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The Inside Track | MORNING BRIEFING

Javtokas Asked to Answer a Tall Request

August 23, 2004|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Mike Downey of the Chicago Tribune strolled into the locker room after Team USA's 94-90 loss to Lithuania in an Olympic basketball game, approached the biggest player he could find, and asked a perfectly logical question:

"Are you guys the best team in the world?"

He found it strange, however, that the subject of his interview was Lithuanian center Robertas Javtokas, not the U.S.'s Tim Duncan.

"Yes, I can guess what you must be thinking," Downey wrote. "Not the Robertas Javtokas!

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Trivia time: Puerto Rico was the first team to defeat the U.S. in Olympic basketball since the U.S. began using NBA players in 1992.

Name the first team to lose to that original "Dream Team."

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Trying times: Stephen A. Smith of the Philadelphia Inquirer says that the losses to Puerto Rico and Lithuania are more a sign of the times than a red-flag warning for Team USA.

"It's no longer about the Americans' annihilating the competition to display their dominance," Smith wrote. "The day no longer exists when Chuck Daly, coaching the Dream Team at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain, could feel comfortable going an entire Olympics without calling a time out."

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World lessons: Jerry Greene of the Orlando Sentinel wants fans to consider the opponent before ripping Team USA for its loss to Lithuania.

"Hey, this was Lithuania," he wrote. "There are more than 3.5 million Lithuanians, and their country is slightly larger than West Virginia! Bet you didn't know that.

"Where is Lithuania? Come on, it's on the right side of the Baltic Sea. If you hit Latvia, you went too far."

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More Greene geography: "I'm still waiting for somebody to explain how our men's beach volleyball team of Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard got beaten by Switzerland. Beach volleyball? Switzerland? It's not like they were playing Lithuania, for crying out loud."

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Add Greene: "So I'm looking at Russia's gymnastics diva, Svetlana Khorkina, and there's only one thought in my mind: Will someone please give that girl a sandwich?"

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Olympic feet: Sue Bird of the U.S. women's basketball team took a break from all the Olympic hoopla last week to stomp grapes at the Evharis winery, about an hour west of the Olympic complex.

She checked out vines, learned how to pick grapes and got to smash them with her bare feet. No worries about stains, however.

"They were white grapes," Bird said.

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Trivia answer: Angola, which the U.S. plays today in its final preliminary-round game. The U.S. won, 116-48, in its '92 Olympic debut.

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And finally: To help his squad of first-time Olympians relax, German men's water polo Coach Hergan Stamm is letting his players have a beer or two before their important match against Australia.

"That's the right way to think about Australia," Stamm said. He did not specify whether they would drink Foster's or Beck's.

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