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March 17, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions now for the student-athletes.
Q. A.J., I wonder if you could talk to me about the similarities and differences of USC to the team you played yesterday and how you guys plan to approach the game, whether you're going to do anything differently offensively, defensively.
A.J. ABRAMS: Just from watching a little film on them, they're a very athletic team. They got some four and five men that can go inside and outside. But they also got some guards that can, that are great shooters.
So I think we're going to have to do a great job of defending them. But as far as our game plan, I think we're just going to have to be conscious of their shooters and just be ready to help down low.
Q. I guess for all you guys, can you talk about first who USC reminds you of, if anyone you've played, and then what Damion brings with his energy and his defense.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Coach kind of compared them to Kansas. They have a lot of guards that can play. And push the ball. They also have a post presence. So we're going to approach them like we're playing Kansas and just contain them and try to help out as much as we can. As a guard, you know, help the big men out. We have to help them out.
KEVIN DURANT: Yeah, coach compared them to Kansas. They're very athletic team, they get up and down. They got inside and outside guys. Like D.J. said, we just got to be a group effort. Everybody got to help each other each other one the defensive end.
Q. What about Damion? What he brings with his athleticism and defense.
A.J. ABRAMS: Damion brings a great presence for us inside. He blocked some shots, even though he's kind of outsized sometimes, but he brings great energy for us on offense and defense. When he gets rebounds, he gets our break going. And he gets our offensive rebounds which provides us a spark too.
Q. For D.J., just looking at USC last night they looked like they're thick, maybe as physical a team as y'all have seen all year. Does that compare, did you see the same thing and is that any concern of yours considering as much as you penetrate?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: Yeah, they're a pretty big team and physical and like coach been telling us, they're going to try to shoot over me and A.J., the smaller guards, they're going to try to take us down low and try to get some mismatches and we just got to play hard and just play tough.
Q. Kevin, you move around quite a bit on defense as far as sometimes playing inside, sometimes playing out side. Where do you like to get the ball? Are you more comfortable on the wing than say down low?
KEVIN DURANT: I mean, I'm comfortable wherever I get the ball at. I think that I would rather stay down low a little bit because if they double team me are, I could pass out so we can get easy buckets that way and sometimes I can shoot over the smaller guy, so really it really doesn't matter to me, as long as we're scoring points as a team and winning, so it really doesn't matter.
Q. For the group, you guys rely on a lot of freshmen and sophomores, USC's key players are two juniors, a senior, and a 21 year old freshman. Do you feel like that puts you at a disadvantage at all because they played together a little bit longer?
A.J. ABRAMS: I don't think it bothers us, because everybody knows we're a young team, we're a young team. We haven't let it affect us all year. Pretty much all year we have been going up against teams that are older than us.
So we can't, we don't look and say that they have been playing together longer. The freshmen came in in the summer and we gelled pretty quickly. So I think we have the team chemistry to be able to play with anybody.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: We pretty much play with anybody. And the team we played Friday night, New Mexico State was an older team. So the age really doesn't matter.
KEVIN DURANT: We have been through so much this year as a team, so I don't think we see ourselves as freshmen and sophomores, so like they said, we have been up against a lot of older teams and it's going to be a regular game for us.
Q. For A.J., coming into the year people kind of looked at you as a spot up shooter, could you talk about the things that you did to develop the mid range part of your game and why you think that's important.
A.J. ABRAMS: Over the summer I talked to coach and coach said I was going to have to do more than just spot up in the corner or whatever and develop a mid range game. Which I kind of had that in my game already, just hadn't really brought it out. But it's important to have a mid range game so you can, so guys, when the guy's trying to run you out of the 3-point line and you can you can go in there and find open teammates.
Q. Kevin, do you know much about Taj? What have you seen on him on film, Taj Gibson and what do you think of him so far?
KEVIN DURANT: He's a great player. Man, he's an inside/outside player, type player. He's a very long player, athletic and it's going to be a touch matchup for us but I think with the help of just the team defense we can try to contain him a little bit.
Q. A.J., back to that other subject, you seem to be taking maybe a few more of those mid range shots and drives recently, is it true and are you more comfortable than you were say earlier in the year?
A.J. ABRAMS: I won't say I was uncomfortable at the beginning of the year. Just the game plans are trying to get me off the 3-point line, which I don't think I have a problem going in there to dribble, pull up, or go to the basket. So I'm not just going to settle, I'm going to take what the defense gives me.
Q. As the group, how much difference it makes to have the one game out of the way and get your second game in this building and the comfort factor?
KEVIN DURANT: It was good for us, man, but I mean we just want to look at it as another game. We played in this building before. We know how it is. So we just got to come out with that fire.
D.J. AUGUSTIN: It's good for us, but we just got to keep playing every game like we been playing. Play every game like it's our last. So that's the mindset we're going to go in with the next game and just try to play hard.
A.J. ABRAMS: No, just the first game is just probably the toughest game to get out of is your system. Pretty much everybody on our team's their first NCAA tournament game. So it was kind of nerve wracking, but I think we handled it well and I'm happy to get it out of the way and move on.
Q. Who do you guys see as kind of the key guy to shut down for USC, Nick Young or do you have to look out for a couple of guys?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: It's pretty much the whole team. They have a great team and a lot of guards and a lot of big men that can pretty much do everything. So it's going to be a team effort and we just got to play hard.
KEVIN DURANT: A team effort with them. Got a lot of depth coming off the bench and we just got to be a collective effort, everybody helping out each other out on defense and offense and we'll be good from there.
Q. Kevin, what do you expect from USC in terms of trying to guard you? Do you expect a lot of double teams?
KEVIN DURANT: I really wouldn't know. From what coach has said they might double when I get in the post and they might face guard, but I mean I've been through so much this year with the defense, so I don't think it will be nothing I couldn't, I ain't seen before. But it's always tough playing against those type of defenses, but my teammates do a great job of helping me out.
Q. Kevin, would you talk about the value of the two guys to your right and what you guys look for from them game after game.
KEVIN DURANT: Every game we been in so far they have come out the gate strong. Whether it's on the defensive end or offensive end and they sparked us up. And they come out with energy every game and we just follow them from there. That's been great for our team and it always helps.
Q. A.J., coach was talking about the clips from movies that he shows you guys, I guess Chappelle Show was on a couple of days ago. What any other funny moments from this trip?
A.J. ABRAMS: I mean there's a -- just like hanging around there's a lot of funny moments, but as far as watching film or anything, I think that the Dave Chappelle one it has to be the funniest one that we all got a kick out of that one.
KEVIN DURANT: I would have to disagree, man, we watched Coach Todd's high school tape and that was pretty funny. It kind of loosened us up a little bit. We were all tense before that but when we watched that that was pretty funny.
Q. When was that?
KEVIN DURANT: I think it was Wednesday? Thursday. Thursday we watched it. It was funny, man.
THE MODERATOR: Do you have a favorite, D.J?
D.J. AUGUSTIN: I'm going to go with Kevin on that one. Coach Todd's high school team. It was funny. He tried to show us how hard he played when he was playing and he was crazy.
Q. Is that something that's a trademark with your coach, just trying to get you guys to have fun and relax when you go out therefore games like tomorrow?
KEVIN DURANT: I would say so. Coach always joking with us, man, and I remember one time we played Kansas in the Big-12 Championship and we were in the huddle I think it was about 35 seconds left and he just came out with a joke and made us laugh and that we kind of loosened up after that. So I think he always does that.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thanks, gentlemen, we'll get Coach Barnes up next. Okay. Questions for the coach.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about the athleticism of USC now that you've had a chance to see some film on them and what you know about them.
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, they're a very, very explosive offensive team. I think you look at again I do know they led the Pac-10 with field goal percentage defense, which is really the probably the real indicator of how good a team is. They don't give you many easy baskets. Then on the other end, offensively I think they do a great job of getting their isolation set up that they want to attack you with. And they shoot the ball and they lead the Pac-10 with that too. 3-point shooting. But they don't take that many of them. They are athletic and I would imagine that they're looking at their athleticism, their guards being bigger than ours, that they can try to get them in some areas where they could get over top of us and it will take a great team effort for us defensively to try to combat some of that.
Q. Have teams at times overcommitted to Kevin Durant and has that helped to open up other players?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well I do think people put a real focus on Kevin. But they also do it most of the focus is Kevin or A.J.. those are the two guys that people seem to really focus on. They look to get more help away from Justin Mason or any one in that position and the other post position.
But again, I think teams do what they have to do, what they feel they need to do because we're going to certainly at times play through him, other times we really don't. People would probably be surprised how often we don't. But because of his feel, he gets the ball because of the way he -- really yesterday he didn't move as well without the ball as he had been. He was still on the perimeter more than he had been. Then when we do call some sets for him, obviously people know what's coming. It's pretty simple what we do with him. And then it's up to him to read how people play him and they're going to double team him he'll look to pass out of it. But yesterday the way he was being played we felt like we needed to get him away from the basket and let him drive and get to the foul line and he did a great job doing that.
Q. I don't know if did you coach against Tim Floyd. Was he at Iowa State?
COACH RICK BARNES: No, he had already left.
Q. Have you ever coached against him and how would you evaluate him as a coach?
COACH RICK BARNES: Tim's excellent. I think when you -- what you respect about him is his teams are very, very, very sound fundamentally. They transition defense, I know that's a big thing with them. They don't want to give up many easy baskets. Defensively they will give you some different looks. I think he's a kind of coach that will not only play your players, he'll play personnel. He'll, I'm sure at some point in time tomorrow they're going to ply triangle two. Whether they put it on A.J. and Kevin or D.J. and Kevin or whatever combination they decide to go with he's going to do what he thinks he has to do to win a game. And I like the fact that coaches do that.
I think he takes his players and you watched his teams over the years, he coaches according to his personnel. Which I think is a sign of a great coach.
Q. Nick Young is so versatile and can hit outside, he was posting up a bit yesterday, have you decided on a defensive plan for him if there is one?
COACH RICK BARNES: I think it's going to have to be a team effort with whoever and however we matchup. We know we're going to have to really work hard staying in front of the ball. We do know they will look to post, because of our size, they will look to do a little bit of that. But it's not going to be one guy, we're going to have to have a great team defensive effort to be successful against these guys.
Q. What will you do offensively? Anything different than what you did against New Mexico State?
COACH RICK BARNES: I hope we do a lot differently. I didn't think that we were very good on offense. We went back and when we looked at the tape we just put too much on D.J. Augustin. He was carrying the load in terms of really getting us started and when he would get down the floor guys were really too slow getting into our action. We didn't move the way we needed to. So I would expect us to come out, we want to play fast, we have always wanted to do that, but we need to, once we get into the half court, have a little bit better flow with our offense. And I'll be surprised if we don't do that.
Q. Obviously Tim's just getting started at USC. How do you think he's done in two years and do you think he can win really big in basketball at a football school?
COACH RICK BARNES: He already is. He's one game away from a Sweet 16. He's, right now, I think the teams that are left playing are obviously good enough to beat anybody on a given night. I think that again what I know about Tim I'm sure that just like my situation at Texas, I'm sure he feels that football does nothing but enhance his program. The exposure that they generate football, just like ours, again, and you start winning, people want to be a part of it.
There's no doubt in my mind that with their new arena, I think that's what they probably needed there for a long time. They got a guy that knows what he's doing. He understands this business and there's no doubt that they're a major factor in college basketball right now.
Q. Some people say that it's hard to expect a deep tournament run from freshmen-laden teams. What have you seen with your players that makes you think they have the poise and maturity to go real far in this tournament?
COACH RICK BARNES: I think a little bit yesterday and as much as coaches you don't want to ever admit that your team's come in and maybe this tournament can freeze you a little bit. Especially if you never been in it. As much as you don't want to own up to that sometimes, I don't think that there's any question that but we were hit by that a little bit yesterday.
I would be surprised if we don't come out and play better tomorrow. In terms of the way we want to execute anyway and, but again, I don't know, this time of year, if it matters. I think teams get on a roll and again we have played enough basketball now that I would like to think that we're not that young any more. Because we have had some guys that have played almost every minute of every game. But we don't talk about it. We just know what we have got a game in front of us right now, we believe that if we can play as well as we can play, that we'll have a chance every night we go out.
Q. Your players have talked about how you like to keep things loose, showing some movie clips, could you tell us a little bit about that technique and why it's part of your philosophy?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, what it is, it's just positive reinforcement. We do show some things just to try to get the point across different ways. I think that sometimes I run out of things to say myself. Sometimes I need to do it for my own purposes, and so if we come up with some things that we like and there's always something that you can hang your hat on. More than anything we even if we have a little bit of a clip of something, we always go right into positive things that we do in the way we want to play. Because we want to put that right in our minds. And we do, do that right before we go out the last time and something we started this year but we have always used these tapes and some of them work, some of them don't. But I think our guys like it. I do like it. I think that they look forward to from game to game the different things that our staff puts together for them.
Q. They talked a lot about the Dave Chappelle tape. Is that something that you knew on your own or did you need a little help?
COACH RICK BARNES: I didn't know that. I knew nothing about that. When I saw that it was really kind of funny. And it was really funny. But I guess they had seen it. But I had never seen that the whole clip of it. We had used a certain part of it where he says, "Shoot it." You know. And things like that. But to see the whole thing together was pretty funny.
Q. Do you see much NBA influence in Tim's coaching style at USC and the second part of that is why do you think college coaches aren't more successful in the NBA later?
COACH RICK BARNES: Well, yeah, I think I actually have spoken to Tim once, we have a manager on our staff that Tim called and recommended to us that he's real close with his father and knew him when he was in Chicago and Tim and I spoke one day and we talked a little bit about, you know, some things that he liked up there.
So I do think that, yeah, I think that when you coach in that league you're going to pick up some of the isolations, probably the ball screen actions that happen. But I think that to be successful at that level it all goes back to a lot of things, but one of them is what kind of team do you get involved with. I think if you put Tim Floyd in a situation unlike what he had in Chicago where they were totally rebuilding there's no doubt in my mind he would be highly successful. That's what it's about. We know that talent is the common denominator of all great teams. But most college coaches when they get those opportunities, there's not always with a great franchise to start with. And what, the average lifespan of a coach I think in that league is, what, about 17 months? So that's pretty tough. If you don't get in a situation where you can get going pretty quickly.
Q. Is that appealing to you? That lifespan?
COACH RICK BARNES: Maybe 10 million dollars and hope you get fired. You know.
(Laughter.) That's appealing, you know.
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you, Coach Barnes.
COACH RICK BARNES: Okay. Thank you.
End of FastScripts