Dream Team having Olympic nightmares

By David Whitley
The Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. - The remaining weeks before the Olympics are flying by. Have you received your invitation to play on the U.S. basketball team yet?
If not, don’t stop working on your crossover dribble.Your country may need you before the plane leaves forAthens.
:rolleyes: Seven of the nine players originally chosen have dropped out for various reasons.

Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are getting married, though not to each other.Tracy McGrady has mentioned wedding plans, but it may be that he’ll be too busy packing.
Kobe Bryant reportedly has some legal matters to tendto. Kenyon Martin has a headache scheduled for August.Mike Bibby was the latest dropout, saying last week that``a lot of things’’ went into his decision, like thefact he hated Zorba the Greek.
If this keeps up, Coach Larry Brown will be startingTim Duncan and four guys from the Y. To which I saygood. It could make us get as pumped about Olympicbasketball as we do Greco-Roman wrestling.
But wait, you say. We don’t know our Greco from ourRoman, much less care either way.
We did when Rulon Gardner beat an unbeatable Russianin 2000. Then we went back to completely ignoring anywrestling not involving Vince McMahon. But the point isthat what makes the Olympics the Olympics are storieslike Gardner.
Do you even remember who won the basketball gold medalin Sydney? OK, that’s an easy one. But did you reallycare?
A lot of people now seem to care deeply that VinceCarter won’t be in Athens to jump over some helplessFrenchman. With maps of Athens being found in terroriststarter kits, the NBA stars are being called cowards fornot representing their country in a time of war.
Please folks, take a perspective pill. Athens isn’twar. It’s a basketball tournament.
Rowers and modern pentathletes and wrestlers aren’tnecessarily any braver or patriotic than Ray Allen. It’smore that the Olympics are the ultimate stage for thosesports. If you’re a wrestler and don’t live for theOlympics, you need to have your Greco-Roman checked.
NBA players grew up dreaming of NBA titles, just astennis players and golfers would rather win Grand Slamevents. I wouldn’t blame Serena Williams for skippingAthens, and I doubt I’d really care if she won a goldmedal.
Being rich and pampered just makes these people easiertargets for criticism. That’s why many of those who areripping NBA players today were complaining before aboutthe U.S. sending all those millionaire mercenaries.
Representing one’s shoe company in the Olympicsapparently isn’t what it used to be. Now comereplacements like LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire, whoaren’t exactly untainted by modern marketing and money.But at least they seem excited at the thought of going.
If Garnett would rather stay home and pick out chinapatterns this summer, good for him. Will you really missJason Kidd, or feel cheated because Carlos Boozer is noShaquille O’Neal?
When it comes to Olympic basketball, the United Statesis still the U.S. Sure, the world may have picked up acouple of steps on us. But nobody really believes thatif Duncan, Shaq, T-Mac, Garnett and the rest gotserious, we couldn’t beat the next best team with Kobe’sdefense team tied behind our back.
All they would have proved in Athens is what wealready know, that the Dream Team idea is about threeOlympiads past its expiration date. Whatever theirreasons, the dropouts are inadvertently doing us afavor.
We not only may remember who won the gold medal inAthens, we may actually care.