Dre Diary: Team USA taking in culture, history before quarterfinal meeting with Russia

Kevin Durant salutes fans after Team USA defeated Angola in the round of 16. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

This entry comes before the Americans play Russia in Istanbul in the quarterfinals of the world championships today, also the 38th anniversary of the Soviet Union's 51-50 victory over the U.S. team for the gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

This Russian team will be the most physical we've played. They are a very, very tall team, with an average height of about 6-8 or 6-9. The guy who handles the ball most for them is, like, 6-8, and I'll be sticking him most of the game. I'll try to get right up on him, get the ball out of his hands and take him out of his game.

That's what they'll try to do to us, be physical and take us out of our game. They are kind of like the Detroit teams of the 1980s, where they get after you a lot defensively, mostly in a physical way. And that's a big part of our success, too, defense. When we have games where we aren't scoring, like against Brazil, we need to be able to rely on our defense, because that will always pull us through. Obviously, if we're not making shots, it makes things harder. But our defense will always keep us close if that happens.

The coaches had bets wondering which players knew anything about (the 1972 gold-medal game against the Soviet Union and the USA in which the Soviets took the gold after a controversial ending). I had heard about it and seen replays of it on HBO and stuff. I pride myself in knowing my basketball history, so I knew all about it before the coaches brought it up. Some of the guys on this team are really young, though, and they didn't know anything about it. That team just got inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame. And I know they never collected their silver medals. They're still sitting in a vault in Switzerland, I believe.

We've had some more free time, because the games have been more spread out, so we've been doing a lot of things together. We went on an amazing boat tour that showed some crazy houses. These places were incredible, some worth about $150 million. There was one place that we visited, it was like a honeymoon suite, that was just phenomenal. It had a painting that was something like 30 by 20 feet. It's supposed to be one of the most expensive in the world. It has a guy standing in the desert and no matter what angle you look at this picture, his front foot faces directly at you. I took pictures of it from every angle and in every picture the foot is facing me. That was pretty cool.

I've been reading a lot since being over here. I just finished two books and am now reading a book about body language. It tells you different things about what a person is thinking or how a person is feeling by how they are standing, if their arms are crossed, stuff like that. It has a whole chapter on smiling. It says that smiling is good for your health because it releases endorphins. It also burns calories. It gives a person a natural high.

I don't smile that much on the court, because I'm so zoned into the game. But off the court, I love to smile and have a good time. My friends all know that I have a good, dry sense of humor. Fans might not see it on the court, because I'm so tuned in. There wasn't a whole lot to smile about last season, either. Hopefully, there will be more to smile about this season.

- Bob Cooney