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Holdsclaw Waits as Women Win Again

SYDNEY 2000 SUMMER OLYMPICS | BASKETBALL

September 23, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — Chamique Holdsclaw has gotten the boot in these Olympics.

The contraption she wears to protect and support her injured right foot is the emblem of her troubles.

She has yet to play because of a preliminary stress fracture diagnosed after she arrived in Australia, and though she'll try to play in the medal round, it's not certain she'll be able.

A couple of games ago, Holdsclaw wasn't even introduced with the rest of the U.S. women's basketball team: It was that darned boot.

"They said I had to be in full uniform in order to get announced," she said. "So this game they asked me to put on my shoes to walk out there."

Holdsclaw was the only player on the team who didn't score in a 93-42 victory over New Zealand on Friday, a game the U.S. started by taking a 30-point lead at halftime and finished by setting a U.S. Olympic record for fewest points allowed.

New Zealand, making its first Olympic basketball appearance, qualified only because Australia earned an automatic spot as the host country--and because American Samoa didn't show up to play New Zealand in the Oceania Zone qualifying game.

"It's like they're men," New Zealand's Kirstin Daly said after playing the defending gold medalists. "It's like playing first-division men. It's an honor to be on the court."

Holdsclaw, a WNBA all-star for the Washington Mystics and a two-time national player of the year at Tennessee, watched from the bench for the fourth consecutive game.

"It's just heartbreaking," said forward Yolanda Griffith, one of six U.S. players in double figures Friday, led by Katie Smith with 14. "I know she's hurting inside, but she's a very strong individual, and we support her and she supports us."

Holdsclaw's grandmother and mother are here, and when they see their baby on the bench, her face scrunched, they know it's hard.

"Sometimes I have a good day and sometimes I have a bad day," said Holdsclaw, in her first Olympics at 23. "Today was probably a bad day. I was just like, dang!"

The coaches give her assignments to keep her involved, asking her to chart the games.

"I'm becoming a smarter player on the bench," Holdsclaw said. "Today I did every play we ran, if we scored, who scored, what happened, so we could see what's working good against various defenses.

"I looked over and I didn't see [assistant Coach Geno Auriemma] doing anything. And I thought, 'Dang, I've got Geno's job today.' "

The goal is to get her into some games in these Olympics. The U.S. plays its final preliminary game Sunday, and the quarterfinals are Wednesday.

"I'm hoping at least to play in the medal round," Holdsclaw said. "I haven't done anything as far as putting pressure on it. I think I'll do that the next two days. After that, you can come back and ask again.

"We'll see how it feels, see if we can start doing some exercises. Then get out and do some running, see how it feels cutting. Take one day at a time, hopefully start running, dribbling basketballs."

There is a possibility she'll make it worse.

"I could go out and snap it," Holdsclaw said. "I don't think that will happen. Plus, if I do play and I can withstand the pain, I've got a lot of time to rest it. But you do take a risk.

"As soon as the Olympics are over, my No. 1 concern is my health, and getting my feet together because I've had the same injury twice in the past six months."

When she returns to the U.S., she'll see the same specialist who treats Grant Hill.

She just hopes she isn't going to have the sort of trouble Bill Walton had with his feet during his career.

"If this happens a third or fourth time, I'll be like, 'Uh-oh,' " she said.

For now, she's just working on putting the game into her Olympic Games.

Until then, she's just another sightseer.

"Yeah, but I walk very slow, so nobody kind of wants to go with me."

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