The U.S. men's Olympic basketball team has decided to play reigning world champions Serbia-Montenegro next year in a warm-up game before the Athens Olympics. The two countries' basketball associations announced Monday that the game will be played August 6 in Belgrade.
Serbia and Montenegro were part of the former Yugoslavia. The two national teams last played against each other during the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis, when Yugoslavia beat the United States in the quarterfinals and went on to win the gold medal.
More than a dozen players from Serbia-Montenegro play in the NBA, including Sacramento Kings' stars Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac. The nine players already named to the U.S. team are all in the NBA. They include league Most Valuable Player Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers, and Los Angeles Lakers' stars Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone.
At the Olympics, the USA and Serbia-Montenegro are in different groups for preliminary round-robin play, so they could not face one another until the knockout phase. Both are gold medal favorites.
The friendly warm-up game in Serbia-Montenegro will take place in the now-unfinished Belgrade Arena, which is also to host the 2005 European Basketball Championships. The teams agreed to play the match after nearly two years of negotiations.