PORTLAND, Ore. — Its eyes on the prize, not to mention the airport, the U.S. basketball team will play Venezuela in the Tournament of the Americas championship today at 1:10 p.m.
If recent history is a guide, the game will be effectively over by 1:45. If the United States is motivated, make that 1:15.
U.S. preparations have stressed relaxation and individual leisure activity. The Americans didn't practice on Saturday's off-day, nor on Thursday's.
Nor have their few workouts been difficult. Patrick Ewing, asked about U.S. Coach Chuck Daly, took the diplomatic way out.
"He's an outstanding coach," Ewing said. "We haven't practiced a whole lot, so I don't really know too much. It's not like the regular season, when you have so much more time. But from what I've seen so far, he's an outstanding coach."
Daly, long known as a players' coach, has given the U.S. team plenty of free time. Charles Barkley says he has averaged 18 holes of golf per day, putting him far behind teammate Michael Jordan, who Barkley says averages about 36.
"We're ready to get out of here," Barkley said. " . . . I don't understand why we've got to play these last two games. We're already in the Olympics."
What remained of U.S. motivation nearly disappeared when Brazil was upset by Venezuela, 100-91, in the other semifinal late Friday night. Brazil had beaten Venezuela by 47 points three days before.
The Brazilians had thumbed their noses at the U.S. team earlier in the week.
"They have not played their best," said veteran Brazilian guard Marcel Souza. "They are hiding.
"I want them to play basketball, not golf all day and say, 'Oh, we got a pickup game against Canada tonight."
Barkley, asked about Brazilian sharpshooter Oscar Schmidt, had said:
"Isn't that the guy with Felix Unger?"
Venezuela's center, Carl Herrera, is a reserve for the Houston Rockets. Point guard Sam Shepard, 39, is the oldest player in the tournament. A U.S. native, he lives near Philadelphia during the off-season. He has an old-fashioned release on his shot, shotputting it up from his belt. Against Brazil, he made two three-pointers to start a late rally.