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Jayson Tatum

Quotes: USA Men's World Cup Team 93, Turkey 92 (OT)

  • Date:
    Sep 3, 2019

Gregg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs)
Coach it’s straight off the game but can we start with your initial reactions?

It was a heck of a game. As we all know, it was anybody’s game. We will accept the win, but it was anybody’s to win. The team that we played tonight again shows its experience and the improvement we have to make execution-wise. We’re not there yet. We’re still trying to get better at that. But, playing a fine team like that gives us another good example of how we can be when everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing on the court.  So, I give them a lot of praise for what I saw.

Can you talk about how this game has grown in this country and how the fans have gravitated to Team USA Players and what it means to you guys to be here?
It’s thrilling to see the reaction. We’ve known for a long time how big basketball has become in China, of course, but all over the world. It’s an international deal now. So many great players in so many countries. It’s not a secret – you don’t find a player that nobody knows about and all of a sudden, he’s found. Tonight, is just a good example of how many good players there are in those many places and how the fans have reacted to it. It’s great for the game, and it’s thrilling to be in that arena.

Congratulations. I want to ask how is the health condition of Jayson Tatum?
He definitely has a sprained left ankle, but I don’t know to what extent or how much time he might miss. 

You think this type of game early is a good thing for Team USA?
Oh sure. For us, every preliminary game that we have played and before we got here was helpful to us. It’s a team that hasn’t been together, ever. So, every game we learn something new about our group and what we have to do and how we have to play. We already know how good the other teams are, so our respect is there for that, and that goes without saying. But, we still have to use every game kind of like a practice in a sense to try to get better in so many ways. 

Coach, I saw you were hit by Marcus Smart, are you ok?
I’m fine. I wish I was hurt instead of Jayson. 

Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)
What can the USA do better?
Keep the ball moving. A lot of times we get stagnant, passing the ball around the perimeter and just getting 3-point shots. I think getting some movement towards the basket, attacking seams, that’s going to open things up for us. Tonight, we celebrate.

At what point did you think this was a crazy game?
I think it just starts a lot with what happened in the first three quarters leading up to that. Coming from the jump, we kind of had little mental mistakes. You don’t really feel it as much. Up five, the game keeps going on, get up 10. And then those same mistakes continue to happen for us. So, I think that tonight was a great lesson, just in terms of we got lucky. But we keep playing like that, we are not going to be able to get to where we want to be.

As they had free throws with second left. At that point, were you thinking, ‘They got us’?
This game tonight, there were just plays that, when you think something is going to happen. The opposite happened. J.T. (Jayson Tatum) getting fouled on that 3-point shot, you know. The buzzer’s going off, you know what I’m saying? Fouled … okay, now we are back in the game. Us getting that rebound and literally going coast to coast. Khris getting a point blank layup, getting fouled and getting two free throws. Those are type of things you are just not thinking are going to happen. So, I think for us, the half-court execution has to get better. Defensively, we got some things we can chew on. 

Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets)
Are you discouraged at all?
No. I wouldn’t say that. I mean there’s definitely a lot of areas to improve, for sure. We’re relieved just to come away with a win. At the end of the day, wins are wins in this tournament.  We watched film when we first came to camp in Vegas of some really good Team USA’s that went down the stretch against Brazil, Greece, a lot of different teams. This is nothing different.  You’re just fortunate to come away with a win, certainly a lot of room for improvement. We’re going to go back and look at the tape, see where we can get better and then prepare the right way for Japan.

What are your thoughts on your zone offense?
That we definitely need to sure some stuff up. I think our execution in the halfcourt wasn’t great. We weren’t running stuff to score against a zone. We kind of let them match up against us and take us out of our rhythm a little bit, versus just running stuff hard regardless of being zoned or manned. 

What do those moments feel like when a teammate goes to the line in an all or nothing situation like Jayson and Khris did?
Obviously, very tense, but you have a lot of confidence in your teammates. We felt extremely confident in Jayson going up there and knocking down all of three of them. He obviously missed one – that happens. He gave us two to give us a chance in overtime, put us in a position to win, and Khris was able to knock down a couple. Same thing. You’re obviously tense, a little bit anxious when he goes up there to the line, but a lot of confidence in him to knock them down. 

Did Turkey play beyond your expectations?
No. We knew coming into it that Turkey was going to give us a run for our money. They’re a very good basketball team with a lot of good players across the board. They made it a really competitive battle from the get-go.

What happened after your and-one with the Turkish players?
It was just of heat of the moment. I honestly don’t what was said. Obviously, I got a technical for it, but it was more sort of a heat of the moment. 

What happened in the first half when you lost the lead?
We talked about that when we went into the locker room just now. Obviously, we’re really fortunate to come away with the win, but there’s a lot things we talked about coming into this where there is so few possessions that everything matters. When you get a team up like that, you have to be able to stay consistent with the lead and not make mistakes. They closed the lead at the half, and then from then on out, it was sort of back and forth. Those are moments in the game where you have to take advantage of staying on top of teams and keeping that lead sure. 

Why do you love this game?
Nights like tonight, honestly. Whenever you can have moments where the competitive greatness and the environment is like that, where the crowds into it, everybody’s sort of playing at their best – that’s what makes it fun. That’s what basketball is all about. 

Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks)
Your reactions from the game?
Great game win. Tough one. Came to work, stuck with it.

Jason obviously has to make those free throws and you have to make your free throws at the end of OT and his at the end of regulation of course – then Turkey with the 0-4 and all of that -  to win a game that was this wild with this sort of atmosphere, what’s it going to mean for you guys going forward?
I think it’s going to give us confidence. Guys made big plays down the stretch, as far as the dirty extra plays, grabbing a rebound, getting a steal, a box out, whatever. Coming up with the ball and making a play down the end, I think that definitely gives us confidence knowing that we didn’t play up to our expectations to some point.

There were obviously a few points in this game when it looked pretty bleak, can you describe the attitude and the mood of the team in the huddles around the bench while this was happening?
Just hungry. I really don’t know what you mean by bleak. 

There were a couple times where you guys were down with few seconds left?
That’s just us trying to learn how to play with each other. Like Pop said, we’re a new team trying to figure it out on the fly pretty fast, and I think we’re doing a great job. Just talking to each other possession by possession. No matter how stagnant we get on the offensive end, we still try to compete and play for each other. 

I think you’re about a 90% free throw shooter, so obviously you’re comfortable there but what was going through your mind when you stepped up there?
Just routine. Just normal free throws … don’t think about it too much … just repetition. 

Before the game you mentioned your teammates from Milwaukee don’t want to compete against him, you want to be his teammate – What do you think of Ilyasova’s performance tonight? and In the beginning when he was on the court and the people were shouting “MILWAUKEE, MILWAUKEE” – not sure if you heard about that and how did you feel?
To some extent, I was happy to see him play the way he did. Hopefully, he brings that back to the regular season. But, he’s been a veteran and in FIBA basketball for a while. He’s been playing well and had a great game tonight and got it going early. Kept the team in it. 

Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)
What do you make of this game tonight?
It just shows like I’ve been saying, the will of this team. I don’t think you can get a win like this without being as connected and close as we are. We’ve done a great job of that. We’ve only been with each other for about a month or so, and I’m so proud of everybody on the team. I know it’s one game. I know we got a lot more to go. This really builds character, and it shows what type of group that we have. Guys were really locked in. Jayson, and Kemba and Khris, those three at the end really stepped up big. Joe Harris coming up with a big 3, a big rebound and-one. Myles, everybody.  Just coming in an making the stops, the adjustments. Guys who didn’t even play much coming in and celebrating and being happy for each other. That’s sacrifice, and that shows a lot about our team.

How can your zone offense get better?
I think for us, a lot of it is about being poised. A lot of it is it just took us by surprise. We have a zone offense. We have a really good one. I think just for us, just being able to understand we just need to be able to execute better. That’s all it is. You can’t replicate the environment we were just in, no matter how many times you go through it. You got to go through it and experience it, and we did. We’ll watch film and get better at it. Obviously, it’s not going to be perfect, but we can continue to build and get better.

When they shot the free throws with nine seconds, how do you shift the mindset from they got us to we can win this thing?
I don’t think you even let it get to, ‘They got us’.  I don’t think you get to the point where you say this is over. You just continue to stay the course. When they missed the first two, coming in – honestly I forgot what happened to get to the second two – being engaged. Jayson comes up with the rebound, comes down full court, passes it to Khris, just having that poise. I think that’s what it is, and collectively as a group, I think we’re getting better at that. This is just another test. 

How physical was this game?
Extremely. I got a text from my former teammate Ricky Rubio, and he said, ‘Welcome to FIBA’.  It’s really physical, but I think we enjoyed it. It’s what we signed up for. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

What side was it more physical, them setting screens or them contesting shots?
I think a little bit of both. I think we could have done a much better job on ball on defense.  When we played Czech Republic, we were into their guards a little bit more. As guys started to get a little tired, we started to lay back, giving them shots that we weren’t letting them get at the beginning of the game. I think it’s really on us, as well, being able to take up space. That way we don’t get hit on screens. I’m getting hit. Kemba’s getting hit. Guys are getting hit that normally don’t. I think that comes with knowing each other. Games like this help you grow in that sense.

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
Can you tell us what happened on the play when you found Khris Middleton with the pass and hurt your ankle?
I was pushing it up the court and seen Khris. I think I was slipping a little bit, and I rolled my ankle.

Did you step on somebody’s foot?
I got to look at the video, but I think I just slipped and fell the wrong way. 

How does it feel right now?
It feels better than when it first happened. I can walk a little bit. Obviously, it’s sore … just get some treatment and see how I feel. 

Take us through what happened at the end of regulation?
We drew up a play. They went zone, and I threw it to Khris. He had a great look, thought he was going to knock it down. Donovan made a great effort to get the offensive rebound. He threw it to me. Figuring I had a little time on the clock, I shot faked, side stepped and he fouled me.

How did he foul you? Where did he hit you?
He just ran through my leg.

In terms of your career, where do those free throws rank in terms of pressure?
I don’t really know. I wasn’t nervous. I’m stilled pissed I missed the second one, then I wouldn’t have got hurt. We won. Glad I was able to help give us some extra time and extend the game.  As long as we win, that’s all that I care about.

Your teammates seemed encouraged that they won a tough game … is that how you come out of it?
Yeah. We’re not going to win every game by 30 or 40. Turkey is a great team, and they’ve been playing together for a while. This is good for us. It was a tough game, tough battle, a lot of guys gave second, third, fourth efforts. We learned a lot about ourselves tonight, especially being in a tough environment like this. This is a big win, but we have a lot to improve on.

When you threw the ball to Khris, did you see that he had a pretty clear path to the basket?
From my angle, that was the easiest, right, only play to make.  Two on one, simple bounce pass.  He was wide open, and my man knocked down two free throws. 

Where were you in your mind when they were shooting four free throws to clinch the game and then you realized we’re not out of this yet?
Especially on this team and this game, anything can happen. I’m very optimistic, especially we got Gregg Popovich on our sideline, lot of talented guys  It’s not over til it’s over. No need to be sad or down at that point. That game wasn’t over. We kept fighting and we pulled it through.

Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
On the game:
There’s a lot you can say. One hell of a game, man. Everybody stepped up at the end. Everybody stepped up all game. We all had each other’s back. And, this is one of those games we hang our hats on and not be satisfied with, but know that we are battle tested.

What helped the USA?
I think the biggest thing that helped us this game was staying together. I think that game could have gone either way. I think we all stayed together down the stretch, and that’s what helped us win.

How do you feel, what’s your mindset?
I think we were all dialed in. Me personally, I just want to do my role – grab rebounds, block shots, be myself. 

Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics)
On the game:
Being together, spending this much time together really showed tonight. We didn’t give up on any possession. We didn’t give up on each other. We stayed together and came out with a huge win. That was an unbelievable game to be a part of. Like I said, I couldn’t be more happy that we are the ones that came out on the winning end. 

This type of game early in the tournament – is that a good thing for the USA?
Of course. It’s not going to be easy. We know that. It’s not going to be easy. It’s a great teams in this tournament. Turkey is one of them. We expected to get their best, and that’s what we did.

Are you discouraged?
Discouraged? No. Far from discouraged. We won. No matter it comes. No matter. Much respect to Turkey. Those guys played, they played great. It was a battle the whole game. But for us to come out with that win, like that, that was incredible. I’m not discouraged at all.

On Turkey’s size:
I think the size was a bit of a problem at times. I thought they moved the ball really well. They played for the whole shot clock. They just made some big plays. We fouled a lot, as well. But, yeah man, I couldn’t be more proud of my team.

On the USA’s zone offense:
Oh, we got to work on that. We got to work on it, and we will. We’re going to watch some film. We’re going to get better. There’s so much room for improvement for us, and I’m glad we were able to be a part of that game, and I’m glad we were able to win.

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