US men, women’s basketball teams ready to get to work in Rio
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — The U.S. men and women’s basketball teams arrived in Rio, spent some time on their luxury cruise ship that will house them for the next 20 days and then the ladies went to work.
“The boatel,” a laughing Diana Taurasi said Wednesday. “There’s so many different restaurants and places for us to hang out. It’s big, but not too big.”
Both teams have spent the last few weeks crisscrossing the country on pre-Olympic exhibition tours. They piled up easy victories in those contests, but the travel was starting to get to them.
“When you spend eight nights in five different hotels it’s tough to get into a routine,” Auriemma said. “Now we’re in the same place for a while and can focus on our goal.”
The U.S. women had a light practice before speaking to the media Wednesday evening while the men’s team had an optional shootaround after arriving on a charter flight from Houston. They will have their first news conference in Rio on Thursday.
It’s the second time both teams will be housed on a cruise ship during the Olympics. Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings and Carmelo Anthony — all four-time Olympians — were on those squads.
“I’ve never been on a cruise,” Taurasi joked. “The last time I was on a boat was in 2004 in Athens when we stayed on the Queen Mary. So this has kind of almost been like normal for my Olympic experience.”
Winning gold medals has been normal for the American women, who will be trying for a sixth consecutive one in Rio. They’ve won 41 straight Olympic contests.
“We never take it for granted when we come to the Olympics,” three-time gold medalist Sue Bird said.
The men will be attempting to win a third straight gold medal. They went 5-0 on their exhibition tour, averaging 102.8 point and overwhelming their opponents by 43 per game. The road to Rio was easy, but before the team left the U.S., coach Mike Krzyzewski cautioned that it won’t be easy when the Olympics tip off.
“The competition is going to get better. I mean, really good,” Krzyzewski said.
The men play their first game Saturday against China and the women begin Olympic play Sunday versus Senegal.
“We’ll have a chance to get a few days of consistent practice now,” said first time Olympian Elena Delle Donne, who made a few headlines when she talked openly about her fiancee Amanda Clifton in an upcoming story in Vogue magazine. “It was great to get some shots up and get our legs under us.”
To the reigning WNBA MVP it was no big deal discussing her relationship in the magazine during an interview she said was done several months ago.
“It was just one of those articles where they came into my home, spent a couple days with me and Amanda is a huge part of my life,” the reigning WNBA MVP said. “So to leave her out wouldn’t have made any sense. It’s not a coming out article or anything. I’ve been with her for a very long time now and people who are close to me know that.”
Delle Donne said she and Clifton got engaged on June 2.
“I don’t plan on having our relationship out in the public and all this media on it,” Delle Donne said, “but obviously there’s excitement right now because people see it for the first time.”
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this story.