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March 18, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and get started with questions for the Michigan State student-athletes.
Q. Kalin, I assume by now you've heard the quotes from the New Mexico State player saying he didn't know who you were. Have you seen that? Did that bother you? Did it amuse you? What was your reaction?
KALIN LUCAS: I saw it. I think he disrespectful for saying that, but at the same time I'm just going to go out there and play basketball and we're going to play team basketball again. We'll go out there and see what's up.
Q. Kind of the same thing, I know people kind of trash talk and they might say certain things, do you think he was kidding or do you think he really meant that they didn't know who you were? Are you kind of surprised that someone might not know who you were after last year?
KALIN LUCAS: You know what? To be honest I don't even know. I don't know if he was joking. I don't know if he was serious, it doesn't even really matter to me. I'm just ready for tomorrow.
Q. Draymond, I'm sure you've heard worse than that playing for the years that you've had and playing all over the place, do you think that at a time like this you guys could kind of embrace something like this? Just the fact that this team is saying crazy stuff on teleconferences like that just seems like something that you guys would probably use as motivation.
DRAYMOND GREEN: At this point in the season, you know, you don't really need that as motivation, your motivation is just one and done. Teams are going to talk. That's part of the game. We're just going to -- of course it's going to be on our mind as competitors, that's just how we are, but we're not going to feed into that. We're just going to go out and play the game how it's supposed to be played.
Q. For all of you, what makes Coach Izzo so good this time of year? Is there anything in particular? Does he change practices? Do habits change? His record in March is 31-11.
RAYMAR MORGAN: I think he just overworks any other coach. He stays in his office and works from the morning time to the night time. So that's why he's so good.
KALIN LUCAS: He pretty much said it all.
DRAYMOND GREEN: I think what makes coach, he stays in the office all night and you have to give credit also to the players that has played for him during those periods of March where they made runs and they all came together to make runs. You have to give credit to the players as well, but coach does a lot and his coaching staff as well, to have us ready and prepared at all times for everything.
Q. For any of you, but maybe essentially Kalin and Draymond since we didn't talk to you after Sunday, now that you all have seen more film and gone through the whole scouting process and everything, what do you think of New Mexico State and just what they bring to the table?
DRAYMOND GREEN: They like to run and gun. They get up-and-down. They put a lot of threes up. And they have five guys that's averaging double figures or five or six. So they're going to score the basketball.
But they have to defend us as well. We're just not going to go out and say they can score the basketball and not defend. We're going to defend them and we know everything they do, we have watched a lot of film on them, we worked on them a lot, we have been preparing since Sunday. So we know a lot about them.
KALIN LUCAS: They're a good team and they have good players, and one thing we're going to do is we're going to defend them and we're just going to play.
Q. Raymar, when we talked to you on Monday you just seemed really insightful, really honest with where you stand right now. As far as your leadership and knowing that time is running out. Is there any specific moment in a game or practice, anything maybe Coach Izzo said, anything a teammate said that maybe triggered something inside you to really feel the way it seems like you're feeling now and play the way you've been playing lately?
RAYMAR MORGAN: No, it's just within myself, I think. Just being a senior and a competitor. Just knowing that you're about to be done and the season could be over at any time. I think you just have to raise your game.
Q. Are you guys looking forward to getting out of the conference and seeing how you're playing? Have you been looking forward to getting out of the conference?
DRAYMOND GREEN: The Big-10 has a lot of teams that don't run. We like to run but when you're playing certain teams sometimes they just slow it down. When we come out of conference a lot of other conferences do like to get up-and-down the court and they're one of those teams that like to get up-and-down. So we think we can get our running game going and we're just going to go out there and put it to an advantage.
Getting out of conference a lot of teams don't know everything that we run as to where in conference everybody knows what you run and you know what they run. So it's going to be fun to get out of conference and see what we can do.
Q. For Kalin, what do you expect out of Durrell? Obviously he's had some big games for you, but he's also had games where it seems like he's disappeared. What do you expect from him now going into one and done time?
KALIN LUCAS: He has to come out and play with a lot of confidence and we have got to be aggressive at all times on the floor. I think I think if he does that he's going to play real good. Play real good in the tournament.
Q. Kalin, what have you noticed about, what do you think about New Mexico State's guards as far as what they do on the court?
KALIN LUCAS: They're good. They are some good guards. They push the ball in transition well. And they can score.
THE MODERATOR: Okay thank you, fellows. We'll take questions for Coach Izzo.
Q. Has it been good to get out here away from everything and along with that I'm sure you heard the New Mexico State comment about Kalin. He seemed to really take that personally and is that maybe good for you and good for your team?
COACH IZZO: Oh, personally I don't know how well, I mean how personal he took it. I think he's realizes when you play in the games we played in and there's always got to be some controversy on some things. This is his third NCAA tournament, he's been to the Final Four, a Sweet 16, if he can't handle that I would be shocked. I think he can.
As far as me getting out here early I had a lot of people ask me about well you're team's dysfunctional, your team is this, your team is that, we're not as smooth as I would like to be other years for a lot of reasons. But we do got to clear up these suspensions that seem to be like eight or ten, there was one suspension and a five minute sit out. I can't call the Kalin Lucas missing practice a suspension or he would have had 813 suspension, so.
I'm not sure that you know, right now I like where we are. I think we're the best we have been. We played pretty good at the end of the year, Purdue, Michigan, and played pretty good against Minnesota to be honest with you. We're missing Chris Allen and we missed a ton of free throws.
So the Kalin thing, that's water over the dam. It doesn't matter. Everybody's going to say something. Sometimes that works for you, sometimes against you. I think we're, we need to just play the game and as far as getting out hear early, I think it was great for us. We need some togetherness. Their chemistry has been something that I said is important. So last night to get some chemistry we went out to dinner with Judd and that was really chemically a good move.
Q. Where did you go?
COACH IZZO: Anthony's. It's one of his favorite steak houses.
Q. Speak to that a little bit. Jud Heathcote living out here and seeing him and just kind of make that a little bit more special coming to Spokane knowing he would be here?
COACH IZZO: It really did. Jud has made it to just about every one of our NCAA tournaments since day one, 13 years ago, when we made it to our first one, he's been unbelievable in going places with us. He's always a quick wit guy, he's got a lot of things. When he called me to tell me how excited he was that we were coming, he doesn't show a lot of emotion, and he said, could you just do me one favor, and I thought he wanted me to bring out some guests or some people that were friends of his, he says, do you mind if you could bring your whole team out there and I said, sure, I'll do that for you, Jud. So Jud hasn't quit making jokes, I love him, he's the best, and I enjoy being with him last night. He's got a lot of Michigan State people out for lunch today. So that was great of him.
Q. I know you guys like to play fast, don't get a lot of opportunities in Big-10. Do you want to play fast tomorrow and how concerned are you about turnovers like in the Florida game?
COACH IZZO: Well I want to play fast, but I am concerned about turnovers, I think that's a big part of their game. They do a good job. The Louisville background of Pitino, I think that we're going to have to pick and choose a lot like we did last year. But we're going to try to get up-and-down and just take better care of the ball, which for the most part in the last 10 games of the Big-10 we have done a much better job of taking care of the than we did early on.
Q. You've said that this is has been kind of a different year, you had to do a lot of different things to help players get through some things, talked about the issues. When you're around Jud, does it kind of reinforce like what you said last week that you've done everything you feel like you can to get things right?
COACH IZZO: I think that's the biggest issue and I think I said it at the beginning of the year. When I told you at the press conference how sometimes each year a team changes its personality. I think that if anybody should be blamed maybe it should be me, because I'm the one that tried to force leadership on some people because I knew it's important and yet you kind of want to -- if you got a quieter team and that, there's just some things that I think are necessary to be a championship caliber team.
But I'm not going to change my opinion on things. I figure I got to do a better job of figuring out how to get it if it doesn't just pop up. Dray Green has stepped up a lot and that's helped Kalin and Raymar, sometimes personalities just don't lend to that. And that was maybe a little bit frustrating because I think I know how good this team can be. I don't think we have reached it totally yet, but as I look back on the month of February, I think a lot of it too had to do with Kalin's injury. Everybody knows he wasn't the same, same speed, same guy. Between the ankle and then the infection.
And so as you kind of put all those things together, I maybe know where we are because we have got a couple of -- we got a week here of very good practices. I think everybody is -- sometimes with what almost kills you usually makes you stronger and some things were blown out, some things were real. I think I've been pretty honest about it, but I think we learned today in some of the games around the country that there's issues all over. And make sure you understand this, they're not a lot different than they were when Scott Skiles and those guys were at Michigan State when I first came and it just that now they're monitored a little bit differently with all of the access and all the things that go on.
Q. When you look at this Midwest region and all the great coaches that are in it, what's that like for you knowing the challenge that it's going to be on you to maybe get your team through this?
COACH IZZO: Number one, I do think that there's been a lot made of coaches. It is funny, as you look at the NBA and you look at college it seems like the coaches get all the credit in college and the players get all the credit in the NBA, and I've said since the day we started winning, players play the game. Do I think that we have a good system for the NCAA tournament? Well I think that's been proven that we do. I think our league has got a good system for the NCAA tournament. Do I think our video and different things that we can do -- those things don't win, they don't win all the games for you. The players do that.
And so there's a lot of great coaches in this, there's a lot of great programs in this, but it's really going to come down to which players play the game the best. And I totally believe that. And I think there's a lot of great players in this one and there's no doubt that the Midwest, I don't hear anybody arguing that it's the strongest, but last year to get to a Final Four we played the defending national championships, we played two number one seeds, including the overall number one seed, and I said a lot of people, up until North Carolina, the toughest team we might have played might have been USC who was a 10 seed.
So the tournament now is at a point where you better lace them up every time you play and I have not seen, I wish that I could go against some coaches, you know, I think I'm in a little better shape than some of them. But there's no coaches that make any shots, get any rebounds or do anything, it's still the players' game and the coach can influence it, but I don't think there's a coach that's winning a game, I think the players win the games.
Q. New Mexico State depends on the 3-point shot. Does that make them dangerous to you as far as getting back and stopping those threes?
COACH IZZO: Yeah, because if, just because the seeding is the way it is, you look at it as upset if a 12 beats a five. And I always say the number one way of upsetting somebody is the 3-point shot. That's number one. And then the free throw line I think can be number two. Not only getting in fouls but how many they score when nobody can defend them. So they possess one thing that probably would lead to the most upsets in America and that's getting hot from the 3-point line or making a lot of 3-point shots. And we're going to have to defend that, which for the most part at least statistically we have done a pretty good job of most of the year.
Q. You were asked about Kalin, but he did seem upset a little bit about those comments. Have you guys talked about that at all?
COACH IZZO: You know, I talked to him for two minutes just because I think that's a media thing personally. I really don't think he's -- I mean probably his ego makes it a little upset which it would anybody because you don't hear a lot of that in a NCAA tournament. You can go to a lot of press conferences and you don't hear certain comments. But trust me those comments aren't going to win or lose the game. And if he needs that to be motivated, I say we're in trouble. I'm sorry not, that's not going to be any extra motivation.
Maybe it's inexperience on the other player's part. Because I would be, I think I would be more upset with my player if he said something like that or upset with him if he got really upset. So I don't know. When I talked to him just briefly to him, two seconds on it, he didn't seem that way to me. But if he is, I'm going to make sure he gets rid of that. I want him to play because he wants to win a game. This is not an individual matchup.
Q. Kind of a strange season you had. As the tournament starts do you have a pretty good idea of how your team is going to play? Do you never really know when a tournament starts?
COACH IZZO: Last year we came off a loss and there were a lot of questions about our team. From me to everyone else. And I don't know if any coach really ever knows. They talk about if you're playing well at the end of the year, I keep saying, to me that's the biggest misnomer in the NCAA selection, because I just, I'm not buying it. The way schedules are this time of year, you know.
But I can't say that I'm as comfortable and the reason I'm not as comfortable is when you aren't being led every day, you don't have the true pulse of your team. And that would be the only thing that make it's a little harder. But I like the talent we have. I like the players we have.
I like the fact that and I've said it to our media a lot, I don't need anybody doing anything they haven't done before. My guys have done some of these things before. Kalin is one of the better point guards in the country. So he had a rough February in some ways. But he's been shooting it really well, he's spent a lot of time in the office, he spent a lot of time watching film. I think he's going to be ready to play his tail off.
Chris Allen has had, I think he's been one of our most improved players, he gets our defensive Player of the Year award and in our banquet, which is almost illegal for that kid, from where he came from. He's been unbelievable how much he's improved in that area. So he and Morgan and Green right now have been playing as steady and consistent as you can ask.
I just don't know, I don't have that feel, which is not the end of the world, all it is a little less comforting for me, but I, like I said, I don't make any shots tomorrow, they do. So as long as we have been practicing well I have a good feel in that respect.
Q. The early loss in the tournament, is that a possible benefit for Dell's knee and how is that going and I assume you looked into the possibility of having a bike with but that's not allowed. What are you going to do as an alternative?
COACH IZZO: He'll probably be riding it in there. Otherwise we'll make a makeshift bike. We'll have the trainer just kind of run his legs while he's sitting on a chair, I don't know. But his knee is, it just goes off and on he didn't practice for three or four days, the last two days he's practiced and practiced pretty well and yet it's been in a reduced amount because we're just trying it get everything we can get out of that.
And that's been another thing that has been a little hard for this team, because we just don't know what he can do. So some of those things are nobody's fault and yet they also lend to maybe the uneasiness of knowing where you are. But I think Delvon, he's tougher than nails, he wants to play, and I think that he will play and I think he'll play pretty well looking at the last couple days.
Q. Has the early trip out been good for him or what are you seeing from him?
COACH IZZO: Yeah. That was the other one. We talk about sitting a kid out part of the second half, he played six minutes of the 20 in the second half or whatever. Again, that's just been done a lot. I look at Durrell and Chris as two guys that they're very talented guys. They just got to learn to stay focused on what they have got to do and make the basketball the most important thing and sometimes it isn't.
That's when I'm searching for it. If we get that you're going to find out they're going to be two great players. I think we will. And I think his mindset's been great. He's practiced extremely well and so has Chris. In fact I said the other day as I'm watching Chris, Kalin and Durrell, when I recruited them I thought I had three potential NBA players. The other day I think we have three potential NBA players. Maybe it hasn't gone quite as smooth as you would like but maybe it's taken a little longer than you like, but objective is by the end of their careers where are they, and I really do think they're starting to head in the right direction and will head in the right direction.
Q. More specifically on Chris, how much in the last week has he become a better teammate?
COACH IZZO: I think Chris, of all of them has really made the most progress. The last two months, again, it's something in his personalities, they're more low nerves, but when you have a bunch of those guys on one team it's a little bit harder. So that would be good question to ask him. I think he's, I think the players have a lot of confidence in him. You're not going to change your personality overnight. Some that have you're setting for the NCAA run, you're setting it for next year, how he handles you guys will be interesting to see. Has he learned to sit up and talk and say everything he wanted to say. If he is, then he's made progress. With me he's been great.
Like I said, I don't think I've ever had a player -- Morris Peterson was close, but it was a distant close, that has improved as much in one year on the defensive end as he has. And he has just shot the lights out in the last couple days. And so I think he's bought in a lot of ways. He's got couple more steps to go, we get there and we're going to be rocking and rolling.
Q. You talked about Raymar's improved focus and we got kind of got a sense I think what you were talking about earlier this week he said he's finally accepted the man in the mirror. And it seemed like he was really insight full and really honest with where he stands and it just seemed kind of surprising. Do you have any idea what he meant by that and what's change for him?
COACH IZZO: I think I have a lot of what he meant by that. I think that we all, the hardest thing for all of to do is analyze ourselves. It's so hard to look at it from the inside out. And so easy to judge people from the outside in. And I'm really not judging him from the outside in, because I know some of the inside. And I just think that he realizes he's got to stay focused and when I say be a better teammate I don't blame you for that being a confusing statement. I really don't. But there's a bond that guys have to have. And I keep going back to, we want to change everything about a player from his strength to his jump shot to his passing ability to his defense to his body and yet we just say his personality, let's leave it alone. I'm just not wired that way.
But have I spent a lot of time with him too to tell him why I'm wired that way. And why I think it's important. And I've had a lot of those great players that have come back to tell him why it's important and when you have a Magic Johnson and a Cleaves and those guys that can come back or Steve Smith or Eric Snow, all those guys.
Eric was kind of a quiet guy, Steve was kind of a quiet guy but they realized how important those things are. So I'm sure that can be confusing to everybody and normally you wouldn't have to go through this as much but as I told our media, the landscape has changed a little bit. Now everything is so out there. If we have some success we already have, we won a Big-10 championship.
When the year's over, the biggest thing that will I'll reflect on is that practice that Kalin missed and what that did nationally. I mean that will be the number one thing that I'll remember from this year. So I'll get better at that next year. I'll do a better job and that wasn't Kalin's fault as much as it was mine and I'll accept the responsibility for that probably won't change it, because I did something I thought was right I'll just change how I handle it, and so all in all, we got a very good basketball team, I think. One that has a lot of guys that have been to a Final Four and some of our seniors are playing their best ball, I think you're going to see Lucas play very well. If he does, I like our chances.
Yet we're going against a very good team in New Mexico State because they had those two guys out I think there's a lot more losses on that team than there really are because those two guys missed a lot of losses and they're well coached and they will be a good team to play. And as we saw today, nobody's safe. Nobody's safe. I think that's the way it will be for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you coach.
End of FastScripts