USA Ready For Worlds To Tip, First up: Croatia
USA Basketball website
Aug. 27, 2010
That’s the last time a USA men’s national team visited Istanbul, Turkey and Abdi Ipekci Arena, site of the USA’s five preliminary round games of the 2010 FIBA World Championship for Men.
Prior to competing in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the USA National Team made a stop in Istanbul for a pair of exhibition games versus Turkey. The Americans captured a pair of victories, posting a 79-67 win (8/8/04) and two days later battled to an 80-68 victory (8/10/04).
One member of that 2004 USA Men’s National Team is current USA team veteran Lamar Odom.
“I’ve been here before. Lot of culture. Great people,” said Odom about being in Istanbul. Asked what he remembered from the last time he was here, he offered up “Intensity. We had a tough morning that morning. Things happened and we had to come here and play a game in a hostile environment.”
Lamar Odom following the USA's first practice in Turkey.
The U.S. will open the ‘10 Worlds on Aug. 28 against Croatia. The game tips off at 12 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on ESPN Classic and re-aired on ESPN2 at 11 p.m. EDT.
The U.S. has never faced Croatia in World Championship play, but the Americans have met the European basketball proud country in the Olympics and boast of a 3-0 record in those clashes. But Coach K is not about to allow his team to overlook any team, and certainly not a talented team like Croatia.
When asked by a foreign journalist if he had any concern about the USA’s opener, Coach K responded “Oh yeah, I’m concerned about every game. Because they are good, and we know they play with a lot of pride and they are bigger than we are. If it becomes a very physical game, or if we don’t rebound, then they’re going to get a lot of second and third shots. If we can rebound then we’ll be able to run.
The U.S. mentor who guided the Americans to gold in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics, continued to pile on the praise for the European power.
“We have a lot of respect for them (Croatia). Their guard play is outstanding, (Roko) Ukic is one of the best international guards and (Marko) Popovic is just a veteran. Their size is a concern, they have five guys who were 6-11 or above so we don’t have as big of team. They have a rich tradition and we have a lot of respect for who they are,” remarked Coach Krzyzewski who is directing his third USA team in a FIBA World Championship.
Odom, who in 11 NBA seasons has won two NBA championships, knows something about what it takes to win and thinks he knows a key for USA success in Turkey.
“Our goal is to be the best defensive team in the tournament. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a pretty good chance to win.”
Croatia is certain to test the USA and the Americans will be looking to continue to build on what was accomplished during its exhibition tour that saw it produce impressive wins over France (86-55), Lithuania (77-61), Spain (86-85) and Greece (87-59).
Additional Quotes >> USA practice in Istanbul (8/27/10)
Aug. 27, 2010 • Istanbul, Turkey
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski (Duke University)
About the USA’s first opponent Croatia:
We have a lot of respect for them, Their guard play is outstanding, (Roko) Ukic is one of the best international guards and (Marko) Popovic is just a veteran. There size is a concern, they have five guys who were 6-11 or above so we don’t have as big of team. They have a rich tradition and we have a lot of respect for who they are.
Is there any concern for you in this game?
Oh yeah, I’m concerned about every game. Because they are good, and we know they play with a lot of pride and they are bigger than we are. If it becomes a very physical game, or if we don’t rebound, then they’re going to get a lot of second and third shots. If we can rebound then we’ll be able to run.
By beating Greece by 28 points did you send a message?
It ‘s an exhibition game. They didn’t have two of their players in the game, two of their best inside players (Sofoklis Schortsanitas and Yiannis Bourousis). Bourousis is one of the best big men in Europe and Schortsanitas is the most unique big man in Europe. I thought we played well but it was an exhibition, we’re happy that we won but the real thing starts tomorrow.
What are your first impressions about the arena where you will play.
I like the arena. We played in Greece and the court wasn’t highlighted, the lighting was quite different and so far removed. Here you’re right on top and then the court is highlighted, I thought it was a really good shooter background. It’s more like a U.S. gym. I think it’s a basketball gym and I think a really good venue.
What do you think of the city?
Well the pride that the people have. It’s so clean, there’s no graffiti and even though there are 13 million people you can see where people have pride. There are flags for their country all over, you feel like you’re in a country where people are proud to be a part of it. It’s a beautiful country…since I’ve never been to Turkey I find Istanbul to be a very unique, beautiful, beautiful city.
What do you make of the USA in the World Championship, only winning the gold medal three times, is that hard to explain?
I don’t think so. I think the world puts such an emphasis on it and we send different teams all the time. Their countries send their main (national) teams. For a long time it was just the college players competing and then internationally for us it wasn’t always that competition that everybody wanted to play in like the Olympics. So we’ve had unique teams that have come here and I think the teams that we’ve sent have had more room for error just like ours. We have a really good team but there’s room for error because we’re not big and we’re not old.
You’ve had two shots at this as a coach, how much would you like to win it?
We’d really like to do it. The first time (1990) was the last time the college kids played and Russia and Yugoslavia were still together and there’s no way you were going to beat them. Both of them could have been NBA teams at that time and a lot of their players ended up being in the NBA. The last time (2006) I thought our culture wasn’t set enough to do it. We were young, we’re a little bit young like we are now, ….but we have a better culture in place (now) so we have a great chance to win, but it’s not a done deal, there’s a lot of good teams here. We’re not taking anything for granted; we know that we can get beat here.
Kevin Love’s standing on the depth chart change because of his performance against Greece?
Not so much his standing but the fact that we can use him at different times. It’s not going to be always Tyson (Chandler) coming in for Lamar (Odom), it depends on situations. But he had a very strong performance. I thought Danny (Granger) did a good job too… it’s tough to play everybody. I thought they showed great attitudes, we’re in good health, and it will be situational with those guys..
Chauncey Billups (Denver Nuggets)
On the team’s focus entering the Croatia game:
We are focused on every opponent and respecting every opponent. I think that’s going to be the key. Not looking ahead. Knowing that there’s a lot of great teams in this World Championship. You can’t look ahead … have to take one game at a time.
What do you know about the Slovenian team?
Actually, I’m not even thinking about the Slovenian team right now. I’m worrying about Croatia. After that game, I’ll change my direction to Slovenia.
Who is the top team in your group at the World Championship?
I don’t know. I know Brazil is a great team. Croatia is a great team as well as Slovenia. I won’t be able to answer that until I play all three teams.
Who are the favorites in the tournament?
Of course, the defending champion Spain is going to be great. Greece will be great. Argentina is going to be great. Of course, I feel like we are the best team in it but we got to still prove that.
Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
On playing Croatia
I haven’t played against them before so it will be a whole new learning experience for me.
Will they be a tough opponent?
Definitely. The way that they play, very organized … I guess they’ve been together for a while so they have that experience on us. The way that they move the ball and they shoot the ball – the point guard can shoot it very well … We’re going to have to play good defense.
What is your advantage over Croatia?
If we can rebound and use our speed an athleticism, that will be to our advantage. Being able to pressure on defense full-court and get into them and try to take them out of their offense because their offense is really. So those things will help us out.
Do the World Championships give you a chance to learn more about other countries?
Definitely. It’s not just about playing games, you study the team, get a little bit of their history, interact with some of their fans. I think it is a learning experience and we don’t get this opportunity very often so you don’t want it to just let it pass by without learning something.
What are your thoughts on Turkey?
Turkey is nice. I had a teammate in college who is from here and he used to tell me all about it. I now get to see it for the first time. I like the city. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a little more of it while we’re here.
Were the guys taking photo of the scenery when you arrived?
Yeah, especially at the hotel right on the water. I’m sure on a day off or two, we’re going to get out and tour the city a little bit. So far, it’s a beautiful city … very modern looking … I like it.
How much do you know about Turkey?
I don’t know much now, but definitely going to take advantage of the time here and bring something back and learn a little bit.
Do you know the USA’s record in the World Championships?
I know we haven’t won since ’94. I think we finished 3rd in (2006) but other than that, it’s all about winning and we haven’t done that in 16 years so I think we should get it done this time.
Surprising that the USA has only one this tournament three times?
Yes but it just tells you how good international basketball is now and how you can’t just put a team together and go over and expect to win every year. It’s a tough thing to do and it’s gonna make it that much more special if we take care of business and get it done while we’re here.
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
How is the team coming together?
We are getting better every game and we’re getting more acclimated with each other’s play … where guys need the ball … how guys play on the defensive end so our team is getting better every day.
Many are saying that if USA is having problems, it will be under the basket?
I think that we have enough athleticism and quickness to make up for that. That is a big area where we don’t have a lot of centers. We got Lamar Odom who is really a power or small forward playing center. He does a great job and he is going to cause a lot of mismatches on the offensive end for us.
Maybe Croatia have a chance in that area?
Their big man is pretty good. We have to help each other out and I think we’ll be alright.
Rudy Gay (Memphis Grizzlies)
How was practice today?
Today, we really got into detail. We were trying to go over our sets and make sure when we go into the real games that we know what we are doing. There are no more exhibitions. Now, it’s the real thing. If we lose, we’re setback so we’re trying to limit those possibilities.
How do you feel about the team entering the tournament?
I feel as those we are where we should be. We’ve progressed. When we first came in here to our first game, it was kind of sloppy. We’re limiting our turnovers and learning to play with each other easier. That will help me during the season when I play these guys.
What do you think of Turkey so far?
Turkey is nice. Our hotel is beautiful, right by the water. It’s been fun so far.
Danny Granger (Indiana Pacers)
How was practice and are you excited to get it going tomorrow?
Definitely. I’m glad the exhibition games are over so we can start playing games that really mean something.
What do you think of Turkey so far?
I like Turkey. The area we are staying in is beautiful … the Bosphorous River is great … it’s a very, very pretty area.
What do you think of the arena?
I like the arena, looks like an NBA arena almost. I definitely like it.
Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
How do you expect teams to play you?
We’re a fast team. Some teams may try to slow it down on us and try to take it possession by possession. We’re going to try to put some pressure on them, every team we play. We figure we are one of the deeper teams. Our first and second units are just as good. We’re going to try work as a team.
How was practice today? Are you ready at this point just to play?
I thought today went well. Everybody was really keyed in today. We are getting our sets right. We’re getting focused on other team’s sets on the scout. We shot the ball well and I think we’re really focused.
What do you think of Turkey so far?
Beautiful. I am just enjoying the time, enjoying the hotel, relaxing and just playing ball.
Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers)
Are you excited to be in Turkey?
I’ve been here before. Lot of culture. Great people. It’s finally fun to get here and get it going. We’ve been together a month and we’ve got a couple more days here so to finally get the tournament going and play against some other competition. Practices are little lighter.
What do you remember from the last time you were here?
Intensity. We had a tough morning that morning. Things happened and we had to come here and play a game in a hostile environment. We expect the same.
Are you excited to get the World Championship going?
Yeah, it’s time, it’s time. We went from Vegas back to New York and to Spain and Greece … all the traveling we’ve done … all the teams we’ve played against. Now it’s time to take it out on someone else.
Do you feel good where the team is at?
Yeah. Our goal is to be the best defensive team in the tournament. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a pretty good chance to win.