Quotes: Serbia 94, USA Men's World Cup Team 89
Head Coach - Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
What does it say about your guys that they’re able to shake off the first quarter, especially after the loss yesterday?
They’re good character guys. It was a tough turnaround and I guess it showed. If you miss that many shots, it’s a lot of defensive transition and at the same time Bogdan [Bogdanovic] was on fire. So, we got him to hold but, I can’t tell you how much I have been impressed the whole time by their character, their stick-to-itiveness and persistence as they learn how to play together. Tonight was a great example of that. The Serbian team – very experienced. Coach [Sasha Djordjevic] does a great job with them. They’re not just talented, they play the game in a fantastic manner. They hit the open man consistently on every single possession. Really good drive and kick team. Obviously, they are talented, so, they did a good job and that’s that.
Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)
I’m curious from a personal perspective, being away from home or whatever you’d normally do over the summer, what is the most difficult part of that? I’m just curious how difficult you think that’ll be to go through what you’ve done now and then do it again with the Kings.
It’s really not that bad. I’m a hooper at heart. So, for me to be able to, one, play better basketball in the summer as opposed to playing pick-up, obviously this is something I’d do in a heartbeat. And I think the opportunity to represent your country, for a player like myself, it doesn’t always come around. And you have to kind of savor those opportunities and jump on those when the opportunity is there. So, for me it has been an honor to do this traveling. Going to India [for NBA preseason games] once again is more basketball – highly competitive, bonding with my team. So, I’m good for that.
Harrison, you’ve had the highest of highs with this team in Rio. For the players, what was it like trying to come back after what happened last night?
I think that’s the beauty of competition. We signed up, August 6, whenever that was, we made that pact that we were going to do whatever we could to win basketball games. To go out there and try to win gold medals. On the flip side of that is that there’s a chance that we may not win. And, I think there are no regrets from our group in terms of what we’ve given, what we sacrificed, the commitment that everyone has made away from their families, teams, organizations, all of that. For us, we have to sit with that, get some rest and on Saturday we have that opportunity to go out there once again, play a game, represent our country. For some of us, potentially all of us, it could be the last time we wear a USA jersey, or the beginning of many, so I think we just have to savor that opportunity.
Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
On tonight’s game.
Definitely, there are no moral victories. I do think we showed some character in terms of the group being able to battle back. With circumstances where the game doesn’t mean a lot and you get down by that much, we could have easily thrown in the towel, but we battled back and fought our way to a four point-deficit at halftime. We could just never really get over the hump, but this is the thing. All of these guys we played against, everybody has a capable team. Serbia is probably the best team we’ve played against up until this point in terms of how they move the ball and how they move as one defensively. Guys were constantly in spots making stuff tough. They did to us what we try to do to a lot of teams – that point-five style of offense. Guys were getting in and making quick decisions. They have Bogie [Bogdan Bogdanovic] and other guys that can make plays, but when those guys get hot, it’s tough to stop them. We let them get going in their rhythm too much early on and it’s an uphill battle as soon as you get into a deficit against a good team like that.
Do you guys feel like you were underdogs the last couple of nights? Those were two good teams that played well.
I don’t know if our mindset was necessarily set that way. We came in confident especially last night against France. Everybody was feeling good, confident. There’s too few possessions in these games for you have to mental mistakes, bad shots – whatever it might be. We lack the experience in a lot of areas where some of these other teams are so good playing together. France is the same way as Serbia. Their offense is almost effortless for them. They know who is who, what to do and what their roles are. They do it very effectively and efficiently whereas we’re kind of coming from behind in that way.
Was it harder to play tonight?
No. To be honest, everybody was rattled obviously last night. You lose a game like that. You don’t get into the medal round. You’re extremely dejected, but we talked about it after the game and this morning. Just about how you handle the adversity is a defining factor for us as a group for us as USA Basketball going forward. We made a mention of it in the locker room. You never know when you’re going to have the opportunity to wear USA across your chest so regardless where you’re playing, you’re trying to represent and do it the right way. I thought we came out ready and prepared to play, but sort of a lackadaisical effort. Granted, they kind of got it going early on. They hit some tough 3s. We didn’t really have stuff going our way. We were taking good shots, but they were getting it going in transition. The shots started to fall a little bit. In the second quarter, defense picked up a little bit, but it’s hard to play against them in transition when you’re missing open looks.
On playing in the FIBA World Cup:
We all knew coming into it that this was a sacrifice we were willing to make. We knew we were going to be gone from our friends and families for more than 40 days. We all looked at it as an opportunity to compete, represent the U.S. and what an honor that was for all of us. We came together as group and tried to do what the coaches asked of us – play the right way and uphold the gold standard. Sure, we came up a little bit short, but through it all, we never stopped competing. We competed every night. I think a lot of these teams like France and Serbia deserve a lot more respect than they get. All these guys are capable players and they’re really good teams. Some of these guys don’t play in the NBA, but they’re all excellent players and they play really well together.
Do you feel like you guys didn’t get a fair return on the investment you guys made? With all the flights, time and effort?
You know, it’s tough. Like I said, you invested so much time. We committed to this from Day One. To get all the way to this point and have it abruptly cut short, it really stings, but at the end of the day, we’re still competing a couple of days from now. You still have to represent the U.S. the right way. If that means going out and finishing seventh, that’s exactly what it is. We don’t want to go out on a bad note at all. Obviously, we didn’t get the win tonight so we’re disappointed about that. We’re disappointed with how we started the game, but we know we can be better and for sure everyone is going to compete Saturday night.
Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
On tonight’s game.
We got off to a slow start. I think it was 32-5 at one point. Then, we finally got it going. If we play better, we give ourselves a way better chance to win a ballgame.
Do you feel like you guys were small in this tournament and that affected the way you played the game?
I don’t know. Some of those lineups worked during the course of a game. Sometimes, they went on runs. That’s kind of what basketball is – a game of runs, sometimes, with different lineups. So, I can’t really give you a good answer on that.
Did you find it difficult to adjust to the FIBA rules?
No. I mean it’s basketball. It’s just a little bit more physical. That’s the only thing. I don’t think guys were complaining about the rules and the style didn’t change us that much. We just didn’t come out with the results we wanted the last two nights.
Are there any positives you can take from this World Cup experience?
After a tough night like last night, we fought all the way down to the end. Tonight, we got off to a slow start and we could have just packed it in, but guys still competed. So, I think that’s a great show of our character in some ways.
They’re a great team. We knew that coming into the tournament. I think both teams would rather play each other in a different type of round or setting. They were a great team tonight. Their guy got hot early and kept it going all night long.
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
Tough loss tonight. Anything you want to improve, to see in the future?
I think for us, we just let them get to the basket a little too easy at certain points – so, just keeping guys in front of us. Little things that we can fix. It’s tough to come back the way we did, and for us to do that it shows a lot of heart and a lot of pride. But at the end of the day we want the win. That’s where we are at. We’re not here to get moral victories – that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to win. And to lose two in a row stings, but we have to be ready to compete on Saturday.
Slow start tonight. How do you want to change that for the next game?
Honestly, I put their first 12 points on me. Bogdan [Bogdanovic] had what, four 3s? All my doing. It was my matchup and I messed up, for lack of better words. I got to improve that. I let my teammates down in that category and, they had my back and we all fought back. And that’s what we do – when guys slump, guys come in and we push back. But to have that slow start, to have four 3s in the first five minutes, that’s tough. That’s tough to come back from. And we had a game plan and we just didn’t execute it and that’s why we’re here.
What happened early in the game? What could you have done better?
Honestly, like I said, I put Bogdanovic’s first 12 points on me. I was late on screens. We game-planned on certain things and just didn’t execute. He gets out to a hot start and now we’re contesting him a little bit harder than we normally should have and that leads to over rotation and that can’t happen. And that starts with me – I came out slackish, and my teammates had my back. Harrison [Barnes], Khris [Middleton], Kemba [Walker] – they all had my back and I put that on me. As one of the leaders on this team, that’s my role and I didn’t execute. But we bounced back as a team and I think for us, that’s all you can ask for. But as far as the hot start, I gotta do better on the defensive end.
What did you guys do better in the second quarter offensively to get back in the game?
First off, once shots start to fall. It’s tough when you’re fighting through each and every possession and you’re in transition trying to communicate running down and then you have to guard them for a whole shot clock and then we miss. But for us, we started executing, driving, finding the open guys, making the simple plays and that’s what changed the dynamic of the game.