BRIEFS - NBA players eye gold at world championships
This time, there is no NBA labor trouble. And this time, the United States intends to do a lot better than a bronze medal at the world championships.
The United States is favored in the 16-team tournament in Indianapolis and begins play tonight against Algeria. The Americans will play Germany on Friday night and China on Saturday night.
A labor dispute prevented NBA players from competing in the last world championships. Now the Americans are set on reclaiming the title.
"Just to wear the USA across your chest and know you represent something way bigger than yourself is a great accomplishment," said Jay Williams, who left Duke after three years and was the second pick in the NBA draft by Chicago. "For us, our goal is to win that gold."
"Anytime you have a chance to represent your country after 9-11, I just think it's the best opportunity."
The United States has been waiting for another chance in the world championships since 1998, when its team of CBA, college and overseas players finished third behind Yugoslavia and Russia. Both U.S. losses in the tournament, to Lithuania and Russia, were by two points.
"The international basketball family is not that far off from beating the U.S. squad," Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers said. "These guys come over, they play in college, they get drafted and play in the pros. Out of the top 10 or 15 players in the (NBA) league, quite a few of them are international players. So it's not inconceivable, it's not that far off. Yes, we're heavily favored, but anything is possible."
Also on the U.S. team are Jermaine O'Neal of Indiana, Elton Brand and Andre Miller of the Los Angeles Clippers, Antonio Davis of Toronto, Baron Davis of New Orleans, Michael Finley and Raef LaFrentz of Dallas, Shawn Marion of Phoenix, Paul Pierce of Boston and Ben Wallace of Detroit.
Yugoslavia has five NBA players, including All-Star Predrag Stojakovic of Sacramento, and could be the strongest challenger for the United States. Besides Stojakovic, the Yugoslav team includes Sacramento's Vlade Divac, Seattle's Vladimir Radmanovic and Predrag Drobnjak, and the Clippers' Marko Jaric.
The German team includes NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas, and the Chinese team has 7-foot-5 Yao Ming, taken by Houston as the first pick in the NBA draft in June.
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