ISTANBUL -- The five-star Four Seasons at which the players, coaches and staff of USA Basketball are ensconced for the FIBA World Championship sits peacefully on the Bosporus, on which they enjoyed a Saturday night dinner cruise. On those rare occasions when the players get out of their hotel, they are objects of curiosity themselves and therefore largely immune from the principal irritation faced by tourists in this ancient city. Which is: If a gentleman on the street asks you where you are from, he is actually asking,
So, I am not suggesting that we hold any kind of pity party for the U.S. team. It deserves no medal of honor, no speech from the floor of the House, no proclamation from the home-state governor.
But let's be clear about this, too: The sacrifices the Americans are making by giving up a good part of their summer should not be ignored, for they can expect precious little in return.
"Just like we have to sacrifice our roles on this team, we had to sacrifice our free time to be here," said Minnesota Timberwolves forward
On Monday night in the Round of 16 they were in Istanbul's Sinan Erdem Arena, taking on Angola, which hasn't much surfaced on the world basketball map since
Interest will increase back in the States as the tournament moves on -- Russia is the next opponent in the quarterfinals on Thursday night -- but, to re-emphasize a point made endlessly, nothing will mean anything except a gold medal. Win and get a collective yawn, lose and get torched.
The we're-the-big-show-in-town factor isn't quite the same as it usually is for Americans in international events. This sprawling metropolis with a population listed at 17 million (but believed by one to be closer to 30 million) could swallow up any event, and this one feels semi-swallowed. As the
There is much roster confusion, too. All over Turkey I've been asked, "Where is
Further, except for Durant and point guard
"It would be great to play in the Olympics," said Lakers forward
Yes, there is something refreshing about watching this young team run around, play defense like a bunch of demons and try to forge an identity in a tournament that most of America isn't following. Odom, 31 with two championship rings, and Billups, 33 with one, make a nice contrast on a team so young that the 21-year-old Durant seems like an elder statesman. It truly seems to be a bunch of guys who are here because they want to be.
"The U.S. hasn't won this since 1994, so it's very important for us," Rose said, conceding that he himself didn't know that fact until Krzyzewski emphasized it at the first practice. "Sure, I made some sacrifices to be here. I'm a family guy and spend most of the summer around my mom. But you don't really know how serious it is for every other team until you get in it. This is bigger than the Olympics for every country here, so you know what? That's how we started looking at it too."