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BEIJING 2008 : MEN'S BASKETBALL

U.S. versus Germany? Yes, it's on the schedule

August 18, 2008|Mark Heisler | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- Now for the big U.S.-Germany basketball game.

Would you believe the medium-size basketball game?

How about playing it because it's on the schedule and neither team has any choice?

Finishing pool play tonight, the U.S. (4-0) plays the Germans (1-3), who will be on their way back to their homes in Germany, Texas (Dirk Nowitzki) and California (Chris Kaman), unless they shock the world.

Not that it's unthinkable, but U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who doesn't look past anybody and says it's an honor to play everybody, gave his team Sunday off. The only other day off it got here was before the Angola game.

Nowitzki, of course, is the Germans' star, although Kaman has been their leading attraction -- or distraction.

Catching flak for playing for a team that needs more than him, the Clippers center has been priceless with quotes such as: "Obviously, being an American playing for Germany, 'traitor' is the first thing that comes to your mind."

Then there's his account of the Kaman family split, with his dad rooting for the U.S. while his mom roots for him:

"He said, 'When you're playing the USA, I'm going for USA, basically.' He didn't want to support me when I played the USA. He said, 'I hope the USA beats you.'

"My mom is like, 'I want Germany to win.' "

Nevertheless, Kaman insists this has been a great experience, even if the U.S. players kid him when they see him.

Barring the upset of the century in this game, the four Pool B teams in the medal round will be the U.S., Spain (3-1), Greece (2-2) and China (2-2).

Lithuania (4-0) and Argentina (3-1) are assured of advancing in Pool A.

Unless Russia (1-3) knocks off Argentina today, the other two teams will be Australia (2-2) and Croatia (2-2).

If the U.S. beats Germany, it will open against the No. 4 team in Pool A, which is now Croatia.

If the Americans win, as things stand, they would then move into the semifinals against the Argentina-Greece winner.

Now all the Americans have to do is stay awake against the Germans.

--

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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