2012 U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team Takes The Court For First Practice As 12-Member Unit
After announcing the team on July 7, the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team took the court as a 12-member unit for the first time during practice on July 8. Hear from USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski, as well as five team members, following Sunday's practice and check out the action in our photo gallery.
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski
On Tyson Chandler:
First of all, Tyson is the best teammate. He understands who he is. He doesn't try to be anybody else. So, he is our center, he rebounds, he plays defense on the five, he runs the court, he is going to set a lot of screens, and he loves doing all of those things. Defensively, he has a good voice behind him. A lot of people talk about the voice of a point guard to get you organized offensively. The voice of a big guy on defense is critical because he gets you organized from the inside out. It's just the opposite, but it's also the same impact, and Tyson has that ability.
On the difference between and NBA and USA Basketball:
First of all, in the NBA this year, there weren't many practices because of the condensed season. I think they were playing a game every 1.6 days, and so getting them accustomed to practice but not doing too much physical contact because they are coming from a condensed season, we don't want to go to London hurt and tired. But to do enough, there is like a balance that you have to keep. But these guys get excited. They are usually the best guy on their team, or one of the top two guys on the team, or with the Thunder one of the top three, and now they are with other guys who are the top guys. That excites them. They like to share their abilities. Yesterday when we did some controlled scrimmaging, we had some great exchanges as a result of that.
On Carmelo Anthony:
Carmelo, in international play, can play three positions, and on our team he's not married to one position. So, anytime down the court, he can be in different spots. I think a really good player likes that. Defensively, the physicality of the game is something Carmelo likes. Carmelo is a guy who enjoys contact, and he doesn't back down from it. He's able to play through it, and he's able to use it. The international game lends itself to that. Carmelo is one of the better international players. He is one of the best players, but that doesn't always translate into being that good internationally.
He has been as committed as anyone in our country to USA Basketball. He's been doing this for almost 10 years. That's pretty good commitment.
Can you compare this team to 2008?
I think (this team) has the potential to be that if we learn to use our versatility. It's a more versatile team than 2008. Now, does that translate into being better? I do think LeBron is a better player right now. He was real good then, but he is a great player right now. Carmelo is a better player. Chris and Deron are better players. I think Kobe maintains his level of who he is. Although we don't have the center, that team didn't have Durant or Westbrook. So, it's a different team, and we will see if it becomes better, but it can be. It could be.
On Russell Westbrook:
I think Russell is a great player. It baffles me how people can be so critical of him. I think what he does is absolutely sensational. His ball pressure, his offensive rebounding, his athleticism is off the charts.
On James Harden:
I like James a lot. I didn't know him at all. I mean I watched him play. He is really a good guy, and smart. He's great with people, he is easy to play with on the court. And he's just performed on Broadway, you know, in a hit show. He had the pressure of performance under the most intense light against the Mavericks, against the Lakers and against San Antonio. And then to be in the championship series. In a lot of those situations, he was the best player for certain periods of time out on the court, and he understands the role of coming off the bench. I think it's a good choice for us. He earned it while he was here, but also what he has done. We are happy to have him.
On coaching a team of outstanding players:
I do get excited watching them, and for me and the guys on the staff we understand our responsibility to make sure that the practice is set up where they can do that, and that we don't get in the way (by) over-coaching. I think you have to do enough but not too much, and that's what we are trying to do offensively with the team is give them some structure but not too much structure, because these guys have a great feel for the game of basketball. And then when they are with one another they have an even better feel ... Like LeBron yesterday, he made a lot of terrific plays and made passes that he may not make with the Heat. And so, this brings out something new for these guys, and I like watching that. You just kind of (try not) to get in their way but give them enough. They, I think, respect the fact that we try to do that.
How much of your experience from 2010 translates to this Olympics?
Iím more comfortable and Coach K having confidence in me makes it easier for me to be myself. Iím excited and looking forward to the opportunity and to this challenge, and hopefully we can do a great job.
Can you describe some of the battles from practice?
We want to push each other and get each other better day by day. Thatís the best part of these. Everybody wants to be great. Everybody is an All-Star, first team All-NBA, a few championships, Finals MVPís but we play together as a group and throw that out the door, and everybody comes in here and itís all about one team and thatís what makes it fun.
What do you think you can do well given the international rules?
I do a little bit of everything well, internationally and in the NBA, so my game doesnít change.
Given the changes that have occurred to this team from the past how can this team be better than the previous team?
We have some guys that can help pick that up. (Dwyane) Wade was our leading scorer, but we didnít have Kevin Durant on our team. We didnít have Tyson Chandler on our team as well and the athleticism at the point guard position. Westbrook kind of takes J-Kiddís spot. We have some players who can do so many great things. On the floor we have athletic guys as well.
Look at (Andre) Iquodala being more athletic than Tayshaun (Prince). James Harden can do so many great things and fill in for Michael Redd. We have so many great pieces that guys can play to their strengths.
Can you describe how competitive the practices are?
Itís been very competitive. Everybody has brought their egos here, but they all have brought it in for one cohesive unit. We finally got the team down to twelve, and I think it is going to be that much more competitive.
On whether this team can be as good or better than the 2008 team:
I think it can but at the end of the day I donít think it really matters. Itís all about winning the gold medal. We canít freeze time and play against the í08 team. í08 we were very talented and very good. The reason why I think this team will be better is we are a little more versatile but a bigger part of it is that all of us are much better than we were in í08. Thatís what a lot of people probably donít realize. Look at LeBron and Deron how much better they are. Iím stronger now. Even Kobe is better now than back then.
On Blake Griffinís selection:
I was happy. I was probably happier than he was. Itís no secret that we need him. We are going to need his good attitude and how hard he plays.
If LOB city will come to Europe:
We will see. Itís going to be more than LOB city in Europe. We have a lot more guys that can dunk than just Blake.
On not being able to play full speed yet:
I definitely want to get out and play. I havenít played five-on-five since April 26, so yeah, I want to get on the court. I got to wait till I sign the contract on Tuesday at 9 pm.
On playing in the Olympics again:
Iím looking forward to it. The first go around was really special winning the gold medal. I look forward to this opportunity. Representing my country, putting on the USA jersey and getting a chance to go out there and compete. Playing with these types of guys is a twice in a lifetime opportunity.