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Best Fastbreak of Day Is by Dreamy Writers

September 30, 2000|MIKE PENNER

SYDNEY, Australia — Do you dream about Allan Houston? Vin Baker, maybe? How about Antonio McDyess? Ray Allen? Shareef Abdur-Rahim?

My point exactly.

There is no "Dream Team" playing basketball in Sydney. Reports to the contrary are as misleading as a USA Track and Field brief on drug-test results.

The Dream Team disbanded when Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Charles Barkley said their goodbyes at the Barcelona airport. Date of demise: August, 1992.

There was no "Dream Team" in Atlanta, either. Only a diluted version of the original. Olympics after Olympics, the name remains the same, but at this point the product is so watered-down, they ought to put gelatin in their hair and plugs on their noses and call it synchronized dribbling.

No Shaq, no Kobe, no Tim Duncan, no Grant Hill, no Reggie Miller, no Chris Webber, no Allen Iverson, no Karl Malone, no Scottie Pippen, no David Robinson. No wonder most American sports columnists, typically drawn to the most compelling Olympic story of the day, have avoided the men's basketball tournament in favor of trampoline gymnastics.

A goodly number of them were hanging around the interview room at Olympic Stadium, waiting to listen to Marion Jones, onetime basketball player, elaborate on the end of her onetime dream, five gold medals at the Sydney Olympics.

An American long jumper had just fouled out of the final. In another arena a few hundred yards away, a bunch of American high jumpers were a couple of foul shots away from losing to Lithuania.

The rumor was quickly passed from scribe to scribe: The Not The Dream Team was in deep wombat droppings.

It couldn't be true. One American sportswriter, very tall, tall enough to be on the Not The Dream Team, reached up to switch an overheard television monitor from track to men's basketball.

It was true. Lithuania 80, USA 79, 1:36 to play.

I haven't seen a group of sportswriters move so quickly since American Airlines had that triple frequent flier points program. Two of them, I'm reasonably sure, would have beaten the Greek who won the 200 meters.

This is what it has come to for the Not The Dream Teamers.

They're only news when they almost lose.

The 4-by-400-meter sprints, Media Division, were off and running. By the time they all hoofed it over to the SuperDome, Sarunas Jasikevicius was lining up a three-point shot that was high enough but not long enough, sparing the desperate NBAers at the buzzer.

The Not The Dream lives to see another day.

In the other bracket of the men's Final Four, France upset Australia, eliminating the Boomers sooner than anyone would have figured.

So it will be France vs. the U.S. for the gold medal. A couple of writers were discussing this unlikely matchup when a third wandered by, catching only the tail-end of the conversation.

"Oh, no," he exclaimed in mock disgust. "Not more soccer talk!"

No, we're talkin' French hoops here. Les Hicks From French Republique. They don't often reach the finals of the Olympic men's basketball tournament, but believe it or not, there is precedent for it. In 1948, France played the United States for the basketball gold medal. France lost, 65-21. Ask a Frenchman about that inglorious defeat today and he'll simply shrug. Three-point shooters took the day off.

Soccer talk is reserved for Cameroon, surprise penalty-shootout winner over Spain in the men's gold-medal match. That's two in a row for Africa--Nigeria's Flying Eagles in '96, Cameroon's Indomitable Lions in '00.

So maybe now FIFA officials who view the Olympics as a threat to their World Cup can take a breather. World Cup and Olympic soccer are apples and Tasmanian pepperberries. No African team has ever made it out of the quarterfinals of the World Cup. But the Olympics? They ought to rename the thing the African Nations Cup.

Today there is joy in Cameroon, but only mourning in Morocco. Hicham El Guerrouj, the heaviest hitter in all of 1,500-meter running, bidding for his first Olympic gold medal, struck out. He came in second, which, after falling and getting trampled underfoot in Atlanta, ought to qualify as a major upgrade, except to the Moroccan media, which consider El Guerrouj's silver medal a national disaster.

Post-race, El Guerrouj sat through the most painful news conference of the Sydney Olympics. How, El Guerrouj was asked, would he explain to 30 million Moroccans that he failed them all. The interrogation was brutal. El Guerrouj broke into tears more than once, bravely trying to soldier through to the end. It hurt just to watch.

"Man," a stunned American writer said once the inquisition was mercifully halted. "They make us look like Barbara Walters."

It's a tough playing field, these Olympic Games.

Pity the Not The Dream Teamers if they should lose to the French.



I knew that last shot wasn't going to fall. He's a good shooter, but not that good.

Vince Carter on Sarunas Jasikevicius' three-pointer at buzzer in U.S.-Lithuania semifinal.


I spoke to my wife on the phone, and she said everybody in Limoges is going crazy in the streets, like soccer.

French basketball center Frederic Weis, whose team will face the U.S. for gold.


My advice, believe it or not, would be skip the U.S. Open and play in the Olympics. It's an extraordinary experience.

Tennis players Jeff Tarango.

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