July 19, 2021
Q. The other night we were talking about Giannis giving you a quick hug as the game is coming to an end. How do you think he's grown in kind of sharing the process with you guys where it's not just like I need to get better, I need to improve, but rather the idea of "we," we need to do these things?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: I think he's been like that for the most part. Guys just don't see it much. Behind the scenes we're always talking about basketball, how to win games, how to be better. Things he sees in our game, things we see in his game. It's always been a team effort. Just now I guess the cameras are on him more or on us more, so you see it a lot more.
Q. You two have very different games. What is a tip or something he can give you? He's not going to do the same things you do.
KHRIS MIDDLETON: No, I think a lot of it is drawing crowds. We both draw crowds in different ways. He sees his from a different point of view and I see his crowds from a different point of view. So it's kind of giving that feedback of what we see and where the openings are for each other, either in our games or finding other guys and getting other guys involved.
We are basketball junkies. We love studying film. We love watching games. We love talking about basketball. So it's all about learning.
Q. As you were weighing whether or not to be committed for Team USA, how did you sift through all those different variables?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: It wasn't that difficult. Just being an Olympian, representing our country and having a chance to play for a gold medal with a great team. That was it.
Q. How did you deal with kind of the compressed nature of what the schedule is going to be?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: Doesn't bother me at all. I love basketball. I love playing it. During the offseason it's hard for me to take a couple weeks off, because I want to be back in the gym doing something, working on my game. And one advantage of it is I don't have to get back in shape, which is a great thing for basketball players. Once you get out of shape, it's hard to get those wheels going again. So, for me, that was it.
Q. You guys have never been in this position before, so how are you treating tomorrow? Like, how excited are you? Are you trying not to be excited? Where is the balance you're trying to strike to understand the moment and go from there?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: Treating it like every regular-season game that we have had, every playoff game that we have had. Taking one game at a time and every game is a must-win. That's it.
Q. What have you guys seen that has enabled y'all to be so effective out in transition? You guys had 21 fast break points in the last game. What are you seeing that is leading to that?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: It starts with our defense, for sure, being able to get a stop. Then we have really three or four guys that can always get a board and take it with us and create problems, whether it's going all the way, finding shooters, just creating havoc. Having playmakers on the court and shooters on the court that can space, it's been key for us.
Q. You guys average like 14 points in transition in the regular season. It's up to 17 now. Was that an emphasis going into the series or has that just sort of evolved in this series?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: I would say it's evolved. We watch film for ways we can get better, ways we can space the court better for Giannis, especially in transition for him to get downhill and not see a wall. Then also when he sees that wall, being able to kick out and we're able to play through that.
Q. You just mentioned treating this like any other game. The other night Giannis was talking about how dangerous a team y'all are when you're humble and you stay humble. How have you y'all been able to kind of maintain that approach over the course of the regular season and the postseason? How difficult is it to maintain that approach when so much is at stake?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: We don't think about what's at stake. I think the main thing with us, in our locker room, we have been doing a great job just blocking out distractions, focusing on the task at hand and what needs to be done, night in, night out. When we keep it like that, we're able to stay in our routines.
Q. This deep into a series do you feel that both teams have seen and shown pretty much everything they do, or do you have your dukes up that Phoenix is going to do something unexpected or you guys feel like we can surprise them with something?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: I think the best thing is always expect the unexpected, knowing that a team, especially at this point, one of the last two teams standing, that they always can throw something else out there. We have to be prepared for it no matter what it is. Even if we have never seen it before, we got to figure out a way to adjust to it on the fly.
Same with us. I feel like we got things that we could use that we haven't used yet. But that's just basketball -- adjusting, finding different ways to win.
Q. It's clear both sides are expending a tremendous amount of effort and energy in this series. When you need to hit a second gear in the moment, what do you lean on? What is your process to get that extra wind?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: My training, my treatments, my workouts. Everything that you go through during the summertime, preseason, up through the season. Those are preparing you for these moments, to be ready for them. No matter if you're tired, banged up, hurt, whatever, you have an extra gear that you've been through during your summer workouts.
Q. Your career has kind coincided with the rise of the combo guard. The point guard has been a dominant position in the league. You and Devin are two of the best shooting guards that the league has to offer. What have you noticed from his game playing against him up close these last five games,? And then do you take any pride in being one of the standard bearers for that position?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah you definitely want to be one of the top guards or players at your position. That's been a goal of mine since I stepped in. It will always be one goal of mine until I'm done playing.
As far as Devin Booker, the guy is extremely talented. A guy that can score in so many different ways on so many different people no matter how many people are on him, as we have seen. He is one that is definitely going to keep getting better. He is so young, he has so much to learn still, but he is still competing at the highest level and thriving on it. So he's going to have a great career.
Q. You guys go to transition from competing for the championship to playing for a medal together. Can you imagine what that's going to be like?
KHRIS MIDDLETON: Yeah, I think we'll be fine. Right now, we haven't said a word to each other. I'm sure we won't be best buddies during Team USA, but we'll be teammates, for sure. We'll be on the same path, talking basketball X's and O's, trying to get the job done. That's what being competitors is all about, but also what being a teammate is all about.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports