No way, world

U.S. men's team too talented not to come home from Athens with gold



Tim Duncan

With talent such as Tim Duncan on the roster, the U.S. should be able to book its ticket to the gold-medal game in Athens.




Before we all go off to check whether James Naismith was actually a Serb or to investigate Red Auerbach's Argentine lineage, we need to understand that Team Iverson's loss to Italy in an exhibition game was not the end of American basketball as we know it. It simply means that Commissioner David Stern's master plan is continuing apace, and the NBA's quest for world domination is on schedule. Let the NFL have this continent. Stern wants the whole globe.


And he might just get it some day. For now, however, he'll have to be content with the Olympic gold medal. Because there is no way -- NO WAY, DO YOU HEAR ME? -- Uncle Sam is going down in Athens. Even if the NBA crème is fleeing to safety, vacationing, rehabbing or girding for trial, AI, TD and the fellas have more than enough to take care of the Eurothreats, the South American posers and the Asian pretenders. Will it get a little hairy? You betcha. But in the end, Iverson will be able to tattoo a medal replica on his chest, and Larry "the right way" Brown will be the first head coach to collect the holy trinity of coaching honors (NCAA, NBA, Olympic).


It won't be easy, not with Lithuania's alphabet-soup roster on the schedule in preliminary play, and the Argentines, Spaniards and Serbs/Montenegrins lurking in the medal rounds. But let's be serious. Do you think a motivated, well-prepared collection of NBA stars -- even if many are second-tier playas -- will lose to the likes of China? This isn't John Thompson at the helm here, exercising a criminal unwillingness to put a single offensive threat on the execrable 1988 U.S. team, a sin which led directly to the Dream Team's creation. This is a damn good squad, one which realizes that playing Germany in Cologne before the Olympics is the equivalent of a February visit to the Hawks. Once they lace 'em up for real, you'll see a highly-motivated club capable of propagating Uncle David's global message and whipping anybody who dares to stand in its way.


Just for fun, though, let's look at the field.

Puerto Rico, Angola, The Clippers, New Zealand: Do you believe in miracles? No!!!

China: Oooohh, it's the "Great Wall." The Chinese front line of Yao Ming and Mengke Bateer is big. It also moves about as quickly as the 1,500-mile fixture for which it is named.

Italy: Hope you enjoyed your exhibition win guys, because the U.S. will get medieval on you in a rematch.

Australia:Shane Heal is dangerous, but Chris Anstey couldn't stick on an NBA roster -- despite being seven feet tall and white.

Spain:Pau Gasol and Raul Lopez will put up great numbers, but expect Gasol to take a protracted siesta once things get a little rugged.

Argentina: These guys made the U.S. look silly two years ago in Indianapolis. Then again, that American club had Antonio Davis and Raef LaFrentz, so it doesn't count. Tim Duncan goes for 30 against Ruben Wolkowyski.

Serbia & Montenegro: Without Peja Stojakovic in the lineup, Team Predrag is dangerous but not capable of closing the deal.

Lithuania: The No. 1 threat to American primacy, despite never having beaten a U.S. senior team. Arvydas Macijauskas. Sarunas Jasikevicius. Saulius Strombergas. The names just roll off the tongus. Great outside shooting but nothing inside.

So, go ahead and pick one of them. Take the whole stinkin' lot. El Hombre will roll with the good, old U.S. of A. and cash big. The Olympics belong to the U.S. -- unless of course '72 villains Aleksandr Belov and R. William Jones show up. Then, put it all on the Soviets.



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