June 2, 2022
Game 1: Pregame
Q. So much has been talked about with experience, how the Warriors have it, but they only have five players with NBA Finals experience. This is a first for all your players and staff. Is there much to be said with that, or is that kind of an overrated thing to talk about experience?
IME UDOKA: Well, a staff has some experience. I've been to two myself, and some of our assistants. But I'd say overrated in general. Our young guys have had a lot of success so far getting to the Eastern Conference Finals multiple times.
So for us, try to simplify it, not overcomplicate it. Business as usual, basketball as usual. The things we did to be successful coming here, we'll try to do more of the same.
Q. Ime, the other night after Game 7 you had mentioned the additional load that Jayson has had to take this season. What's been his jump or development that's allowed him to do that this season?
IME UDOKA: Well, we're asking more of him, him, Jaylen, as well, the younger guys that were kind of taking the backseat in the previous years, they're veterans now and shouldering the majority of the load, asking them to play on both sides of the ball.
But in general he's a guy I've never -- I've mentioned this several times, I've never met a young guy at his age that takes care of his body the way he does, prepares himself the way he does and is very professional as far as that. Everything is geared towards the long-term success of basketball. He's played heavy minutes this year. And so his jump isn't as steep as some of the other guys coming to the Playoffs, and he's handled it well.
Q. Is Rob going to start tonight?
IME UDOKA: Yes.
Q. And is the plan for him to play normal allotment of minutes?
IME UDOKA: We've been a little conscious of that going into the Playoffs, obviously, with the games every other day, get some more time off now and the rest before this game, so we can increase if we need to, but at the same time we are conscious of it.
He's played -- we talked about 17 days in a row every other day, so we finally got a three-day break and don't want to take some of that back. So what we've done is managed him well, keep him around the 20-minute mark and rotated other guys around that. And it's worked for us so far, but if need be, he's on no-minute restriction at all.
Q. You mentioned the 12 games in 23 days. How much did these three days feel like a break after having to have so many back-to-back games for three-and-a-half weeks like that?
IME UDOKA: Yeah, it felt like a break for everybody. I think in general the physical load that we had, obviously playing two Game 7s in stressful environments, I think that helped our guys in general, but mentally to get away and obviously refresh and reset and get ready for the Finals is a big thing as well.
Three days felt like a week for us as coaching staff, the preparation time, and I think that'll bode well for our guys physically going forward.
Q. One of your big things coming in coaching this year was making Jayson a play-maker, making Jaylen a play-maker. When did that idea formulate in your head, and what led to that becoming an idea for you and how have you seen that progress as the year has gone on?
IME UDOKA: Just watching their skill set, playing against them for two years in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, got to see them first hand and see their scoring ability. But coaching those guys in USA Basketball as well, you see all the tools they have.
And one thing was we knew -- me as an opponent playing against them, very scoring oriented, tunnel vision at times, and we wanted to get more play-making out of them. They have the ability and size and skill to do everything we're asking.
And you've seen the growth this year, but we knew they would go back to one-on-one, playing in a crowd, some of those things, and I wanted to break some of those habits coming in. They're very capable, very receptive to our coaching, and they asked to be pushed that direction and have shown great progress this year so far.
Q. Going back to your experience coaching in the Finals, what has been your message to the team about just holding on to your identity and your principles when you hit those crucible moments?
IME UDOKA: It's just basketball. It's the things that we've done well all season and really improved in the second half of the season, the Playoffs. Continue to do all those things well.
It's all the little things that win and lose a series. When you go down the list, whether it's Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Miami, and now this series, it's all the same thing: taking care of the basketball, keeping guys out of transition, good offense, offensive rebounds.
So the same things continue to come back up. Obviously Golden State is a team that will make you pay if you have some missteps as far as that. So for us, try to simplify it, keep it simple with our guys and just get back to the basics playing defense at a high level, sharing the ball offensively, none of that changes because we're in the Finals now.
Q. You touched on it just a moment ago when you talked about coaching Tatum and Brown at Team USA. You also had Smart on that squad. Will you touch on the growth and development of Smart and how he's turned into an NBA Finals point guard? Is this what you expected from the squad when you took the job?
IME UDOKA: Well, with Marcus, his situation is different. I think just putting him in the starting lineup and giving him what he's asked for over the years has benefitted him confidence-wise, and he's a pass-first guy that I think complements Jayson and Jaylen well.
He's always been coming off the bench behind scoring point guards, whether it's Kemba, Kyrie, Isaiah Thomas, Terry Rozier, and kind of had to take the backseat. But what works well with our team is a guy that can initiate offense, knows the guys well and pick his spots offensively, not looking to score first. So that's benefitted our team, but also it's what he asked for, and then he sets the tone defensively.
He's everything we've asked this year from the toughness standpoint, leadership standpoint. I think it really benefits our guys and pushes them as well. So it's like having another coach on the floor, and he's kind of flourished with that opportunity.
Q. Is this what you expected when you took over the role as a head coach?
IME UDOKA: We saw the talent. That was the first thing. Obviously you're excited to get to work with two young pillars of our organization with Jayson and Jaylen. You understand where they can grow and the areas they can kind of take our team to if they have success in those areas.
With them it was always some natural talent and some things that I felt -- like I don't want to say bad habits, but they had success being score-first guys, All-Stars, max players, Olympians. So you try to take those strengths but also add to them.
And we understood what they had within them, the skill set they have and how guys rely on them, and so they've taken that leadership role and the responsibility in step this year.
I think you look at that talent, first of all, and you know if you get them to buy in defensively, push them the right way, you can reach these goals. So for us, it was basically getting to push them that way, they asked for it, and they've been great as far as that and receptive to all our hard coaching.
Q. Ime, Marcus has talked about all the stuff going on with his right leg. How much did the last three days benefit him in terms of just healing up?
IME UDOKA: Yeah, I think some of the swelling has gone down in the ankle. He took some knees to the thighs as well. So that time off is going to benefit him. But Marcus is a guy that's going to play through a lot of pain. It's just a matter of limited movement that he had in the game he had to sit out.
But once the swelling went down and the pain went down, he was able to play. And obviously him being off the list in general has showed his progress, and he's ready to go.
Q. Ime, what has Aaron Miles brought your staff this season, and has he been helpful preparing for the Warriors, obviously being very familiar with them?
IME UDOKA: Yeah, he's obviously very well respected around the league player for his development. He worked with a lot of guys here in Golden State. And he's done that with Jayson, as well. Basically had his hands on Jayson all year.
For us, I think we involve all our staff with the players. Ton of input from everybody. Like to hear different ideas from everybody. And he's brought that as well as the other staff.
I'd say there's a huge benefit from that. I did it in the first round being with Brooklyn last year, Ben Sullivan with Milwaukee, and then just being around Spo with USA Basketball, as well, I think we all had some familiarity there.
So Aaron goes right along with that, being that he was with this organization for a few years. So this is one of his scouts, and we lean on him for some of the insight and traits of their guys. And I think it's benefitted all of us going forward. I know it did with me in the Brooklyn series coaching with Nash last year.
We lean on him, as well, but I've coached against Golden State quite a few years in the Western Conference, so I have some familiarity there, as well.
Q. We've asked you a lot about Rob in the last series, in the last couple of days, but as he's tried to get right, you guys have been in the air an awful lot, too. Has flying been a problem as far as -- when you fly, things swell, and when you're trying to get swelling out -- have you noticed that when you guys have these long flights, it sets him back even a little bit?
IME UDOKA: I wouldn't say so. Obviously Miami to Boston, it is what it is. This long cross-country trip, he's felt better just from the days of rest. So probably hasn't impacted him as much as the rest has helped.
But in general they're doing treatment on the plane, treatment around the clock. Obviously you've got game readies and ice and stuff you can do on the plane to keep swelling down and compression sleeves and all that.
Technology has helped him more so than anything.
Q. Steve just said that Gary Payton and Porter and Iguodala are all available tonight. What has impressed you from afar on what Gary Payton has done defensively and just as a journeyman who has found a spot here, and what does it do to have him back for them and for you guys offensively to have to face that?
IME UDOKA: Yeah, he's obviously one of their best defenders, carved a nice niche out and grinded his way into a successful career so far. And still a ways to go, but you've got to respect a guy that does that.
I watched him quite a bit at Oregon State, being from Portland myself. So saw what he did in college, knew he was a high-level defender, and he's improved in other areas offensively.
But that's kind of my career path as a player, so you respect that side of it, a guy who grinded it out, sets the tone for them defensively, a lot of ways that Marcus does for us, and just complements the guys well. They've got scoring guys, scoring threats, but he's out there for specifically one thing and to make it hard on other guys and a guy you have to account for.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports