USA Men Prep For Great Britain
While the 2012 USA Basketball Women's National Team takes on Great Britain tonight, the USA Men have a day of practice before they square off against their British counterpart at 7:10 p.m. (l2:10 p.m. EDT) on July 19 at Manchester Arena in Manchester, England.
Hear USA and Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski as well as six U.S. players talk about tomorrow's game and the upcoming Olympics, and don't forget you can watch the game live on ESPN2.
Mike Krzyzewski (head coach, USA and Duke University)
How was the trip over?
It's good to get adjusted, and we are looking forward to a good practice today. It's good to be in England. Once you leave the United States, it's time to get going.
Does being in England bring the Olympics to the forefront for your team?
Yeah, very much so. Not only that, but you can feel it when we had the little meeting, we were welcomed by the city council yesterday, and people were talking about the Olympics ... You get a little bit more of the spirit of the Olympics.
Is it valuable that you are not actually in London yet?
I think you can could be in London too long, or anywhere too long, so us going to Barcelona from here too is good. But it also gets us adjusted to time, gets us adjusted to a different culture, even though it's not that much different, but it's different.
Looks like Brazil gave you a hard game the other night?
Well Brazil is good. They will give everybody a hard time.
What are you expecting from the Great Britain Team?
We've watched some tape. (They are a ) very good shooting team. They rely a lot on the 3-point shot. Luol (Deng) obviously is a world-class player but (Joel) Freeland and (Dan) Clark are outstanding scorers. Their guard play is solid -- well conceived offense, and they have played well. They played well against France and against Spain. So, it will be a good contest for us.
How do you treat this game? Are you still tinkering with lineups and such?
We will always be tinkering because we've only played two games together, and we've only practiced with 12 guys about five times, so there will be a lot of tinkering throughout. But not wholesale change. There is a difference with tinkering and change. We know what we want to do defensively. We know what we want to do offensively, and it's just a matter then of our guys getting comfortable with one another and looking at different rotations that we could have.
Are the distractions of contracts, etc., behind you now? Would you want a longer camp if possible?
I would want the same camp without the distractions. The length was not the problem. The problem was when the end of the NBA season occurred and the Olympics are earlier. It just put us in that window of NBA free agency that causes some of these interruptions, and there is nothing to get around it, so there is now way of changing it. You just get it done. Now, Deron is with us. It's too bad Blake isn't with us because he ended up signing his contract, and Chris is much better physically. So, we are healthy. We've got some bumps and bruises, but we are healthy right now, which we weren't in Vegas.
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Are you worried about the teamís shooting issues?
No, not at all. We have guys who can put the ball in the basket. We have guys who can shoot the basketball. Itís just a matter of getting that rhythm down right now. Weíre still trying to learn each other a little bit. Just as far as getting used to getting the ball into the different spots, from an offensive standpoint, not knowing right now where your shots are going to come from, where the ball is going to come from, being in different positions than where weíre accustomed to, but by the time London comes weíll be fine.
Should it come faster?
Itís actually coming now. We had an opportunity the other day against Brazil. We missed a lot of open shots. We missed a lot of open baskets around the rim, things that we normally donít do.
Is it strange to be on a team without the dominating height youíve had in the past?
We make adjustments. In í08 we had (Chris) Bosh, we had Dwight (Howard) down there. This year, Tyson (Chandler) is our big man, Kevin Love, weíre missing Blake (Griffin). But, the guys we have right now are filling in the voids that weíre missing from í08.
Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
How will London be different for you from 2008, will you be able to get up for it?
Oh yeah, sure. Itís the beauty of the Olympics. Iím really looking forward to it. This is fun. You have the best athletes in the world, and you definitely get up for it.
The comparisons continue to be made between this team and the 1992 Dream Team. Some people are saying this team is potentially better:
No. No, I think what happens is that anytime an Olympic team is assembled, thereís always the opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and reminisce about the í92 Dream Team. Especially this year, since itís the 20th anniversary.
Do you know any of the guys on the Great Britain team?
Not really. We all know Loul (Deng). We know him very well. I believe they have a player who just got drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers. We have to watch film and get to understand who most of the guys are. But Loul we know extremely well.
Youíve had a lot of injuries to the team. Has that caused a lot of disruptions to the training?
Itís caused some disruptions in terms of us being able to go out and compete against each other. For about three or four days we only had nine players, so it kind of slowed us down a little bit.
How will being in London be different than being in Beijing, in terms of the media attention for you?
I donít know. Hopefully we can pass along some of the spotlight to some of the other athletes and allow them to get their just due.
Everybody is saying Spain is the team that could beat you, they have good big men and guards:
And great big men, too. And great guards. Thatís going to be a really big challenge for us.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Do you consider anything but a gold medal a failure?
Yes. That's how we play. That's our mind-set. We have that mind-set, but we know it's not going to be easy.
How hard is it to get started in after playing all the way through the NBA Finals?
I love basketball, so no matter what it is fun to get back on the court. Of course, you try not to think about the Finals or anything like that. This is great for me to try and just turn around and go out there and play.
Do people besides the media talk about that quick turn around?
We don't really talk about it. We talk about individuals, what we did throughout the season and stuff like that, because we are fans of each other.
How is the preparation going for the team?
Going well. Weíre learning a lot about each other and what we need to do. Itís been fun.
What do you need to do exactly?
We just have to play together on both ends of the floor, move the ball. If we do that, weíll be fine.
For you, how do the Olympics compare to the NBA Finals or anything else youíve experienced?
NBA Finals was a little different. Olympics, as far as level of basketball, level of play, all these best players on one team, itís going to be tough to beat other countries but weíre looking forward to it.
Will Olympic Gold make up for losing in the NBA Finals?
Yeah, it would. Losing in the NBA Finals, I was a little upset about it but to come back here and try and win the Gold, that will make up for it all. Iím looking forward to trying to go out there and help the team.
Everyone expects you to win. Is your biggest challenge not being complacent?
We know that we have a long road ahead. We have a goal we want to reach with a new group of guys. Weíre looking forward to going out there and competing. This is important not just for us but the whole country, the USA, and weíre going to try to bring it back home for them.
Do you feel any sense of pressure because the people back home expect you to win gold?
No, I donít because all we can worry about is these guys in this group. We canít let outside influences dictate what we do on the floor, so we got to tune that out. We have a lot of veteran guys who have been through that with their teams in the NBA. People put expectations on them, try to put too much pressure. We kind of tune that out and play our game.
Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
Do you feel any pressure from the expectations?
Just like everyday, a lot of other guys on our team, with their NBA teams there are a lot of expectations. Our guys are expected to win with their NBA teams, so itís not much different here. We just gotta go out there and perform.
Do you know any of the other Great Britain players aside from Loul Deng?
As of right now, no. But weíll look at the scouting report, I pick up on guysí tendencies pretty easily, so when we watch film and scout them a little bit, Iíll know them a little better.
When did the GB get onto the international radar?
I knew Deng was going to be a part of the team, along with the possibility of a few other NBA guys being on their team. Actually our video coordinator for the 76ers played the same role with Great Britain the last couple of years. Weíve spoken a little bit about them.
Thoughts on the way GB has been able to get a team together in a few years to be able to compete in the Olympics:
Itís very impressive. It shows their commitment to where they want to get to. Theyíre a team who can get better with some more experience.
LeBron James (Miami Heat)
How does it feel to play in Britain?
Well, I haven't actually played yet. It's great to be here. I'm happy to be here with our national team, and we look forward to getting better today in our practice and then going out and playing well tomorrow.
Being a favorite, do you feel any pressure?
There's no pressure. It's just to live up to your own expectations. That's the pressure for me.
Can you compare this team to the 2008 team?
We're a different team. We are much faster. A little bit more experienced, a little older. Well, a little younger, but older in our experience. But I think our team is very good. We have some things that we didn't have in '08, and it's going to work to our advantage.
With more talent on the roster than Great Britain, is it difficult to play hard in these games?
That's all we do is play hard. We play hard defensively and we try to move the ball offensively and then we work from there.
How does it feel to be in Manchester? Are you getting a feel for the Olympics?
Yeah, I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great opportunity for us, and I can't wait for the games to start.
What do you think of Great Britain's chances?
Well, obviously I have not had an opportunity to go over their team just yet. We will scout them and go over what they like to do both offensively and defensively and then we will see.
I know they have a great player in (Luol) Deng, but I haven't seen the rest of their team, so I'm not quite sure yet. But I will be able to tell you tomorrow after the game.
On Luol Deng:
I think he is a great player. He represents our league, playing for Chicago, the right way, and doing great things for his respective country, which is awesome.
What does this mean to you?
It mean's everything to me to represent my country at the highest level, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.
On playing Great Britain tomorrow:
I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to seeing the fans come in here and bring the excitement to the game. Of course they are going to be cheering on their home team, which they should. But we are just going to try and play well.
Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers)
On playing against Great Britain tomorrow night:
Iím really good friends with Loul Deng. Anytime you have somebody like that on your team, youíre going to have a good chance to win every night you play.
On the possibility of playing Great Britain in the quarterfinals and whether that determines how the team prepares for tomorrow nightís game:
Not at all. Itís all about playing hard. Both teams are trying to get as prepared as possible for the Olympic Games. Weíve played two games now, and this will be another really good test for us. We need as much practice as we can get right now.
Are you looking forward to any particular team in your group?
Not at all. This will be my second time playing for the USA team at the Olympics. One thing that weíve learned in the past is to take it one game at a time. Itís all about preparing for the next game. So, since we left D.C., itís been all about preparing for Great Britain.