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Front Page » August 31, 2004 » Sports » The Sports View
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The Sports View


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate community editor

When the Men's Olympic basketball team lost the gold medal to the Soviet Union in a controversial game in 1972, many pundits claimed that if they had aa American team that played together for just one season they could beat anyone in the world.

Some boasted that they, as a coach, could take any of the top 20 ranked college teams and beat the world. At the time they were probably right; the rest of the world was not strong at basketball and players from America were decidedly better.

Fast forward to 2004. For the last 12 years America has been sending NBA players to the Olympics and World Championships. It was a long awaited dream of many basketball fans. When the first dream team appeared many fans said the United States would never lose another game, much less the gold medal at the Olympics.

But they have lost games and in this Olympics alone, they lost three. They also went home with a bronze medal after being dismantled by Argentina in a semi-final game.

I have to say it took a lot of guts for the American team to go back out on the court and beat Lithuania on Saturday for the bronze. That was a team which had defeated them the week before and they had to be disheartened by the fact they would be the first group of NBA players to not bring home gold.

There are a lot of factors in the changing basketball landscape in the world. Foreign players are much stronger, particularly those countries that sport teams that have one or two players that now play the long 82 NBA game season each year.

The Utah Jazz has probably made a very good move by trying to internationalize their lineup so much and I think that was proven by the Olympics.

True the American Olympic team was a patched together squad, with many of the best NBA American players missing. But the big problem that I saw Coach Larry Brown have was that he had mostly cry-baby, spoiled players on his team, who are used to not only having their cake, but eating it too. No longer can talent, which was in abundance on that team, replace team work. Argentina proved that.

In today's basketball world, I am not sure anyone could even take one of the top five college basketball teams in the country and assure even one victory. It has changed that much in 30 years. However the thought occurs to me that the champion NBA team, with a couple of extra "unselfish" stars thrown in could be a real force in the Olympics.

They would have played together for at least most of one season (depending on trades that had been made) and would be ready after a short two month rest following the NBA championship series to win again.

But then, who's to say the next NBA championship team won't be loaded with foreign players who would want to play for their own countries? What really needs to happen is a return to basics for many NBA players. They need to learn to pass, dribble and shoot as a team, under a coach's control and forget about the showboating, egos and product endorsements.

It's definitely time for a change.


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August 31, 2004
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