AFTER THE U.S. romped to a gold medal—and an Olympic berth—at the FIBA Americas tournament in Las Vegas, USA basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo was thinking about bigger things than bicontinental domination. "After the Athens debacle," says Colangelo, "we want an Olympic gold medal."
There are signs that this U.S. team, which finished third at the 2004 Games, is ready to reclaim its spot atop the basketball food chain. The U.S. won its 10 games in Vegas by a Dream Team--like average of 39.5 points. The team unveiled a new scoring threat, Milwaukee's Michael Redd (14.4 points per game). And in their third year playing under international rules, LeBron James (62.2% from behind the arc) and Carmelo Anthony (57.8%) finally seem to have adjusted to the shorter three-point line.
Still, there are concerns. The U.S., coached by Mike Krzyzewski, was content to launch three-pointers early in the shot clock. Even more worrisome was the weakness on the glass. Next summer in Beijing the field will include Spain, Greece and Argentina—all big, physical teams. "They will see a lot of bigger [teams playing] zones at the Olympics," warns one coach. "They may have problems with that."
Colangelo said that the players who competed in Vegas will have "sweat equity" in making the Olympic team, but he's backed off his earlier insistence that players commit for three years. So the door is open for players who skipped Olympic qualifying. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, both of whom withdrew due to injury this summer, will almost certainly be added to the roster (most likely at the expense of Mike Miller and Tyson Chandler). But the most significant addition could be rebounding machine Carlos Boozer, who didn't play for family reasons. Colangelo says he will also be on the lookout for someone who "blows him away" (hello, Greg Oden). "We want to keep our core players together," says Colangelo. "But we are certainly going to keep our eyes and ears open for anyone who could help."
LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS (BOOZER)
GLASS CLEANER The U.S. could use Boozer in Beijing.
LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS (JAMES)