Lute Olson Press Conference Quotes

Nov. 18, 2003

Opening Statement
I think this will be a test for us in terms of dealing with bigger people as to how our lineup will be able to operate - whether we'll be able to rebound with big people, whether we'll be able to defend big people. They (Team Nike) played a pretty close game with Syracuse. They lost a four-point game at Michigan State - and we know how good Michigan State is going to be - and Stanford beat up on them good up there. They got in yesterday, so they will be well rested. They have a number of outstanding former college basketball players, so it will be a veteran team as well.

Last time out you seemed to have an athletic advantage over your opponent. Will that be the case on Thursday?
I thought defensively we played hard and did some very good things. It was a situation where we weren't playing against the experienced-type players we'll face against Nike. It shocked us that that team (Sydney Comets) went up there and beat Utah.

I think it was a case that they (Sydney Comets) just didn't realize how quick we were up and down the court. Then they were missing shots which allowed us to start the break. There isn't much you can do to stop the break when you miss shots.

Are you happy with the pace of your team to date?
What we are trying to do with this year's team, because of the quickness, is that we want a higher percentage of our attempts to come off a fast break or what we call early offense - presets and those types of things. I was pleased when they went to a zone in the second half that we shot the ball really well and moved the ball.

For the first time out, we played better defensively than I expected. As I said, we haven't really had good competition in the practice situation when we put the top group together. We had only had the top seven guys together on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday before playing on Wednesday (Nov. 12). But I thought they played well together. They moved the ball and moved the ball very unselfishly.

How has the four perimeter players around Channing Frye continued to develop?
When we have Hassan (Adams) in the four spot, we give him a lot more freedom to move around the court. But if we start in set situations, he's pretty effective in that because he's shooting the 17-footer very well right now. We'll give up something on the defensive end to a bigger guy. Andre (Iguodala) has been one of our most consistent rebounders. He is so long and quick to the ball. I think we'll do fine against bigger guys, but until we play someone like that we won't know for sure.

Please speak to the progression of Kirk Walters:
Kirk gets better every day. We're pleased with him. The only thing we can't do is get weight on him quickly enough. His confidence is improving. The guys have been great that way. They really give him praise when he's making tough plays in practice. You can see the confidence level going up. He has a nice shooting touch. He uses both hands well and has good footwork. The biggest problem is that he gets moved around more than he should.

There has been talk of eliminating these traveling-team exhibitions. What are your thoughts?
There has been talk about not only eliminating the games against Nike and E.A. Sports and some of the others, but they are talking about restricting play against foreign teams. If they did that, we could play Division II teams or have scrimmage situations against other Division I team. There are some problems involved with some of these teams in terms of the amount of money in guarantees. We'll have to wait and see. There are problems and I think the NCAA will deal with what is the best way to solve the problem.

Does Mustafa Shakur continue to develop? Will he be a factor right away?
Oh yes, he'll be a factor right away. The way we play, we need some numbers out there. You can't play at that pace and have the same guys out there all of the time. Right now, we look at the guard spots - there are three guys who will be sharing the time in the three spots. Hassan can play inside and out, so that means we can use him along with Andre at the three spot. Isaiah (Fox) can play both four and five, and the inside positions with the big guys are really interchangeable.

With eight guys you are going to be all right unless you get into foul trouble or someone gets hurt. And that's our biggest concern.

Please discuss the play of Andre Iguodala:
If he shoots it like he shot it in our first exhibition, I think he'll be one of the best 6-foot-6, 6-foot-7 players in the country. It's unusual to have a guy that size who sees the court as well as he does. He handles the ball well. He does need to cut down on his turnovers by trying not to make great passes too often. We had a 20-minute scrimmage the other day and he had 15 rebounds in 20 minutes.

He's an outstanding rebounder. He's been shooting the ball very well. He passes the ball. He's very unselfish. He's a bright kid. He has a lot of things working for him. For him not to have been mentioned on many of the preseason teams is, I think, a serious mistake on somebody's part, based on what I'm seeing in a practice situation.

Are you seeing progress in the leadership area?
I think Andre certainly has that ability from a wing position and Hassan, by the way he plays, provides leadership similar to what I've mentioned with Channing. We're seeing some progress, but we're still not there. With Andre, his leadership needs to be in a more positive vein, but that is happening. But we are no where near where we need to be.

If I were to compare the leadership to Luke (Walton) or Miles (Simon) or some of the other guys we've had, it's not close. We still have the start of the season ahead of us. I'm still hoping that it is going to develop as we go along.

Talk about Chris Rodgers' play:
Chris (Rodgers) will be one of our key players, whether he's in the starting lineup or being our version of Jason Terry. At the time that Jason played, I said that I'm more concerned by who finishes rather than who starts. Chris just needs to be a more effective rebounder. He could be - he's athletic and should be a much better rebounder - but when you are changing from a point guard to a two and three, it's tough to be a rebounder if you are having to think when the shot goes up whether you should rebound or help with the defensive balance. He needs to be more effective on the defensive boards as well. Without question, our best rebounding guard in Mustafa Shakur.

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