. Obviously, we have a team that’s new to each other. We didn’t play a great first half, but we responded. We continued to show the true character of the team. We got in there and competed on the offensive end, and that’s what we did.
You had seven assists yourself. What are you seeing now on the floor that you weren’t seeing earlier this tournament?
I think making the simple play. I think a lot of it is understanding the certain time you’re driving and looking for a call you’d get in the NBA that you may not get here. So, being able to make it simple. I think that’s what making it really easy. It’s not easy, but it’s easier.
On playing international basketball and representing the USA:
It’s great. For me, personally obviously it’s the challenge I wanted. To be able to play against different countries in China, I think, is amazing. I think the guys are responding well. I think playing every other day can be taxing. We kind of do this during the season anyway, but I think we’re all responding well, and it’s fun.
On his role in USA Basketball:
When I came into it, my role wasn’t to be a scorer when everybody was slated. For me, whether it’s scoring, passing, rebounding or leading, I’ll do whatever it takes. I don’t care if I – today I had four points, two points? I couldn’t care less [about scoring] at the end of the day. I’m more happy if I have seven assists and six rebounds and am able to defend. I’m really ready to learn from the mistakes I made where I let Vitor Benite get a three in the second half, or getting those silly fouls in the first half. That’s where my head is at. Obviously in Utah, my role is a little bit different, but for now I’m just doing whatever it takes. I’m not too worried about points. We’ve got a lot of guys who can score. For me, it’s just continuing to become a better leader and better player on both ends of the floor.
On facing Rudy Gobert:
I’m excited. I got to play against Joe [Ingles] twice. I’ve never played against Rudy. He’s a force. He’s a force down low. He’s the anchor of that defense and the anchor of our [Utah’s] defense. There’s going to be a lot of trash talk for sure. I think that’s what makes this fun, to be able to compete against your teammates outside of the NBA. I’ve heard so much about FIBA basketball. I’ve heard so much about the team when they played Spain against Ricky [Rubio] and Spain and Australia. It’s going to be a lot of fun. He’s a hell of a player. He won Defensive Player of the Year for a reason. Guys know that, and we’ll try to get him as much info as possible.
Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
On tonight’s game against Brazil:
I thought Brazil gave us a tough fight in the first half. They really made it a game. The second half, we really turned it on. We came together as a unit, as players.
It seems you’ve become more comfortable with the physicality of the game. Is that something you’re just going to feel out as the tournament goes along, since it’s a lot different here than it is at home?
Yeah, this is a lot different game than NBA basketball. I felt that the first game against Spain. I know my role on this team is to provide a lot of energy, rebounds, blocked shots. That’s what I do. That’s what I’m trying to excel at on this team. I’m trying to put all my focused energy into that.
On playing against Rudy Gobert and France next game:
I look forward to it. He’s a good defensive player. I’m a good defensive player. It’s going to be a good game. He’s the Defensive Player of the Year.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
Even though you guys are still getting to know each other, how fast are you progressing?
We are taking it game-by-game. I think offensively, we are getting better each and every game. We’ve had games where we shot the ball well. We’ve had games where we haven’t. We’re a new group, but we’re sharing the basketball. We got a bunch of unselfish guys. I think we’re progressing really well, actually.
Do you feel you are growing as a leader through this experience?
No question. Just as one of the older guys on this team now, one of the veteran leaders, I just want to set the tone. That’s what I’ve been trying to do each and every night in these games, pick up guys full court as much as I can. That’s where it’s going to start for us. We’re going to win games on the defensive end. We haven’t been shooting the ball consistently that well. Defense is what’s going to get us over the top. I just want to be setting that tone each and every night.
Can you see a scenario in which you got to win a game with you scoring 25 or 30 points?
It depends. I’m just playing the game, trying to do what I can to help my teammates. It just depends.
Varejao said it looks like you guys have been playing together for a long time. What does that mean to you as how far this team has come?
I feel that’s a great compliment.
Do you feel that? Is the chemistry starting to pick up these last couple of games?
No question. We just need each other so bad. I think we’re starting to realize that. These teams are so good and teams are so tough. It’s just taking everybody and everything we got to win these games. The chemistry is coming along really well.
Was this your best offensive performance?
I think so. The way we shared the basketball, the movement of the basketball, the movement of ourselves. I think definitely this is probably one of our better offensive games.
What is the part of your game that you think you need to improve to play at the highest level in the quarterfinals and beyond?
I think we have to be more consistent on both ends of the floor. I think we have lulls at time on defense as well as offense. We just have to be more consistent, moving ourselves offensively and defensively, just being in the right spots and helping each other as much as possible. We just need to cut the lulls out a little bit and the small mistakes. I think we’ll be fine.
France has really good guards. Are you expecting a really good challenge on Wednesday?
It’s been a challenge for us each and every game. It’s getting towards the end and everybody wants to win. So yeah, I’m expecting the best from everybody.
What are your thoughts on how Jaylen Brown has been playing?
He’s been playing well. Really aggressive and we need him, especially at that four position. I think it’s kind of new for him. He just brings so many advantages at that position. He’s been playing well, and we need him to keep it up.
You’re going to see France who scored 98 points tonight and then potentially Serbia who leads the tournament in scoring. That’s not what you guys do. Can you win a game where you’ve got to score a ton of points to win it?
I think so. I think right now, we’re definitely relying on our defense really heavy. That’s what we’re going to keep doing. We’re going to keep getting stops. As long as we can get stops, I think we’ll be pretty good.