No AI in Team

USA Basketball names its candidates for a different kind of Dream Team
March 13, 2006

At some pointduring the 2006-07 NBA season, Allen Iverson will go against J.J. Redick anddust the rookie for 50 points or so and one intriguing story line willresurface: Why was the Kid invited to try out for the U.S. Olympic basketballteam and the Answer was not?

Well, first ofall, Redick is not guaranteed a spot. The 23-player roster (which includesRedick but not Iverson) announced on Sunday by USA Basketball president JerryColangelo will be whittled to 15 after training camp in Las Vegas in July, thento 12 for the Beijing Games in August 2008. Second, why would anyone havethought Iverson was going to be suiting up in red, white and blue?

When thenational-team concept--with the emphasis on team--was announced, in reaction toAmerica's embarrassing bronze medal finish in Athens, AI had at least fourstrikes against him: He was part of the '04 debacle, he is a poor defender, hedoesn't move the ball (except with his own dribble) and he doesn't project theimage USA Basketball is looking for. Though the selection execs might deny it,Iverson's cornrows and tats were a factor, along with his penchant for keepinglate hours. Iverson is perfectly within his rights to dress like asixth-grader, and USA Basketball is perfectly within its rights to make that aconsideration. (The lesson learned here is this: If you have an image problem,you had better be able to compensate with your all-around play. Thus KobeBryant is a virtual lock to make the team--he plays defense and doesn't needthe ball to be a factor on the offensive end.)

The realhead-scratcher among the invitees is Carmelo Anthony of the Nuggets, who wasalso in Athens in 2004, though in body only. At least Iverson appeared to playhard; Anthony complained his way through the tournament. And though he has madestrides this season, Anthony still has moments when he is an unwilling defenderand puts forth something less than maximum effort. If he is going to make thecut, he had better make about, oh, 90% of his jump shots at the trainingcamp.

Yes, the DreamTeam concept--collect the biggest names possible--is dead, and what USABasketball wants now are players who can make life a nightmare for theopposition at both ends. Before Athens the idea that Bruce Bowen of the Spursand Shane Battier of the Grizzlies were more ideally suited to an Olympic teamthan Iverson would've been crazy. Now it says here that one or both of themwill be headed for Beijing.

PHOTOMARC SEROTA/REUTERS (BOWEN)NEWANSWER - Team USA will seek stoppers like Bowen (above), not gunners likeIverson (top). PHOTOADREES LATIF/REUTERS (IVERSON) [Seecaption above]