SportsProf

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Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Answer Answers, But Will It Be Enough?

Man almost bit dog again today, as the US Olympic hoops team barely edged Germany, 80-77, thanks to "the first buzzer beater in my life" by Allen Iverson. This German team featured Dirk Nowitzki, who scored a game-high 32 points, and this German team also has another distinction -- it didn't qualify for the Olympics.

The US team celebrated by fleshpiling Iverson (at least from the looks of it) after the game. Either the fleshpiling occurred because it was a reflex reaction or because this team knows that it better celebrate the wins it gets because wins against international opponents aren't automatic anymore. Larry Brown is an excellent coach and teacher -- that's a given -- but he had better ramp up his cram course because he won't have a full school year to do the teaching that he loves talking about. Larry, it's time for the Stanley Kaplan course about how to win the international game, and it's time for your gang to start cramming.

Perhaps it's even time to pull an all-nighter.

Losing to Italy by 17 and barely beating a so-so German team by 3 don't mean a whole lot right now. The Dream Team, as it were, or perhaps the DayDream Team, needs to win convincingly to give them the confidence that they can put away people once the games start for real in a week. Right now, the flow isn't there and the confidence isn't there.

You do have big names, but your big names just make your opposition hungrier. Most of the players on your opponents don't have rich contracts or shoe deals waiting for them.

What they do have is the hopes and prayers of their nations, perhaps better fuel for victories than a shoe that's named after you or the big contract that lets you and your posse eat nightly at 3-star Michelin restaurants. Beat Team U.S.A., and you won't have to pay for a meal in your home country for a long time. That type of food tastes better than anything an imported French chef can put together.

It's un-American to root against America, but it's American to root for the underdog. U.S.A. fans still will find away to root for this underachieving, not-so-fundamentally sound bunch, but they probably will not take away a great amount of satisfaction should Team USA win the gold.

If they win the gold.

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