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OLYMPIC REPORT

Serbians Are Next for the U.S. Men

August 06, 2004|From Associated Press

After two games of their pre-Olympic swing through Europe, it's clear that the U.S. men's basketball team lacks experience, doesn't have many great shooters, isn't all that tall and is a month behind the competition in terms of preparation.

Now, they're about to face the defending world champions. And after listening to what the players and coach said Thursday, things could get worse before they get better.

"We've basically been trying to just pass, pass, pass to the point where we've been overpassing, because we're trying to play the right way, the way our coach wants to play," Stephon Marbury said.

The American players looked utterly flummoxed when confronted by the zone defense that Italy played in Cologne, Germany, during the first stop of their five-game exhibition tour of Europe, though the ball movement and shot selection improved in a last-second victory over Germany.

Those opponents, however, do not represent the type of top-echelon competition the Americans will face tonight in Belgrade against Serbia-Montenegro -- or in Athens against the likes of Lithuania, Spain and Argentina.

The Serbian team, which won the World Championship in 2002 in Indianapolis, started its Olympic preparations on June 28 -- almost a month before the Americans opened training camp.

All of the other top teams were practicing and playing in warmup competitions throughout July too.

*

Marion Jones is in the unfamiliar position of trying to earn a spot on the U.S. 400-meter relay team at the Athens Olympics.

Four years ago, Jones was track's unquestioned superstar, and there was no doubt she would be on both relay teams at the Sydney Games, where she won five track medals, three of them gold.

But she is only one of the contenders at the U.S. relay camp this week in Munich, Germany.

"She's done everything we've asked and been everywhere we've asked," women's Olympic Coach Sue Humphrey said.

However, she said, it would be "premature" to say Jones will be on the relay team in Athens.

"We're still going through the process," Humphrey said.

*

Jamaican sprinter Steve Mullings will miss the Athens Olympics after testing positive twice for testosterone.

After a hearing next week, Jamaican officials will submit a report to the International Assn. of Athletics Federations. The international association will decide whether to suspend Mullings for two years.

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