Getting Better All The Time
Aug. 19, 2010 • Madrid, Spain
The coaching staff threw out the practice schedule early today and the team instead scrimmaged for four 10-minute periods. The final came with a little twist. Coach K had Chauncey Billups (USA White team) and Lamar Odom (USA Blue team) secretly select their teams. They were elevated to player/coach/general manager all in one fell swoop. The Billups-led squad came away with the win and as the buzzer sounded both men were demoted back to simply being players.
As has been the case the last two practices, everyone was loose and the team continued to grow. The Spanish media are all wanting to know what the USA thinks of Spain, especially a Spain team without Pau Gasol, and how this young squad will fare at the World Championship. They’re also all curious as to whether the team has gone out and seen any of the sights around Madrid. We caught up with a few players and joined in on the interviews.
Mike Krzyzewski, USA Head Coach
What about Stephen Curry and his injury?
(He’s) much better, there’s a chance he’ll be back tomorrow, but it’s day-to-day so that’s a good thing. He didn’t have swelling so that’s one of the reasons it’s real good. He might practice tomorrow, it’s a day-to- day thing, but it’s much less serious than we thought when the injury occurred which is good news.
What were your thoughts about practice today?
We had a good practice today. Today we planned for a scrimmage day where we played a whole game even though we were putting people on different teams and stuffs like that. But that helps us in the adjustment. Then tomorrow will be more no contact because we’re going to be playing two games in a row Saturday and Sunday night.
You said yesterday that Gay, Granger and Odom could mix in as starters as well. Can you explain what your plan is as far as mixing and matching your lineup?
Also it might be like a start of a different half, a different starting group. There’s not that much separation with players so if we find that a player is, not that someone is doing bad, but someone’s doing great, they might start or stay in the ball game longer and it gives us a different lineups and that’s why we kind of mixed them up a little more today because they will be in with other teams. But those three guys are very versatile. Lamar can go at the five and four; Danny, Rudy and Kevin can go at the three and the four so we’ll give them an opportunity to play all those positions.
Talk about playing in a hostile environment and what are your general expectations for these two games?
Well it’s exhibition first of all. This is still our training camp. Our training camp lasts until we get to Turkey and so we just want to use these two games as part of us getting adjusted. I think we’ll have a great crowd both Saturday and Sunday, but Sunday we won’t play a game like that in Turkey or like the Greek game unless we play Turkey. So it will be a tougher environment for us then it would be in Turkey which is why we scheduled the game. But again, we want to keep learning from them. We may try some things in those games that we may not use or we might use. In other words, we’re not trying to get ourselves completely ready for Sunday, we’re trying to get ourselves ready for Turkey.
Everybody around the world is calling us the B-Team and looking at us like we’re the junior varsity team. We’re going to take it as a challenge to go out there and try to win it.
~ Derrick Rose
What do you think about Spain?
Spain’s got a great team. There as good as anybody. The thing they do is they know each other, they know their system. A lot of those guys have been playing with one-another for years so that’s huge in basketball when you can have that. In addition to that they share the ball so well. If you make one little mistake they take advantage of it and all of a sudden someone’s got an open three.
They pass the ball, they’re simple passes which become sensational. They are just really good reads. I’m very impressed and was in the Olympics, they’re a difficult team to defend.
How do you compare the two teams from the Olympic finale?
They have an advantage in that they have most of their team back. All of their Olympians, they don’t have Pau (Gasol) and we don’t have our Olympic team back, but were happy with the team we have, it’s just that it’s different. The experience factor that Spain has is something that we’re going to have to overcome.
How would you describe the USA Team?
Athletic; quick; great attitudes and interchangeable parts. A lot of people can play a variety of positions. I would say unconventional, and we’re just going to have to play a little bit differently than we did with the Olympic team just because we don’t have that strength. We have good guards, we don’t have the bulk or height inside that a lot teams that we’re going to face will have. So we’re going to have to use our quickness and hopefully our will, hopefully we’ll have a great will, I think we will.
What about adding Jay Triano to the coaching staff?
You know Jay’s been so good to coach our select team for a number of summers, for him playing on the Canadian National Team for so long and then being the national coach for Canada, that experience of understanding the international game is invaluable. Mike D’Antoni gave the same type of experience to us as a staff. Now we’ve learned a lot more, but to have somebody like Jay to fill in, there is nobody like Jay that could have filled in for Mike, so we’re very fortunate to have that.
Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks)
Have you been out in Madrid yet?
I went out walking, did a little shopping, found a restaurant not far from the hotel. We just go out among the people yesterday.
What did you eat?
It was Italian food, it was really good.
On the sights:
You definitely notice a lot of statues, the architecture, I’m just enjoying it. Yesterday was the first time we had a chance to get out of the hotel. I really enjoyed it.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
What are your prospects for Turkey?
We feel confident about ourselves and how we play. We’re just trying to fine tune some things. Our offense has to get a little better … our defense of course. I think we’re getting better each day.
Thoughts on the scrimmage today?
It was really good. Guys came out and worked hard. Everybody played hard we got better today so that was the best part about it.
Anything stand out in particular about the scrimmage?
Offensively we were better … less turnovers. More drives to the baskets … free throws. I think as a group both sides were conscious on both sides of the floor. It was a step up for us.
What do you know about Spanish team?
I know a couple guys that play in the NBA from their team of course. They are playing very well as a group. They won the last World Championship, I think, too. Everybody on their team is somebody you have to look out for.
Do you know much about Ricky Rubio?
I’ve heard of him of course, having been drafted last year and didn’t come over to play. But of course he’s still a great player. We got to look out for that guy. He’s a crafty player, sort of in a Steve Nash mode
Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers)
Thoughts on today’s scrimmage?
The scrimmage went pretty well. We were really getting up and down and getting after each other. We got a good little run before we get to playing games.
How did you feel you played?
I think I did pretty good. I did the things I need to do … hit the 3-point shot and play pretty good defense.
Do you feel good about the way you’re shooting the ball?
I’m definitely feeling good with how I’m shooting the ball. You just have to adapt just like when we come over here we have to adapt to the time and how people play so that we can win.
What’s the biggest improvement the team has made over the last few weeks?
Just chemistry. We’re really playing well together and playing good defense. And now we’re really changing it to the offensive end to where we are playing more as a team in the half court.
Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers)
Approach to playing Spain:
We have to respect our opponent and still stay focused. That’s a team that’s looking forward to playing us for sure.
Do you think Spain is the toughest competition for the USA?
All of these teams are tough because it makes their day when they can beat us. We have to keep that in mind.
Are you worried about the youth of your team?
It’s ok. It’s cool … we’re quick and we’re strong and athletic so hopefully having youth will work in our advantage … especially speeding up the games … pressing teams and making them play quick, fast or out of control. We will try to use everything we have to our advantage.
After winning two championships with the Lakers, do you expect to win this tournament?
We play to win every game we play. That’s the goal. To go home with a perfect record, but that’s every team’s goal in this tournament.
Thoughts on the scrimmage:
It’s cool. Got a lot out of it. Not just that last quarter but from start to finish. It was productive, hard work. It was a hump day for some of us. Bodies still haven’t adjusted. Our guys are lacking sleep … sleep deprived a little bit. Today, we went strong and hard. And hopefully guys will be able to get a nice meal … get to bed.
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
How are the preparations going for the World Championship?
It’s going pretty good. Practices are getting better. We’re coming together more as a team every day in practice and it’s looking pretty good for us right now.
The team isn’t playing very many games:
It’s kind of hard a little bit, trying to gel, knowing that in a regular season you have training camp, preseason, then you have the regular season and it can take you up to 20 games for you to get used to a team or get used to each other. We’ve got like 12 games or something like that now, so it’s way harder. But we’re up for the challenge and we can’t wait to play.
What teams are most likely to be a challenge for the USA?
You never know what can happen at these tournaments. Right now, the way we’re looking, we’re looking pretty good. But there are a lot of great teams out there, like Spain. They’re the ones that everybody is waiting for us to play. That game is going to be very hype.
This team has a lot of new players on the USA National Team. What can you expect in the World Championship with so many of you wearing the USA kit for the first time?
Everything’s going to be new. This is going to be the first time playing together and it’s a challenge. Everybody around the world is calling us the B-Team and looking at us like we’re the junior varsity team. We’re going to take it as a challenge to go out there and try to win it.