Quotes: USA Men's World Cup Qualifying Team 93, Puerto Rico 76
On the game:
Well, I thought depth, I thought our defensive intensity turned that game. We came together and did it at the defensive end of the floor, which we've talked about, we’ve worked on. And we got a lot from a lot of guys. We are a group that, since day one, has come together and really cared for each other and worked hard. We were down early, didn't maybe play as well as we had hoped, but we hung in there. I'm really, really happy for guys and proud of them.
On the difference tonight and the first two games of World Cup Qualifying in November:
Well, every team is different, like you said, you know, you put 12 new guys together. So that's a challenge for them and it's a challenge for the coaches. But a big part of our success today starts with Joe [Johnson]. From day one when I spoke to him on the phone when he committed – he was our first commitment to this group – he talked about what we had to do and how we had to do it. He is as professional player in person as I've ever been around. When you only have five days to prepare, you don't have time to waste steps so you need that. He’s got the experience and he’s got a great spirit about him. You know, when you lead with humility, guys will follow you. And Joe does that. So, it's been an honor.
I'd also like to say this group of guys has really connected. We finished our scrimmage against (G League) Ignite and the team sat in the locker room, all 12 of them were in there, and they talked for like 30 minutes, just all 12 of them. And so togetherness and chemistry are things we're trying to catch up (on) compared to the other teams. And Joe's example has helped us do that.
JOE JOHNSON (Free Agent/Arkansas)
On the game:
I thought in the second half, we were able to lock down defensively, get some stops, get out and get some easy baskets. And just making plays, kicking out for wide open 3s, guys knocking down shots and obviously we kind of took the momentum in the second half and kind of ran with it.
On being successful in an ever-changing game:
Just taking my time, being patient. You know taking what the defense gives me. Obviously, if it’s one guy guarding me, I just try to put as much pressure on the defense as possible whether is creating a shot for myself or for my teammates. For me, my game isn't predicated on athleticism. Basically, it’s reads for me, just knowing how to play the game. I think at my age, if you can just still get up and down the floor with no problems, your game is your game. You know, outthinking these guys is the way I play. I play the right way and I play winning basketball.
On bringing leadership to the team:
Getting these guys prepared day in and day out for battle. You know, just kind of telling them my experiences, but experience is going to be the best teacher for these guys. You know, being a coach out there on the floor, that’s my job. I just try to lead in those in those avenues and just try to keep everybody composed out there.
On committing to playing in this World Cup Qualifying window:
Well, I played in it last year has so much fun in (Mexico). So, you know, I got a call to get a chance to play this year and it was a no-brainer for me. I'm happy that I was invited. I'm glad I got a chance to come out and compete with these guys.
On having previous experience with short turnaround times between camp/joining a team and playing games:
When I left Brooklyn going to Miami, it was midseason and we kind of needed to get wins right away, so to speak. But this has been a little different. You know, obviously guys that a lot younger than me, but the chemistry is great. We’ve been fighting, battling, competing every day in practice, and it's just kind of carried over to the game.
On if he thought his career might be over after his 10-day contract with Boston earlier this season:
No, I never look at it like that. I'm a guy who loves to hoop. Me and my son, he’s 15 years old, we are in the gym almost every day working. So that's never my thought process. Even though I'm not playing professionally, I still get a chance to compete. So anytime I can get opportunities like, like this playing with USA or with Boston, a guy like myself, a man that loves and stays in gym. Those opportunities are great for me. I love them.
MATT RYAN (Grand Rapids Gold/Chattanooga)
On the game:
I mean, it was so much fun, getting to play a game with these guys after pretty much like a mini training camp. It was special to be able to get a win. We really bonded the past few days. We've worked our tails off. We've gone out to dinner together. We've gotten to know each other really well. So, to come out here our first time playing together and put on a performance like that, it’s really special. I’m just really happy to be part of it.