Additional Quotes >> Sept. 10, 2010
Sept. 10, 2010 ē Istanbul, Turkey
USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo
What are your observations of the tournament so far and how the USA team has played?
Iím very encouraged because weíve come such a long way from selecting the group of players and having some early disappointments with injury and players being unavailable. So, theyíve banded together. Theyíve come together as a unit, as a team Ė a team that enjoys being in one anotherís company. Theyíve been very attentive Ö kind of predicted it would be a low maintenance team and thatís exactly what itís been. Theyíre a great bunch of guys.
Eric Gordon has been, from the playing standpoint Ö his play certainly brought him from one role to another. So thatís been exciting to see that. (Kevin) Durant is living out all the expectations. A lot of players are sacrificing their own game to be a part of what weíre doing. That more than anything Ė not so much as a surprise Ė but itís satisfying to see a group of young pros be committed, be focused and show the character that they have. These are outstanding young guys. Your thoughts on the job Coach K has done as the national team coach?
Itís the leadership, itís the infrastructure that he and I spoke about way back when, when he and I talked about him being the guy I wanted to coach the team. We had to put infrastructure in place and itís there and itís played out every day. With the staff, with the preparation, with the film sessions, with the scouting, with the motivation that is part of this whole thing, the communication. Itís the way it should be. Itís a real program. You had a role for Chauncey when you put him on this team and he seems to have delivered in a big way?
Coach and I felt that he could serve in a capacity because of his veteran leadership and the fact that he could still play. And thatís proving to be very valuable because right now, we have to count on him to be one of the real leaders in these last couple games. What is your thought process going into the final weekend? Nervous? Excited?
Iím excited about the opportunity. As a team owner, as a coach, as a manager, all you ever want to do is put your team in a position to have a chance to win and weíre right there Ö right on the brink. So, weíll take this next game as a very, very important game because we donít get to the final unless we win. If we can just get there and have that opportunity, thatís why weíre here.
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University)
What are your thoughts about Lithuania?
....Incredibly impressive performance (versus Argentina). Lithuania is undefeated since we got them in the exhibition game and I thought they had fresh legs and Argentina looked like they had just won a big game against Brazil. The Argentina-Brazil game was one of the great games of the tournament and Lithuania pushed it down, pushed it down on them and made them run. I thought Lithuaniaís enthusiasm to play and how fast they played was the key to that and we have to be cognoscente of that because they want to score in transition. You hit eight out of eight threes, boy, that can happen to any of us in this competition. Youíre outscored 24 to nothing from the 3-point line thatís a tough thing to overcome.
NBA team donít shoot that many threes, is it hard for the guys to adjust to that kind of game?
I think itís hard in first of all you try go through a half court defense, but in transition you have to talk a lot, especially against Lithuania because they fan out, they send people not just to corners but theyíre fanned out. The middle guy, and itís not just a point guard, any of their guys will attack you. The toughest international teams to defend put four shooters on the court, where the four is also a good 3-point shooter, and thatís what they do. Then when they sub at the center position they actually have five good shooters. So you have to really point and talk because of all of a sudden Jasaitis can be trailing and thereís that left- hand three when youíre not talking. So theyíre going to be aggressive. We have to take away transition first and then make it difficult for them to run their half court stuff.
What did you get out of the exhibition, namely that dreadful first quarter?
Well that someone could do that against you. That they werenít intimidated by us and I thought they were aggressive, very physical and we got knocked back. It was one of those scoring draughts too where we were 3-for-26, but they had a lot to do with that. So we know then that helps us respect them even more because that happened once he can happen again.
Whatís the biggest way your team has evolved since that night?
Well one, different starting lineup. We know our guys better, although itís not a set rotation. Coming off the bench Westbrook and Gordon have been just really good, I think Gay has been really good. Yesterday was a different game where you canít take Durant out of yesterdayís game. Our center position has had a good rotation. Yesterday their guy was so big, I thought he was too big for Kevin, and then Tyson was ready and I thought Tyson gave us good minutes. Weíre just more of a team then we were that first time and so are they. They were still making their roster cuts. We were both making our roster selections when we played that game.
Is Durant doing more for this team than you had to have an individual do the last go around?
I think a little bit more, yeah because we never had to rely on one guy to score as much as he is sometimes is relied on to score. I think Kevinís defense is the thing and rebounding...heís become I think just better. His defense is very good, heís become a really good defender.
Do you have to erase that memory a little bit of that first Lithuania game and realize this is a much better team than the one we faced?
I donít know about erasing, I think remembering is better because they were ahead of us 15-7 and 29-28 and it was tied in the third quarter, you want to remember they are capable of doing that. In this competition, coming back from the press conference last night, we were walking by the locker rooms and the Argentina coach, who is a good guy, a good friend, I didnít see him and he said ĎCoach, you just won a very difficult gameí and I said Ďyeah, theyíre really goodí and he said ĎCoach everyone is good right now.í Itís a reminder that everyone is good right now. We think weíre good too, but we know that everyone is good or else they wouldnít be in that final four. These games are not easy.
What kind of challenge is it to win the World Championship?
We havenít won since í94 so itís an unbelievable challenge. I think itís probably more of a challenge doing this than it was to win in the Olympics a couple years ago.
Why is that?
Because the guys that we have, the inexperience that we have. I think in the U.S., we didnít before the Jerry Colangelo and Coach K regime Ö the World Championship wasnít a huge, huge deal like it was for the rest of these countries. The Olympics has been. The World Championships hasnít been so I think thatís the reason we havenít won since í94. They put an emphasis on it that anytime we have a chance to win a World Championship or Olympic gold medal, you put your best forward and try to win it. And, I think that is what Colangelo has brought to the table for USA Basketball.
Have the World Championships reached the level of the Olympics under Jerry Colangeloís leadership?
Yeah, I think so. I really do. With the stuff that heís put in, getting guys committed to the team and working two and three training camps a summer just to get familiar with one other. I think thatís why our teams have as a whole played so well for the last four or five years that weíve played with the exception of one game in the last championships. Jerry is putting in a great system and I think itís going to work for a lot of years.
Do you think people in the US will ever accept the World Championships as important as the Olympics?
Thatís a good question. If I had to guess, I would say no but itís a little different when youíre in it. Weíre not on our own soil and we can feel the passion and we can feel how serious people feel about the World Championships when weíre away from home. When weíre home and weíre talking about the importance of the World Championships as opposed to an Olympic gold medal, it might be a little different. But, when youíre in the foxhole you can feel the heat and feel whatís going on and what people say and what people think about you. The importance then seems a little different.
Why is Coach K able to reach NBA stars and coach them?
He really understands the professional game more than any college coach I have been around especially to not have coached on the pro level before. He understands the game and understands that in an hour and a half or two hours, you can get the best out of guys without going overboard. Weíve got the proper rest and at the same time, getting after guys and saying this is what we got to do and this is how we got to play. With this group, I think it really doesnít hurt that he probably has guys on his (Duke) team in college that are the same age as some of these guys.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
On the game against Lithuania:
We have a tough test in front of us but I think weíre all looking forward to it..
Coach K has talked about your defense. How much pride do you take in that part of your game?
Thatís all Iím trying to do is focus on the defensive end, trying to get in the passing lanes, trying to get my hands on couple of basketballs and lead to easy points. When I get the ball, I just try to be aggressive. I just have to continue to let the game come to me.
Did you think youíd be scoring this much on this team?
Not really to be honest with you. Iím just playing within the offense, not going out there and forcing anything. Iím not calling for the ball all the time. Iím just playing within the offense and if you let the game come to you, thatís when shots start to come and start to fall. Iím going to take this mentality into my season at Oklahoma City as well so Iím learning a lot.
Do you get covered by power forwards much in the NBA?
If they switch the pick and rolls, yeah but mainly not that much. Itís a little tougher in the NBA because they double a lot, they load up a lot but this is all a learning experience and I think Iím getting better.
Whatís the most important thing youíve learned on this trip?
Playing different positions and being able to be the guy thatís not the main focus on offense but still going out there and playing within the offense and not calling the ball or asking for plays. Just letting the game come to me so I think Iíve learned a lot in that area. Iím just getting better at it.
Has Coach said to you on this trip that we need more from you?
No. Heís pulled me to the side and told me what I need to do on the defensive end. If I have a wide open shot, take it. If I have a driving lane, drive to the basket and just have fun. Thatís what heís really emphasizing a lot to everybody, just go out there and have fun.
Eric Gordon speaks about his USA experience