Quotes: U.S. Men vs Czech Republic
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USA head coach Gregg Popovich
I thought we played a poor first half and a very good second half against a team that executes very well and does that for 40 minutes. And if you don't come ready, what happened to us in the first half happens. So, the focus was better in the second half at both ends of the floor. The ball moved more. Good to great passes in the second half and more intensity defensively, and that was what helped us gain a win.
How are you feeling about having some size disadvantages in this tournament?
Coach (Ronen Ginzburg) did a great job with his group on taking advantage, especially in the first half. We just allowed too many catches down low in the post. And we fought it much better, did our work early so to speak, in the second half, so we didn't get in those positions.
It is going to be either Italy, or Spain or Slovenia for you in the quarterfinals. Can you comment on your potential opponents?
That's way too difficult for me to answer.
One team at a time is all I can handle. So, I'll just wait till whenever, Sunday night I guess. And then I'll know who we play, and then I can talk about those teams. But they're all very good teams, obviously. And this Olympics is just going to get better as far as basketball is concerned, because the teams are all pretty passionate, and very talented and a lot of individual players that people will enjoy on TV.
Have you admired Jrue Holiday’s character from afar with what he has done on the court and all the work that he has done off the court?
He's an individual of high character, highly intelligent, and he has a huge heart on top of all that. He's, in a way, kind of like the meanest man in the valley, but you'd never know it because of his quiet demeanor, his kindness. But he's an all-around wonderful human being. And his entry to the team, late as it was, has had an immediate affect, because he garners so much respect from his teammates - Special guy.
Did this team grow more from the way the summer started? Or did you just simply need to get your group together before you could become what you hope to become?
It would be disingenuous if you said we wanted to lose on purpose so we could learn things. That's kind of ignorant, if I said that. But circumstances should be taken advantage of no matter what, win or lose. We were behind the eight ball in the beginning, and we're making some fast progress. We still have a lot of improvement that we must and can make. But I think the losses in the beginning put a laser focus on how you have to play with these rules, in this environment against these talented teams, who execute wonderfully. And if you do not have respect for your opponent, you're going to be in big trouble. So, we learned that the hard way. But it also was a difficult beginning, not being able to have a team together. And so, under some unusual circumstances, I think our guys really focused well and did a good job in gaining ground day-by-day, practice-by-practice, and hopefully we'll continue that as we move forward. And we have to if we want to be successful.
What's Jayson Tatum's development over the last two years since you've coached him in the World Cup been like? How different of a player is he now than he was in 2019?
Obviously, he's more confident. But I think he makes better choices, decision-making-wise, whether it's time to, you know he’s hit a couple and his next catch, he drives it. While he's driving it, he can find a teammate. So he drives, he attacks for himself and for a teammate at the same time, and he didn't do that in the very beginning in the league. He was just a scorer. But now, he's valuable because he does the other things. He's starting to rebound better. We're telling them that it's important. We're not that big, and so we do need him on the board. Like tonight, I just told him I said, ‘act like you're playing the Spurs.’ Because every time we play him, he scores like 90, so it seemed to work.
Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
It was a good game. We started off slow, and they hit us in the mouth early. We were able to take that punch and come out and play a great team game on both ends.
On breaking the U.S. Olympic Men’s all-time scoring record, surpassing Carmelo Anthony’s 336 points:
I just think about all the players that played in this program and (it’s) pretty cool to be amongst names like that. Carmelo (Anthony) is a guy that I played on two Olympic teams with, and I've seen his approach to these games, and I try to steal some of his techniques and approach. I don’t know, it is still pretty weird for me to do stuff like this, because I play a team sport and I try my hardest to make it about the group. But, it is special to do something like that. And scoring is something that I worked on my whole career and something that I've expanded my whole career and to consistently do it is pretty cool.
On handling the challenge of being the team captain, team leader:
A lot has been asked of me every team I played on since I was 8 years old. Every coach expected me to go out there and adapt to any situation, so it's no different here. I wouldn't say that I'm the team leader. I mean, coach Pop (Gregg Popovich), we follow his lead, and guys fit in after that. And some nights it may be me, last game it was Dame (Lillard), tonight JT (Jayson Tatum) led us in scoring. I feel like I have to be prepared to do every single thing out on the court. I don't want to be a liability anywhere. I don’t want to feel like my coaches can't trust me in any situation. And I worked to be at that point. So it’s fine. It's fine being able to mix it up and do other things. I know scoring is the thing I love to do, and people know me for scoring, but my game is expanded, and I feel like I could do everything at a high level.
A couple days ago, Kelsey Plum won a gold medal with the 3x3 team. Breanna Stewart is playing with the women's team. You guys have a shared experience when it comes to Achilles injuries. What's the bond like between people who have gone through that? And what is the bond like with you and those two women?
We had a conversation during the pandemic, on Breanna’s podcast, us three, about the process of coming back from Achilles and the rehab. And to see those two, especially Kelsey now finished the job and being a gold medalist, just so proud to watch. Just watching her as she's come back, and she looks like she hasn't missed a beat.
And obviously, Breanna being a champion after tearing hers and coming back and destroying the league the way she did, and on her way to try to get another gold is very inspiring. A lot of people out here that go through these injuries, especially this Achilles injury, there are so many people that don't even play sports that have walked up to me and told me that they had Achilles’ injuries.
And so it feels like I have, in a weird way, a connection, not just to athletes, but with people in general who go through these things. Because that process breaks you down, you know?
I’m looking forward to Klay Thompson coming back and showcasing what he can do after his as well. It feels like people that go through this, we kind of have some connection. So, it's good to see those two bounce back, and I'm glad I've been able to be out on the floor as well.
This is a pretty new team. How much do you talk about your experience, trying to lead by teaching versus just playing?
It’s basketball at the end of the day, and these guys are all world talents, all-stars, guys who've been the best players on their teams. So, I don’t say much to them. It's just a simple game at the end of the day. But a lot of guys do actually ask me about the experience. For example, a lot of guys asked me about the Opening Ceremony. They ask me about the teams we played back then. But it's not like giving them strategy or telling them technique. It’s basketball at the end of the day, and these guys know it. They’re high IQ players. Just giving them my past experiences, telling a couple stories here and there, I guess that's really what it would have been like. But I try to just lead by example by just going out there and being a great teammate in practice, working as hard as I can and just leaving it at that.
Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks)
On the USA’s second half:
I think it was our defense. We did a really good job of picking up and getting into the ball and then being able to rebound. First quarter there, they were throwing it into the paint. They were throwing it into the bigs, and they were doing whatever they wanted. So, I think that's just attention to detail, trying to front that post and make it hard for them really worked for us.
Now that you've played three games, how do you feel your game fits this international style?
I think it fits. I feel like I'm here to assist. I'm here to rebound. I'm here to make plays for other people, get into the paint, penetrate, and then pick up full court. You can be really aggressive, defensively especially, so that's right in my wheelhouse.
On Kevin Durant’s game:
It looked easy. It was fun to watch. It's fun to be a part of. And then I’d probably say J.T. (Jayson Tatum) taking over after that. We got some of the best players out here, so it's fun to watch him be a part of it.
The USA started the second half 21-of-25 from the field. Is that the best shooting stretch this team has had?
I’d probably say last game (we shot) maybe something close to that. But I think we're just locked in. We knew how serious this game was. And we didn't come out in the first quarter like we wanted to, so we just wanted to push up the lead.
Keldon Johnson (San Antonio Spurs)
On the game:
Basketball is a game of runs. They made some good runs, and they were up. They're a pretty good team. They were playing good basketball. And they were up, but we didn't panic. We knew that as long as we keep going and playing together and doing what we’re capable of, we knew that eventually we were going to make our runs and play our best basketball throughout the game.
The U.S. public always wants you to impress. What's it like to live with that pressure?
There's no pressure. We just want to win. Whether it’s by two points or 30 points, our objective is to win. Expectations? Everybody got expectations for us. It don't really matter. We stay together as a team, and we go into every game with the mindset to win. It don't matter by how much, as long as we win.
Do you think the U.S. fans would be happy with bronze or silver?
We don't plan on getting bronze or silver, but if that happens, that’s something we got to live with. Definitely not planning on doing that.
Can you talk about the progression of the team?
The last two games, we've been playing basketball how we know we could play. First game we were a little stagnant, a little hesitant, but as you’ve seen the last few games we are playing freely and having fun.
Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
How did you feel about how you shot tonight and the second half second half performance?
It was a good night. We obviously had a slow start, but everybody just picked it up on defense and got stops, and the game just opened up in the second half. The way we were moving it, obviously, we're starting to shoot the ball a lot better now than we did the first game, and we are getting more comfortable.
Would you attribute that comfort to the practice time?
Yeah, practice time, just time playing with each other, more days spent over here. Just getting more comfortable in general.