Originally created 09/30/00

Dream team in denial



Sure Antonio, you knew all along that last shot was short. Of course you did.

And that's right, Vince, you were thinking the game was in the bag all along, that Lithuania never really had a chance against all you NBA guys Friday night in Sydney.

All of you go ahead and keep shrugging off that 85-83 win in the semifinals. Keep telling everybody how you weren't worried about becoming the first Dream Team to lose in the Olympics. Maybe you'll even believe it soon.

Tell us one more time how this team can't lose. And just maybe you will.

Not now, of course. You get France in the finals. That's like reaching the World Series and getting to play Korea - the 12-under team. It's like getting to the finals of the 100-meter run and facing C.J. instead of Marion.

So it won't happen this time. You'll get out of these Olympics and back to your paying gigs with your undefeated record intact and gold medals around your necks.

But don't try to say it was easy. Don't try to tell us the possibility of losing never entered your minds.

Because you know as well as we do that Friday night your thoughts didn't just wander onto the subject, but they paid the first and last month rent there.

Yeah, we know, you were up 12 at halftime and it could have been more. Sure, sure, you played the second half like you had a stretch sitting out front of the Sydney Superdome. That two-point score just sounds close, isn't that it?

Keep talking. Everybody knows that game was only a little imaginitive officiating away from being the most embarrassing moment in U.S. basketball history, maybe even U.S. Olympic history. That's where you were Friday, not in some make-believe basketball land where two-point wins are comfortable.

Don't think so? Hey, McDyess, what if they had called that push-off on you when you got that rebound off Kevin Garnett's second missed free throw and scored the clinching basket with 23 seconds left? What if you went and put another Lithuanian player on the line with a chance to win the game the way you did when you fouled Ramunas Siskauskas on a three-pointer with :43 left and he missed the first two?

And, hey Garnett, stop that snickering. What if they called you for the loose-ball foul instead of the other guy when you got that steal with :25 left?

Don't think that could have happened? Didn't you see that somewhat creative charge call on Jason Kidd in the last two minutes? Didn't you see McDyess get mauled on the baseline and have no play but to throw the ball out of bounds the next time down the court?

And don't try to tell us none of you heard practically everybody in the place was rooting against you, how when the p.a. guy asked who was going to win duing a timeout with a minute left, the cheer for Lithuania sounded like a military flyover and the one for you sounded like a single baseball card in the spokes of a bike.

Don't you think that kind of emotion could have changed the game, that it could have made the other team play better than it is or the refs make a fell calls just to hear the crowd scream again?

You guys can't be that blind. Or that foolish.

You had to see how close it was Friday.

Weren't you looking at the scoreboard when Lithuania took the lead three times in the final two minutes? Didn't any of you notice this was the same team that gave you the same fits less than a week ago? Weren't you in the building when Siskauskas put up that three-pointer at the buzzer that for a second looked like the shot that killed the giant?

What's that McDyess, you weren't "too worried about it," you say? You "knew it was short because it was too high?"

Are you kidding me? A 4x100 relay team could have walked into the gym immediately after racing and not have been able to hold their breath when that ball was in the air.

Oh, I know, it's that confidence game you're playing, isn't it? You figure if you don't think about losing you can't lose, is that it?

Well, I've got to tell you, that's a fool's approach. You think George Bush thought about losing in '92? You think Georgia went to South Carolina worrying about it?

No, and look what happened to them.

Oh, but you've got it figured out, is that it? As Carter says, you "don't care what the world thinks," do you? What's that Vince, "look at the scoreboard," is what you say about a two-point win over a team with one NBA player?

Fine, be that way.

Don't play along by telling us you were, for a second, at least a little, kind of sort of, worried. Don't give us the straight answers for a game that asks a lot of questions about your team.

But, let me ask you this:

What do you say we forget all this Olympic qualification nonsense, get rid of these French pastries you're supposed to play Sunday and give Lithuania one more shot at you in the gold-medal match?

What would you say about that?

Tim Guidera can be reached at 652-0352 after Oct. 8.