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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | Looking Ahead

This Team Seems Much Less Dreamy

September 17, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — Here's a story to illustrate the difference between this Olympic men's basketball team and Dream Teams past.

In Atlanta, Reggie Miller ripped the "one-star" room service at the Omni hotel.

In Sydney, Vin Baker is room service.

The Seattle SuperSonic forward cooked dinner for 30 the other night at the team hotel in suburban Parramatta, working on the two-eye stove in his room and another next door with an assist from a couple of Weber grills.

"Chicken, ribs, mashed potatoes, pasta," Baker said. "Half the women's team ate with us."

In Barcelona, the original Dream Team stayed at a posh $900-a-night hotel.

In Atlanta, the Omni across from Centennial Park prompted Miller to rate the room service "terrible."

Mark this down as the team that is more Embassy Suites than Ritz-Carlton.

Of course, you'll notice that on the court too.

The team that opened its Olympic competition against China today has no Shaquille O'Neal, no Kobe Bryant, no Tim Duncan or Grant Hill.

The margins of victory might not be as big and the news conferences won't be as lively without Charles Barkley. But what this team does have is an attitude in sharp contrast to Dream Teams of the past.

The hotel where the U.S. men's and women's teams are staying--the Pacific International suites in quiet Parramatta--is new, but nothing swank.

When the Olympics aren't in town, you can get a modest suite for $102 (U.S.).

Suites at the Regent Hotel overlooking Sydney Harbor where the International Olympic Committee is based start at $446 and go to $2,242.

The difference between these players and the ones that have gone before is that they aren't complaining.

"It's all right," forward Antonio McDyess said. "Like home. You have a kitchen."

The hotel does have room service, but with Baker and a kitchenette around, who needs it?

"You get tired of room service," guard Gary Payton said.

Payton and Lisa Leslie said both teams would like to be around the other athletes more, but in the end they appreciate the privacy and comfort of a hotel over the Olympic village.

Vince Carter doesn't mind not being in the middle of things.

"It doesn't bother me. I don't go anywhere anyway," Carter said. "I'm here for a purpose. I haven't been out of my room much."

Don't feel bad for them, though. The players trained in Hawaii, staying in the Ritz-Carlton on Maui.

Only problem was, Baker didn't have a stove.

"My mom invited him to Florida after last night," said Carter, who lives in Daytona Beach and brought his mother to the Olympics. "He's coming to Florida to cook for us."

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