Practice 2 - Concordia International School Shanghai, Shanghai, China:
Gregg Popovich (USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach)
How much does it add to the challenge when you try to figure out rotations with a shorter game, does that take some getting used to?
It does actually, that’s a good point. You know in a 48 minute game, you pretty much know how to get everybody in, or the people you want to get in anyway. Here you have to make some decisions, because everybody may not play. It’s impossible to give everybody the minutes they would like to have, but like I said, guys with character understand that. It’s just about winning. It’s not about minutes, or points or any of that stuff. So, everyone knows that they’ll have maybe a different role than they do in the NBA, and that they’re going to play fewer minutes than they did in the NBA.
You’ve been talking about comradery for your team and other teams since this started a month ago or whatever it was, has that been one of your top priorities?
Absolutely. You have to enjoy being with people to feel responsible for them. To be accountable to each other, you have to have some sort of an empathetic bond. You have to love each other to a degree, or that stuff doesn’t blossom, and I think they’ve done a great job of that. They went out by themselves. They didn’t want to see any coaches or anybody else, they just went and had dinner last night and enjoyed an evening together. That sort of thing is important....
FIBA has different basketball rules. What’s your message to the players about the different styles?
Well, from day one we’ve talked to them about that and run drills in Las Vegas and in Los Angeles and in Australia to try to form some habits, so they would know that things are different, but that’s all that we can do. So, we’re aware of it, we’ve worked on it and we’ll see if we can follow through once the games begin.
You have Steve Kerr back as an assistant coach. Do you sometimes have disagreements about the rotation or style of play?
I don’t think disagreements. There’s a lot of great coaches out here that are very accomplished and have done well, so we have discussions. We don’t really have disagreements. It’s not one coach, it’s not me or anybody else who has the day so to speak or has his way. We are all looking at this group and seeing what is best for them. It’s not what we individually believe but what’s best for them, and we’ve come to that agreement.
Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings)
On playing for this team:
… Opportunity to come play for your country, compete with these guys, get better. And the opportunity to be coached by a guy like coach Pop, who’s one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, and maybe in all sports history … I just want to make the most out of the opportunity.
How much are you thinking about other teams at this point?
Before every game, that’s the focus. You think about Czech. That’s the focus. You’re not thinking about Turkey. You’re not thinking about Japan. Even though those games are scheduled, it’s one game at a time. And I think what we learned from exhibition, part of it, is that you can’t afford to have any lapses.
Have you talked to the other guys what it’s like to play on an Olympic or World Cup stage?
Oh yeah, for sure. It’s totally different. Some of these guys, they have gold medals at a different stage of their career, but when you get to the World Cup, when you get to the Olympics, having teammates that are international, you see how important it is for them. We in the States, we equate an NBA Championship, that’s how the equate the World Cup medal. Any medal. Because that is how much pride, how much joy they take from their countries and the fact that they played with their team for four, five, six, seven plus years. There is a different type of bias. As opposed to some of us, we got the call in June to come out and play and go from there. I think it is a big difference from the U18s, the U19s, whatever it might be to this.
Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers)
What have you thought of Shanghai so far?
It’s a dope city. I’ve been able to walk around a little bit. I’ve never been to China. It’s my first time in China, so it’s a great first stop. It’s pretty cool.
What are the things you are focusing on the most at practice?
Defense is big for us. We’re working on our defense. Working on being together and communication. Those are the biggest points we’re working on.
Are you getting to the anxious point where you just want to play games?
Definitely so. It’s a long little break between games, but once we get going, we’ll be rolling.
What are your expectations about your first opponent, the Czech Republic?
The thing about them is, we just got to be able to come in there and lock in and focus on the guys we don’t know as well. That’s the biggest thing about FIBA. You know the guys that play in the league, but it’s the guys that you don’t see play every day who make an impact. So, you have to figure out who those guys and lock in on their roles.
In between practices in China, the team has continued to bond on the bus and during dinners. A little Heads Up goes a long way.