PORTLAND, ORE — PORTLAND, Ore. -- Charles Barkley compared the Dream Team experience to "summer vacation," but it's more like summer camp. Golf in the daytime, basketball at night, rest in between.
Head counselor Chuck Daly makes sure everyone gets to play, and the NBA Olympians follow instructions so well, he doesn't even have to threaten them with arts and crafts.
Tuesday night, Daly needed two volunteers for finger-painting -- er, zone-busting. Chris Mullin and Michael Jordan raised their hands, and soon after the game was decided.
Mullin hit four of five three-point tries and Jordan four of four in the first half, and after trailing for the first time in the Tournament of the Americas, the United States crushed Panama, 112-52.
"We got the Canal back," Charles Barkley chortled. "Now we can sail around the world."
Ahoy, Sir Charles!
It's indeed time to set sail.
Last night, the Dream Team ensured its place in Barcelona, Spain, qualifying for the Olympics with a 128-87 victory over Argentina.
The suspense, of course, was killing everyone.
The only thing that made this one noteworthy was that the United States played without John Stockton (fractured right leg), Clyde Drexler (sore right knee) and Larry Bird (sore back).
Bird said afterward he is considering flying back to Boston to be examined by his own doctor. He has missed the last three games.
That left only nine healthy bodies. If Daly gets down to four, this thing might actually get interesting. As it stands, his players can recuperate today while bracing for their semifinal game tomorrow.
It's becoming clear that this team will be nearly impossible to defeat, barring a supernatural occurrence.
The only competition for the NBA stars is before they arrive at the Portland Memorial Coliseum, when they play their daily 36 holes of golf.
They beat Cuba by 79 points, Canada by 44, Panama by 60. Yes, they started slowly in the latter two games, but over 40 minutes, their talent inevitably prevails.
Never mind that Stockton is out for the tournament with a fractured right leg. Never mind that Bird has missed the past three games with mild discomfort in his back.
This is a team that uses Jordan as its backup point guard. A team that prefers to scan the crowd and watch scoreboard videos rather than discuss strategy during timeouts.
The Dream Team tried it for a week in La Jolla, Calif., before the tournament, but due to its country-club commitments, hasn't bothered with it again since.
Barkley, that golfing fool, reportedly said he could beat Jordan spotting him four shots on both the front side and back.
Jordan, however, shot a 76 and an 85 Tuesday before changing into his uniform and scoring 15 first-half points while discussing his golf game with Panama's Eddie Chavez.
"I can spot Charles five shots a side and still beat him," Jordan said. "He makes up all kinds of things."
The basketball competition might be nearly as weak in Barcelona, where the other medal contenders figure to be Croatia, with Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc, and Lithuania, with Arvidas Sabonis and Sarunas Marciulionis.
The United States has no apparent weakness, and all its hand-wringing over the international rules is proving so much hogwash.
Take the three-point distance. It's 20 feet, 6.1 inches -- more thanthree feet closer than the NBA's.
Are opponents benefiting?
No, the U.S. defense is too strong.
Is the U.S. benefiting?
Take it from Mullin: "Everybody on our team can make that shot any time they want."
It's summer camp.
It's summer vacation.
Take it from Jordan: "This is fun."