The U.S. men's Olympic basketball team is hoping to make up for its
somewhat shocking third place finish at the Athens Games four years
ago. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is in Beijing and has a report.
disappointing result in 2004 was the first time since professional
basketball players were allowed into the Olympics in 1992 that the
United States had not won the gold.
USA Basketball officials
refocused their efforts by putting together a star-studded group of NBA
players and a big-name coach for the Beijing Games. If their five
pre-Olympic warm-up games are any indication, the Americans will be
tough to beat. They won all five contests, with an average margin of
victory of nearly 30 points.
Dwayne Wade, who led the Miami
Heat to the NBA title two years ago, says he and his U.S. teammates are
ready for their Olympic challenge.
"You know for any team to
beat us, they are going to have to play great," he said. "Whatever kind
of game we play, they're going to have to play great to beat us. And
that's a good thing. And if we play great, we're going to be tough to
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who did not see
much playing time on the 2004 bronze medal team, says he has no
reservations now about being a leader out on the court.
know that's the one thing that I try to do everyday at practice and in
games is to try to be vocal with our team and let them know where
they're at on the defensive end and the offensive end," he said. "Yeah,
I take that responsibility."
NBA Most Valuable Player, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, knows a U.S. basketball gold medal is not automatic anymore.
not America's game anymore," he said. "It's a global game. That's just
what it's become and I think it's beautiful. As a purist of the game,
that's what you want to see have happen. Because you love the sport so
much you want to share in that same enjoyment."
U.S. team at these Olympics is Mike Krzyzewski, who has had great
success through the years at Duke University in the East coast U.S.
state of North Carolina. He has been able to get his NBA stars to buy
into the team concept.
"Our guys all want to play for the name
on the front of the jersey, their country," said Krzyzewski. "Just
like other countries have other high profile players playing also, who
are in the NBA. The NBA is over 30 percent international. So our guys
have fit in well with that. They want to play as one."
U.S. men open group round-robin play on Sunday against host China,
featuring its NBA superstar Yao Ming. Coach Krzyzewski expects an
"Well, I think they'll show us tremendous
respect, and we will show them respect," he said. "Obviously, they
would want their team to win. It's going to be an amazing game."
The other teams the U.S. will face in the first round at these Olympics are Angola, Greece, Spain and Germany.