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SPORTS EXTRA: SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES

Basketball

Competition for U.S. Men, Women Appears to Be Marginal Once Again, With the Exception of the Host Teams

September 10, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD

MEN

* OVERVIEW--There's a "who's not here" quality to this Olympic tournament--and not only because Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant decided not to play for the U.S. team and Tim Duncan and Grant Hill are missing because of injuries.

Yugoslavia is without Sacramento King center Vlade Divac, who led the country to silver medals in 1988 and 1996 but chose not to play, saying it was a personal choice and not for political reasons.

Lithuania, winner of the last two bronze medals, is without Portland Trail Blazer center Arvydas Sabonis because he is still recovering from foot surgery, as is Cleveland Cavalier center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

And Russia dropped its top center, Mikhail Mikhailov, from the team shortly before leaving for Sydney because Mikhailov skipped two training camps and had not been playing well after recovering from an injury.

All that diminishes the quality of the teams other than Australia that should have been the best competition for the Americans--still the prohibitive favorites even though this edition of the Dream Team doesn't include any figures as dominant as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were for the original Dream Team in 1992.

The U.S. team isn't big, with no 7-footers and only one true center, Alonzo Mourning at 6 feet 10.

What the Americans have is a versatile stable of run-and-jump forwards--Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett and Antonio McDyess to name a few--and veteran guards in Jason Kidd and Gary Payton, the only holdover from the 1996 team.

The rest of the team: Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Ray Allen, Vin Baker, Tim Hardaway, Allan Houston and Steve Smith.

Here's how you keep score:

The first Dream Team beat its opponents by an average of 43.8 points in Barcelona. In Atlanta, the 1996 team won by an average of 32.3.

The margin might not be as large this time, but the end result should be the same.

* OTHERS TO WATCH--New York Knick fans should keep an eye out for France's 7-1 Frederic Weis, who was taken 15th overall in the 1999 draft but so far has remained in Europe. Dallas Maverick fans--whoever they are--might want to get a look at China's Wang Zhi-Zhi, the 7-footer selected by Dallas in the second round of the 1999 draft who has not been allowed to leave China for the NBA.

* BEST STORY--Other than Carter's highlights, zero in on Australia's feverish bid to medal in men's basketball for the first time. The Aussies have two NBA 7-footers--Luc Longley of the Phoenix Suns and Chris Anstey of the Chicago Bulls--and two deadeye shooters, Andrew Gaze, the former Seton Hall star, and Shane Heal.

* SOUTHLAND ATHLETES ON U.S. TEAM--None.

* KEY DATES--Sept. 17, U.S. vs. China. Sept. 18, U.S. vs. Italy. Sept. 19, Australia vs. Yugoslavia. Sept. 20, U.S. vs. Lithuania. Sept. 21, Australia vs. Russia. Sept. 23, U.S. vs. New Zealand. Sept. 24, U.S. vs. France. Sept. 27, quarterfinals. Sept. 28, quarterfinals. Sept. 29, semifinals. Sept. 30, gold-medal game.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Fast Fact

* The U.S. men are 101-2 in Olympic play, both losses to the former Soviet Union. The Soviets won, 51-50, in the controversial 1972 gold-medal game, and by an 82-76 score in a 1988 semifinal.

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