Additional Quotes >> USA Practice in Greece
Aug. 24, 2010 • Athens, Greece
The USA team is in Athens for a brief stay that started last night with a tour of the year-old Acropolis museum and will end tomorrow night with its final exhibition game prior to the Worlds. Following practice today at the OAKA arena, host to the 2004 Olympic and1998 World Championship medal rounds, the team was greeted by a number of Greek media, who all wanted to know what to expect at the USA – Greece game tomorrow night. We jumped in on the media session to find out what the players and USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski had to say
USA head coach Mike Kryzyzewski
We’re honored to be here. One of the great things about our preparation is stopping in two of the best basketball countries in the world in Spain and Greece, playing against their national teams in exhibition games. This is the fourth time I’ve been to Greece. I love the country and many of the coaches in the last 20 years who have visited Duke have been Greek coaches. We’ve developed strong friendships. It will be an honor to play here tomorrow night and we’re hoping that we can play well.
In 2006 you had a better team than you do now and you lost to Greece. How do you like your chances against Greece tomorrow night?
That was four years ago. We won the Olympics in 2008 with a different team. We have a different team now and in London we’ll have a different team. Whatever happened in each of those years, 2006, 2008, it makes no difference with what we’re doing today. We have a young, athletic, very enthusiastic team that we think will play well in the World Championship.
On the refereeing and whether the team has figured out the traveling calls:
I wasn’t upset, I was just questioning the fact that we had eight fouls and they had none. As for the traveling, it’s different. We have to adjust to the international game. Traveling in full court is something that is unusual. That’s unusual. In the half court you have to put the ball down before you move. But in the full court it’s a little bit more unusual, so we have to adjust.
Who are you concentrating on going into the World Championship?
We’re concentrating on us. We’ve only played three games. We’ve never played together before. Tomorrow night’s game, for us, is about getting to a better understanding of ourselves and the international game before we get into the World Championship. We get a chance to do it against one of the best teams in Greece.
On using collegians vs. professionals:
I think it’s up to me as a coach to adapt to the players. How I coach my college team is different than how I coach the international team because my college kids are not professionals, the guys I’m coaching are professionals. In 2008 we had older professionals, so you have to adapt to that. This team has younger professionals, outside of Odom and Billups. I don’t think the players have to adapt to you as much as you have to adapt to them.
Tyson Chandler talks about Athens.
Where did you get your zone defense?
From coach Boeheim. We may play some zone tomorrow because our team is not that big. Sometimes you need to play some zone. They don’t play zone in the NBA, so it’s an adjustment for our players. We will use it at times.
What’s your secret to longevity, in terms of coaching so many years at Duke and then coaching for USA Basketball?
You coach longer when you have really good players and I’ve had really good players. They keep you younger than bad players do.
On the team’s lack of size:
We thought we’d be bigger, but the first day of training camp we lost Lopez, Stoudemire and Lee. At that time we could not bring other people in, so it was, here’s who we have. We have to adjust and put in a system that would be good for this group. We would probably play a little differently if we had those other guys, we hope that it will still be successful, but there’s more room for error with the lack of size.
Is it better to win the World Championship or the Olympics?
I would think anytime you have a chance to win a championship with your country’s team, it’s the ultimate honor. You can’t separate one from the other. We’ve won some championships in college, but the can’t compare to the Olympic gold medal. The World Championship, if we were fortunate to win it, that would be an amazing thing also.
Who would you pick on the Greece team?
I like a lot of them. I’ve gotten to know them very well over the past six years. Diamantidis to me is a very unusual player in that he plays great defense. His ability to pass, I love his passing ability. I love Spanoulis’ competitiveness. I think that he is one of the most competitive players in the world. The way we play, I think Schortsanitis would be great for our time, he’d give us some size on the inside. Bourousis,I really like him a lot because not many big guys are so friendly with the ball. I like their team because the Greeks have always played with great heart and great spirit. I love that about your country and the players from your country.
Would you ever coach in Europe?
Poland has never offered me a job (laughs). No, I’m happy where I am. If you’re good at one thing, it doesn’t mean you’d be good somewhere else. I love what I do. I love the fact that I’ve been given the honor to coach my country’s team because that’s the ultimate honor.
Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets)
On media referring to the team as the B Team:
No, I don’t feel that way at all. I feel like we’ve got the best players in the world. Even the Kobes, LeBrons, Melos are not here, I still feel like we’ve got the best talent in the world. We should still expect to be successful.
Back in 2006 the American guys didn’t know the name of their opponents. Are you now more informed?
Absolutely. We know that the Greek team is one of the best in the world. We’ve got great respect for what they’ve been able to accomplish, along with Spain and a couple of these other teams. They’re the best and we look forward to competing against them.
This team hasn’t played much together, is that difficult?
We’re coming along. It takes time. This is a new team. It’s the first time we’ve all played together as a unit. We’ve been together for about a month, maybe. So that is the challenge, trying to come together as soon as possible.
Thoughts on playing on European courts?
The game is totally different. The floor is different as well. The 3-point line, the key is different, there’s a lot of differences about the games. This is something that all the teams here are used to. We’re not used to it, so that’s another challenge that we try to fight through.
It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I want to bring my family here for a vacation. It’s beautiful.
And the Greek team?
We have great respect for their team. Obviously they beat us before. That makes you respect them. We know that they’re one of the best teams in Europe, in the world, really. We look forward to the challenge.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
What are your thoughts entering the World Championship?
We always go into anything positive here. We have a great group of guys that like playing with each other, playing basketball with each other. We’re excited. We just want to continue to get better every day.
Are you confident after your win vs. Spain?
I mean that uplifted our confidence a little bit but you never know what will happen, especially in these games. Once you get the gold medal round in the tournament, one loss and you go home, and so you always have a breakdown of a game or lose a game, you can’t determine on that game that day your chances of winning the whole thing. We are just trying to take it a day at a time and get better.
Looking ahead to the World Championship?
We’re excited to get there. It’s been a long time. We’ve been practicing a lot, playing against each other a lot. These two last two exhibition games helped us out as far as learning about ourselves and learning about the game, the international game. We’re excited to get over there and try to do our best.
Differences in NBA game and international game?
It’s very physical. The defense is different. The teams here … every guy on their team can shoot the basketball. It’s a little different but it’s also making us better as individuals.
Do you remember the USA-Greece game from 2006 and does that motivate you?
Yeah, I watched that game and that was a tough game. The Greece National Team played very, very well. They have a lot of talent. It’s going to be tough to beat those guys. I think we do have that in the back of our mind that they beat us and also that we haven’t won a World Championship since ’94. We’re excited to be out here and try to play and try to win.
Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies)
On what he learned from the trip to the Acropolis?
I like to read up on stuff so I kind of read up on it beforehand. It’s just great to be a part of history. I came and I saw. That’s one of those things I’ve always wanted to see. Just to get to see that out of my hotel room means a lot to me.
What does the USA’s third place finish at the Olympics in Athens mean to you and how does it motivate you?
Obviously, this game is bigger than what people think it is to us. We have to play well and if we play our game, we’ll be fine.
What do you take from the exhibitions as you get ready for Turkey?
This whole thing is a process for us from the beginning we learned from China and France. We came over here and took what we learned from them and applied it to our game in Spain. Spain was a tough game for us. We came up with the win, but now we use that to play against Greece.
Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)
Do you feel pressure to win against Greece?
There’s a little pressure, because we have to try to reestablish ourselves once again on the world stage, so there’s definitely some pressure. But I think we’ll live up to it.
Did you watch the USA’s semifinal game against Greece in the 2006 World Championship?
I didn’t watch the whole thing, but I saw some of the highlights. I remember those highlights. Greece has a good team, they’ve always played good basketball.
Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
On the visit to the Acropolis last night?
It was a good experience to see history like that. All of the guys enjoyed it. I wasn’t supposed to but I took lots of good pictures.
What do you think of Athens so far?
Very historical city. You see some things that are still standing from thousands of years ago. It’s good to see. Different from back home how things were built back in the day. It’s almost like its better than it is now.
Thoughts on game tomorrow night?
Just trying to continue to execute as a team. Get more familiar with each other. We’re trying to win every single game we go out there and play.
Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
On the Greek Costa Koufos playing with Love in Minnesota next year:
He’s always been great. We were in the same high school class. We were high school All-Americans together, we played the McDonald’s game together. We played against each other in AAU ball growing up. He’s a great player, he can really run the floor. He can step out and shoot the ball. He does so many different things. He’s really a presence in there. He’s a great player with a good future.
What are you hoping to do against Greece?
Winning of course (laughs). We’re in a different arena, a different atmosphere. We’re preparing for this game a little differently because we lost to them in ’06. This is definitely one of the teams, going forward to Turkey, that we’re looking at. They’re going to be right there at the end with us. We’re looking to go out tomorrow and have a really good showing against them. Coach had mentioned this morning that you always want to crush the opponent that you think is going to be there towards the end. So we’re going to come out very serious and very focused on the task at hand.
Have you had a chance to see anything yet?
The Acropolis. That was unbelievable, as far as civilization and how old things are. Whether it’s what they built, the architecture, or the original supermodels, the Kores, the statues of the women. That was unbelievable to me. Just being there and experiencing that and seeing everything the older civilizations, how far back everything went. It was unbelievable hearing the stories. It was like we were right there with the History Channel the whole time.
In the USA, Boston or D.C. would be considered old:
That’s nothing. For me, this is my first trip overseas. Spain was very, very cool, seeing the different sights. But seeing the Acropolis, seeing all the different things that they had to show there, that was something special last night.
Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers)
On playing for the USA?
We play professional basketball for a living. We come out and we represent our country with pride. This is something we do just for pride. We playing for the names on the front of our jerseys.
On tomorrow’s time vs. the Greeks?
It will be fun, competitive. Look forward to it. Great experience, great place to play basketball. City has a lot of amazing culture. It should be a fun, competitive match
What do you know about Greece’s team?
They play hard, play well together. They pass the ball a great deal.
They’re a great team.
Any chance we’ll see your wife while you’re in Athens?
Most likely. She’ll be here.
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
What are you focused on for the game against Greece?
Just to go out, play hard and continue to get better. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.
What do you expect for the FIBA World Championship?
I don’t know. This is my first time. I expect it to be real competitive and hopefully we’ll be ready.
Don’t you feel a little familiar because you have so many international players in the NBA?
Definitely, but at the same time a lot of teams are different. They have been playing together for a couple of years now. They know each other’s games a lot better than when they’re playing in the NBA.
Is it tough for 13 different players and personalities to stay together for one month?
Not at all. As long as we stick together and play together we’ll be alright.
What’s this team’s biggest weapon?
Having energy and defending. That’s a big key for us. If we’re defending, rebound have a lot of energy, the offense will take care of itself.
Did you expect the game against Spain to be so close?
Yeah, I knew it was going to be a good game, especially on their home court. I knew it was going to be a real competitive game, kind of like how it’s going to be here.