Quotes >> USA National Team Practice Day
Sept. 26, 2010 • Ostrava, Czech Republic
The lights were out in the CEZ Arena today as all teams got a much-needed rest day after playing three straight. The U.S. squad took two hours in the early afternoon to work on defense, walk through new things, clean up old things and USA Basketball.com was there to find out how it went.
Geno Auriemma, University of Connecticut
On having just three athletes with FIBA World Championship experience:
Yeah, youíve got Sue (Bird), Dee (Taurasi) and Tamika (Catchings) who have played in a World Championship. So of the 12 players, nine are here for the first time. You hear a lot of other teams say Ďwell, weíre young. We donít have our whole team, or weíre this, weíre that.í I donít know that thereís a younger team in the tournament than us. I donít know that thereís a less experienced team at this tournament than us.
Having said that, we have as much, if not more, talented players as anybody else. Itís just a matter of us growing up fast. Youíve got nine games and you hope that you grow up as you get to the medal round and then you really grow up and have enough to win in the medal round.
What are you trying to work on here today and in the coming days?
We said this to the team, itís difficult during this tournament to improve tremendously through practice, because you just donít get to practice much. Here, you have a day off from playing three games and the last thing that they want to do is come out here for two hours or so and go through a million different things.
You want to make sure that everybodyís on the same page defensively. Thatís the hardest thing when you put together a team like this and you donít have much time to practice, getting them coordinated enough defensively to cover up for each other.
And on the offensive end, I think weíve been really good on the offensive end. But you saw yesterday in the first quarter how it can fall apart awfully quickly. I asked a couple of the players, Ďwhat was that?í They said ĎI donít know. Thatís kind of what happens in our league when guys just donít feel like moving, just stand around watching each other and wait for each other to make a play.í So youíre constantly working on making sure weíre playing five-on-five, making sure the ball is moving, making sure that everybody knows what the next thing weíre going to do is.
But Iíve got a great group. They listen. They play hard. They pay attention. They do what I ask them to do and Iíve enjoyed every minute of it so far. I just hope that we improve a little bit every day.
Have you seen improvements over the last week?
Yes. The chemistry has been really, really good right from the beginning. Thereís some combinations, obviously, that work better than others. There are no combinations that are bad, itís just some combinations are better than others. Iíve got to find what those are.† We have 12 players on our team and all 12 of them have contributed in a positive way, either on the court, off the court, practice, games, some people 20 minutes, some people five minutes. But everyone has been able to make a contribution and they get along great. They respect each other and thereís nobody trying to outdo somebody. We talked about the fact that they donít have to prove anything to anybody. Everybody knows why theyíre here. Everybody knows who they are and what theyíve accomplished. Even among themselves, they know whoís what. They may all be pros, but some pros are created different than others and I think they all recognize and respect that.
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Looking at this group, only three here have played in a World Championship. How important is it to have leaders like you, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings?
For the three of us, itís important that we kind of show them the way. Thatís what the older players did for us when it was our first World Championship, our second World Championship. I think we definitely have to Ö nine games in 11 days is not easy. You have to be mentally ready for it. You have to be physically ready for it. These teams, this is it. Theyíve been working for two months to play these games. The minute they step out on the floor, itís 100 percent. We have to be ready to deal with that. We have to have our intensity up there, too. But for nine games itís hard to do, which is why itís good that we kind of help them. For the newbies, this experience is needed because theyíre going to be the next Olympians.
Swin Cash (Seattle Storm)
What did you work on today to prepare for the next round?
Today was just about cleaning up some things on the defensive end, understanding some of the defensive schemes that weíre going to have in the next couple of games, and to try to continue to build chemistry. Chemistry is one of the biggest things that we need to work on and have going into this next round and hopefully into the medal round
Youíve been with the team less than a week, have you noticed the team coming together?
Yes, I think weíre starting to. We all know each otherís game, but now is the time weíre really understanding how to pull that all together on the floor and play within the system as well. We have a short amount of time, but we have smart players, players who want to do whatever it takes to help us win. So I think weíll be alright.
What has it been like for you, going from a role player in 2004 to being one of the veteran leaders of the USA National Team?
Itís a different experience. I give a lot of credit to the veteran players that I had the opportunity to play behind in Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and especially Dawn Staley. To learn from them and to get the veteran leadership has really helped how my approach is to this tournament and to the team has been so far.
Do you see the younger players picking that up from the veterans?
Yes, they really go off of our lead, so itís up to us to really up the intensity level when weíre on the floor, to always be leading by example.
Tina Charles (Connecticut Sun)
Is this team where you guys want it to be after three games?
Yeah, but we just have to keep getting better defensively.
Are you feeling good physically, are you tired?
Everyoneís tired. Everyoneís been through a year-round season. Either youíre coming off of college and going right into it or people are playing overseas and coming straight into the WNBA.
What keeps you focused and motivated?
Just mentally, we want to win.
Asjha Jones (Connecticut Sun)
What was your focus in practice today?
With not much time between games, you can only really watch video and clean up small things. We worked on the little small things here and there on our rotational defense. We were able to walk through it without being full speed today, without hurting our legs. We were able to work on some other things that we might do also.
Were you able to get more accomplished at practice today than working things out during games?
Yeah, thatís what part of the games are for. When youíre up big, like against Senegal, you donít want to just win because youíre more talented or you have more players. We really wanted to work on some things in that game that are going to happen down the line as competition gets tougher. We kind of used that as practice. Thatís all you can do, really. Yesterday we didnít have shoot around, so in the little time that we have weíre just trying to focus on the small things.
Is it good to be able to minimize the minutes played on the team?
Weíre one of the teams that has the luxury of having a lot of people who can play. So once we get up big in games weíre able to rest some of our starters a little bit.† I think thatís an asset that we have. And then in practice, thereís not much practice time.
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
Were you able to get more accomplished at practice today than working things out during games?
I would say so because we have more time to focus on our weaknesses. During games you have to kind of like go through a whole bunch of stuff. We donít even have to go hard for two hours, we just have to focus on what we need to work on what we need to do to get better and win the gold.
What was your focus today?
Defense. We know we can score, but if we can limit other people from scoring weíll win games.
How do you feel, are you tired after the first three games?
No. We canít be tired right now. We can focus on being tired after the gold.
Are you where you want to be after three games?
We feel pretty good where weíre at right now, but weíre nowhere near where we want to be. We have so much to improve on. Weíre good, but we can be even greater. Thatís the beauty of our team, weíre that good but we can still have so much to get better at.
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
What are you working on as you head into the medal round?
Just cleaning up a lot of stuff. Going through different scenarios and situations. Itís a good day to get in here and get a workout in, as well as keep your legs going for the next round, the next bunch of games. It was a really good day.
Youíve played a lot of basketball in your life. How different is this from college, the WNBA and EuroLeague?
I think itís the level of intensity. The level of players, the talent level. Itís a tournament where youíre playing nine games in 11 days. Itís intense. You need everybody to be on the same page and be intense and full of energy. I think itís the level of intensity that you have to have every day in everything you do, shoot around, the games. The level of preparation that you have to bring, that every individual has to bring to the team, is probably the biggest difference.
So many of you have played together on different teams. Does that help with your chemistry?
Yeah, I think so. And also everyone on the team is just a good teammate. Everyone on offense is passing, cutting, moving, sharing the ball. I played together with Asjha (Jones), overseas I played with Swin (Cash). The different kind of things, different teams youíve played with, you get to know lots of people.† This is the first time Iíve really played with Syl (Fowles) or Diana (Taurasi) or Sue (Bird), Candice Dupree, (Tamika) Catchings, but you just kind of figure it all out. Because weíre all trying to do the same thing. Weíre all trying to work hard for the same thing. Itís pretty easy to gel when you have people who are willing to make it happen.