Quotes: France 89, USA Men's World Cup Team 79
Gregg Popovich (USA & San Antonio Spurs head coach)
Do you think there will be another redemption team for the USA?
Well, they’ll be another team for sure. By that I mean we qualified for the Olympics, so they’ll be a team.
On facing Serbia:
Well, it’s another game. Both teams will compete and try to win, so there’s not much else to say about that. It’s the next game.
What impressed you most about France tonight?
I’m glad you asked me. I think that Coach [Vincent] Poulet and his group have done an outstanding job. It’s the best French team I’ve seen, because they play on both ends of the court. It’s not just an offensive team that – it’s not just a couple of guys on their own. They play on the defensive end, they are physical, individually they play well, defensively as a group, switching, weakside, rebounding. They fit together really well. All the parts fit. They are deep, and they were wonderful tonight.
How hard is it to process so quickly that there won’t be a medal for this group after all the work put it in?
Any loss hurts, and this situation hurts more, but life goes on. This is very important. We would have loved to have won, just like any other team, we would have loved to win games in this tournament. But, we all have family and lives and life moving on.
Would you like to see other NBA players on your side – some of them that’s didn’t come here?
It’s also a disrespectful notion to bring something like that up and say, ‘You didn’t have this guy or that guy.’ That’s disrespectful to France and whoever else is in the tournament. France beat us. Doesn’t matter who is on the team, and I couldn’t be more proud of these 12 guys who sacrificed their summer to come here, having never played with each other before, and they put themselves in the arena and competed, and they deserve credit for that. Just like France deserves credit for winning. It’s not about, well the United States didn’t have their other guys. There’s no such thing as other guys. These are the guys that were here, and they did a great job, and I’m very proud of them.
Can you just talk a bit about Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert, the pressure they put on you guys?
Well, a lot of the guys played well. People that you mentioned were outstanding. But they have a basketball team, and all the pieces fit. Like I said, they’re all playing defense. They’re sharing the basketball. They made good decisions. There weren’t many mental mistakes. Didn’t think the switching bothered them for a while, and it got them back in the game, and they went ahead. But in the end, I think their experience and their execution shows. And that’s a credit to all of them, not just two guys.
Coach how frustrating was it?
Did they take Donovan away in the fourth or did you guys maybe go away from him for a little while?
Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)
You’ve been with this team as long as anyone. How do you process what happened tonight?
Well, you’ve got to give credit to the French team. They played extremely well. For us, I thought we had some moments that we were able to put together, some stops and runs. But over the course of 40 minutes, we didn’t put together enough to play the game that we wanted to play defensively. That’s been our calling card, that’s what we’re trying to make our identity this entire time. On both sides of the ball we just weren’t as connected as we’ve been throughout this tournament.
Would you guys got the lead, did you think you had taken control of this game?
We had opportunities. We had that lead, that seven-point lead. And for us, that was a big moment for us to push ahead. But then we had some tough breaks, tough mental mistakes that allowed them to get back in the game and get the win.
What are you guys saying to each other after this?
I mean, there’s not much to say. Everyone knew what was at stake. Everyone knew the opportunity that we had to represent our country. You have to take ownership of it. Everyone, one through 12, coaching staff, knew what was at stake, and unfortunately we weren’t able to deliver on that. But we have another opportunity at least to continue to go out there and play and represent our country well tomorrow.
Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics)
How tough was Rudy Gobert to deal with on both ends of the floor today?
He had a good game. He played physical. He was aggressive and played well for them tonight.
Do you guys feel like you lost because you were having a tough time inside?
France just played better than us tonight. That’s why we lost.
What’s it like in the locker room? What are some of things you guys are going through right now?
I don’t know. I don’t even know how to answer that. Like everybody knows what we wanted to do, and we didn’t do it. I guess you can imagine how we feel, right?
You were up seven early in the fourth. Did you feel like you were in control at that point?
We knew it was going to be a [tough] game. We just didn’t do what needed to be done. At the end of the day, we came up short. France was better than us tonight, unfortunately.
What are the things you’ll take away from this game that will help you guys going forward?
I don’t know right now, but get ready for the season, and I guess get ready for Serbia tomorrow, keep fighting until the end. I guess that’s what we’ll do. Try to represent our country the best we can. That’s it.
Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
How tough is the reality for as much as you guys have done the last few months?
Yeah, it’s tough. It’s all sort of sinking in right now. I think, obviously, a lot of the credit has to be given to France. This game they outplayed us from the get-go, really. We were reacting the whole night. They seemed to be the aggressors from the get-go. We shifted momentum a little bit there in the third quarter, but as soon as we did that, they came right back and made big plays. At the end of the day you just have tip your cap to them. They out played us. They deserved to win. We certainly didn’t deserve to win that game, but it is tough. You put in a lot of time, a lot of work, you build up a special bond with these guys and the coaches, and then for it not to come to fruition and the end of all of it, it’s a tough pill to swallow. But at the end of the day, you still have to represent yourself and USA Basketball with class. We still have one more game tomorrow, and now we’re going to flip the switch and prepare for Serbia and try to finish this thing on the right note.
Donovan gave a really passionate defense of this team in the press conference a few moments ago. You know the reaction will be the big guys weren’t here blah blah blah – how offensive is that to this team?
Obviously if you’re going to listen to all that stuff, then you’re going to have a lot of problems at the end of the day. For us, we try to keep everything internal. We know how much work we put in. We know how much each guy sacrificed to come and spend 39 days away from home right now. You spend a lot of time together, like I said earlier. You build up a special bond with these guys where at the end of the day all that really matters is being in that locker room. It’s tough for us. Everybody is hurting right now, for sure. But we obviously wanted to come out here and compete for a gold medal, but we don’t have anything to necessarily hang our heads about. We played our asses off. We played hard. We made a lot of mental mistakes and against good teams, teams with NBA star power. Rudy had a big game, Fournier has been playing great the entire tournament, [Nando] De Colo is an NBA player that just happens to be playing in Europe. All these guys are capable of NBA type plays. You can’t make that many mental mistakes against good teams. That’s the price that you pay, and you’re in this situation now, but like I said we still have one more game. We’re going to figure out the character of this team tomorrow, and we’re going to try to finish this thing off the right way.
What were the mental mistakes you think you made?
Offensively we lost our way a little bit, whereas the ball had done a good job the last few games moving. I think we panicked a little bit when we got down. We tried going one on one a little bit and guys tried doing it themselves. We didn’t have as many offensive rebounds. The tenacity defensively. Like I said, we were kind of on our heels almost the game. They were the ones that were dictating the pace. They were definitely the aggressors on that end. We just couldn’t get up to how we had against other teams in the past with our pressure. That started from the get-go. We didn’t do a good enough job of applying pressure early on, and then it bit us in the ass.
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Can you take us through some of the emotion you’re feeling right now?
I’m looking at the times there were guys open that I missed. There were possessions on defense where I threw the ball in the backcourt when we were down six. I can care less about the 29 [points]. To me what sticks out is the things I did wrong. That’s what’s on everybody’s mind. Anybody could have had a good game. Whether is 29, 9, or 0, we lost.
Would you like to see other NBA players on your side – some of them that didn’t come here?
If they don’t want to come that’s on them. We have 12 guys – 11 other guys that want to compete, we had guys that didn’t make it in, and they want to compete, too. It’s a lot for these guys, but if they don’t want to play, they don’t want to play. I know how I feel. I know how those guys feel, and that’s where my head is at. I know that people are going to focus on who we didn’t have, but how about we focus on who we do have. Our season ended, and we came out ready to work with Coach Pop and all his coaches. It’s not about who’s not here. I’ve been saying that for a while. You guys are going to do your thing, but we have 12 guys who are going to compete for America. Just like every country. It sucks that some of our country people don’t feel that way about us, but we don’t care. We’re going to compete, and we did.
Donovan, you know players like [Nikola] Jokic and [Bogdan] Bogdanovic. What do you expect from the game tomorrow and from the Serbian players?
First off, we’re going to compete. They had a great tournament, obviously. They lost, but we’ve got to be ready to be locked in. Obviously, it’s tough after a loss like this, but, you know, it’s similar to the playoffs. We’ve got to be ready to play. That’s all it is. We’ve got to be ready to play. We can’t just sit here and say, well that’s it. They’re ready to compete. Bogdanovic is playing out of his mind. Jokic, all of those guys are very talented.
Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics)
Do you think the size of France was a problem?
No, it was all on us. We made a lot of crucial mistakes, and we played around in the first half, and it came back to bite us.
Sometimes the first time playing FIBA is a learning experience. Did you learn a lot from playing in this tournament?
We learned a lot. For a lot of us it was our first time, so we came out and gave it everything. I’m proud of every last one of my teammates. We got another game tomorrow, so it’s not over with. We have to come out and compete.
Do you think this setback can help you in future international play?
Of course. We’re competitors. This is part of the game, you know. You got to live with it. You can’t get too high on the highs, and you can’t get too low on the lows.
On tonight’s loss:
It’s tough. It’s tough for everybody. We sacrificed a lot just like everybody else who is here. Just to lose in general – as a competitor, you hate to lose, but you can’t win them all. We have another game tomorrow. We have to come back and bring it.
With [Rudy] Gobert, they’re generally a big team. How much did size take you out of things offensively and defensively?
It really wasn’t so much as their size as it was our execution. We were really stagnant on the offensive end, and with that being said, they hurt us on the defensive end. They moved us, and we didn’t do it on the other end. It bit us on the butt.
On the team’s free throw shooting:
It was excruciating, especially for a team that shoots really well from the line, you know. But, it happens. Like I said, you can’t win them all, and it’s part of the game of basketball.
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
Can you comment on tonight’s loss?
It’s tough obviously, to lose a game. But much respect to the French team. They played well and came out with a big win.
What have you learned from this World Cup experience?
It was a great experience. It was fun. We’ve still got to play. We still play tomorrow, but we had a blast. You know, we sacrificed our summers to come here. We wanted to be here. Obviously, we wish we could have won, but we didn’t. And all you can do is credit that French team.
If you have a chance to play for Team USA again, will this serve as extra motivation?
No question. This is something we’ve got to put behind us, obviously. But, we’re going to come back stronger for sure.
You had three turnovers early. It didn’t seem like you ever got into an offensive rhythm individually. What happened?
Yeah, I didn’t get into a good rhythm, unfortunately. I don’t know, it was just really tough early on. My teammates, they played well. So, it really sucks that I really couldn’t. I’m just really disappointed that I couldn’t be there for them down the stretch like I wanted to.
How much was size an issue for you guys, not just Rudy Gobert individually, but as a team?
They played well, they played well. They just played well overall. Rudy played really well, Evan, a lot of those guys. They just played well, and we didn’t. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked. In the third quarter, my teammates made an unbelievable push. They got us back the lead. From that point on, it was just a battle, and France won it.
Down six, you get to the line for three and you miss a couple:
That hurt. That hurt bad man, just to miss those free throws. I really wanted to make those for my teammates. But sometimes, that’s just the way the ball goes. Very, very unfortunate, but now it’s nothing I can control.
You’ve still got two more games to play, is it going to be tough to get through those?
No, we’ve got very high character guys. We’re going to come out and still give it everything we’ve got.
How tough is it to process the reality that, after all the work over the last couple of months, it’s not going to result in a medal?
We’ve just got to take it like a man at this point. We lost. There is nothing we can do. We competed, and we’ve been competing since day one that we’ve gone to training camp. We gave it everything we got. I know we’re Team USA and things of that nature, and they’ve been winning for a lot of years, but you know, we didn’t get a chance to pull it off. All we can do is keep playing, get ready for the next game and see what we can do.
Did you guys feel like you were in control when you went up six or seven early in the fourth?
I think we did. I think we were feeling pretty good, but they stuck with the game. And like I said, it’s the way the ball goes sometimes.
How tough was their ball pressure?
They had really good ball pressure, actually. It was tough. I think it kind of wore on us a little bit but, yeah they had some really good ball pressure.