The United States Men’s Basketball Team came to London with one goal in mind: defend the gold medal that they won in the 2008 Olympics. Even though their opponents have improved and some of them are loaded with NBA stars, it’s been so far so good for the Americans. After their latest blowout win over Tunisia, Team USA has moved to 2-0 so far with their next game on Thursday against Nigeria. The game against Nigeria should once again be a walk in the park for the United States, but the pressure will be ramped up in the near future as the quality of competition improves.
Chris Collins joined The Dan Patrick Show with Mike Florio in for Dan to talk about the win over Tunisia, whether Coach Mike Krzyzewski was upset with the performance in the first half against Tunisia, what player or players help keep the team loose given how much pressure they face in the Olympics, what team he expects the United States to play in the gold medal game, and if he feels the only team that can beat the U.S. is themselves.
On the win over Tunisia:
“It was a good night for us. It was one of those games going in where hopefully you felt like the guys could take care of business and it gave an opportunity for a number of our bench players to kind of step up and play a lot of minutes and get a chance to produce and you never know in these games as they go forward, you’re going to need everybody at some point. A game like last night we got a lot of contributions from some of the guys who hadn’t been playing as much and those are the main positives that you can take out of that game.”
Whether Coach K was upset at halftime during the game against Tunisia:
“I think he understood the game and this is a long tournament. We’ve been together for a long time, we started on July 5th out in Las Vegas, we’ve been in Washington D.C, Manchester, Barcelona Spain, and this wasn’t a time to get crazy and to yell and scream at these guys. We just talked about getting after it defensively, trying to disrupt them, wear them down and trying to attack the basket. We were settling for a lot of long jumpers and that’s really what Tunisia wanted us to do. I thought Russell (Westbrook), Deron (Williams) and those guys really started driving the ball and getting to the basket and we got some dunks and stuff in transition and that was the difference in the game.”
Which player is the one that keeps everyone loose in such a pressure-packed environment:
“I think there’s multiple leaders on the U.S.A team and certainly LeBron (James) has a great personality, he has strong leadership qualities, he understands situations so well, when to keep it light and add a little humor and when to get serious. Kobe (Bryant) of course being a veteran and being around, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, those guys are kind of the ones who have been the main voices on the team and they have played in so many big games that those guys understand the situation and they understand when it calls for those times to keep it light and maybe crack a joke and be funny. But also when to crack down so we’re fortunate to have really good leadership on this team.”
What team he expects to be playing in the gold medal game:
“Oh man, first and foremost I hope we’re there. You want to be in a position to play for a gold medal and I think the thing is you try to get with all of these guys and all our guys are excited about that opportunity and you just can’t fast forward steps. In the past, sometimes when you don’t come and you’re not quite as ready you don’t want to trip up and lose before you get to that point. We’re trying to stay focused with each game but with that being said I think there are a handful of teams that are playing extremely well. Everyone knows about Spain, Brazil played us very close and is a very good team with five or six NBA players on their team, I’ve been very impressed with Russia here. They’re a very good team led by Andrei Kirilenko and a number of terrific players on their team. Then you can’t discount Argentina. When you have (Manu) Ginobili and (Luis) Scola, those guys are warriors and have played in so many big games, have won and our champions on this level. I think there are four or five teams that depending on how the draw goes and who is playing well will have a great chance to be in a position to be in that gold medal game.”
If he thinks anyone but themselves can beat them:
“Oh we definitely can be beaten. These teams are good. All these teams now have a handful of guys, five, six or seven guys that play in the NBA so they’re not in awe of playing against our guys. They’ve played against them a lot during the season, they know their tendencies and so our guys know that we have to play well. It’s not about us showing up and they’re going to put gold medals around our necks. We have to play well, we have to respect who we are playing and we have to try to take away what they can do. Any time when you’re in a situation when it’s one and done and we’ve dealt with that a lot in the NCAA Tournament but the NBA guys don’t deal with that as much because they’re always in series’ in the playoffs but when it’s a one game shot with foul trouble and guys hitting threes, somebody getting hot then anyone can win on a given night. Our guys have been great about respecting who we’re playing and they understand it’s a long process, it’s a long tournament and hopefully we can keep improving.”
Listen to Chris Collins on the Dan Patrick Show here (Audio begins 11:30 intoo the podcast)