So when did the U.S. stop sending dream teams to the Olympic Games?
August 4, 2004
Was that Larry Brown pleading with a United States Basketball official instead of a whistle blower during a time-out Wednesday?
After directing the Detroit Pistons to the NBA championship in June, Brown has probably thought once or twice what it would be like to take his Pistons into the upcoming Olympic Games.
Brown’s reality is that he will likely go down as the first coach of NBA players not to win the Olympic gold medal.
He’s stuck with a 12-player roster with an average age of 23.6 – the equivalent of second-year NBA players.
Consequently, that inexperience has led to an inconsistent offense and too many breakdowns on defense.
A record 17-point trouncing at the hands of Italy on Tuesday is an ominous indicator that the U.S. could be on the verge of an embarrassing showing in Athens.
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At least the U.S. rebounded for a thrilling 80-77 exhibition win over Germany on Allen Iverson’s half-court buzzer-beater on Wednesday. But Germany didn’t even qualify for the Olympic tournament – and without Dirk Nowitzki – couldn’t even finish ahead of Stanford in the Pac-10.
If you didn’t know that the NBA doesn’t yet schedule games in August, you would have thought you were watching the Philadelphia 76ers or New York Knicks on Wednesday. That’s because Iverson plays like he has four 76ers on the court instead of four NBA stars. The same goes for Knicks’ point guard Stephon Marbury, who turns the ball over more than Ollie in “Hoosiers.”
I know that many of the NBA’s elite players declined to play in the Olympic Games, but how in the world were Brown and Iverson allowed to reunite? Iverson is the reason Brown bolted to Detroit. They have as much chemistry as John Daly and women.
Iverson has already shown up late for a team meeting, drawing a one-game suspension from Brown. It’s a good thing the U.S. has little time to assemble a team or Iverson might be serving a 10-game suspension by the time the Olympics arrive.
Tim Duncan is the team’s obvious star, but the ball-hogging guards aren’t triggering the ball inside nearly enough.
Brown’s starting backcourt for the second half – Iverson and Marbury – wasted no time frittering away a six-point lead. Out-of-control drives to the basket and high-degree-of-difficulty shots are their worn-out tendencies.
Brown should use LeBron James and Dwyane Wade more often. James gives their fastbreak an extra gear and Wade, working on how he’ll feed Shaq in the fall, can get Duncan more looks.
Brown has several more exhibition games to build up the team concept, but he probably needs an NBA season.
The U.S. team plays its first game in Athens against Puerto Rico on Aug. 15 as it pursues a fourth straight gold medal since NBA players were allowed to compete at the Olympics. The original Dream Team will never again be matched in talent, nor success.
That 12-player roster included Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Clyde Drexler, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, Chris Mullin and Scottie Pippen and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was the third assistant. The Dream Team won eight games by an average margin of 43.8 points and their closest call was a 32-point blowout of Croatia in the gold-medal game.
To date, no one has nicknamed Brown’s club as a Dream Team. With expectations lowering, maybe Brown will get his players to play with the passion of underdogs. Hopefully he won’t have to convince them that they are.
– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or firstname.lastname@example.org