Dream Team awakens, decides it's practice time U.S. lackluster, still routs Spain

August 03, 1992|By Mark Heisler | Mark Heisler,Los Angeles Times

BARCELONA, Spain -- In the Dream Team's heyday, coach Chuck Daly and Michael Jordan planned to helicopter 90 miles to a golf course because the local courses were full.

Those days are over for the moment.

For the Americans, yesterday's game wasn't the unthinkable but it was the unpalatable. They routed Spain, 122-81, to finish the first round 5-0, but did so in minimally awesome fashion.

The Spaniards, 1-5 and out of their own tournament, actually outscored them, 25-15, to start the second half. For these and other reasons, Daly called a practice for today, his first since their opening game.

Magic Johnson, returning to action, says the idea came from a player: him.

"They [his teammates] know I said it," Johnson said. "I said it in front of them. I hold back nothing.

"When we weren't practicing well [at camp in San Diego], I said something. That's my job. We need practice. We were there, but not quite where we were.

"We're here to win the gold medal, and the only way we can do that is maintain what we have and had. Even though guys have been going to the club to work out, it's not the same as being together."

Actually, they could probably win the gold medal any way they please. Final scores notwithstanding, they have flattened out, unchallenged by the competition, frustrated by teams that have gone to zone defenses.

Said Charles Barkley: "Guys are ready to get it done and go home. It's been a long process, and it's time to get it over with."

For Spain, it was already over.

Spain and Italy are the two great European basketball hotbeds, but Spaniards have watched in dismay as their fortunes plummeted.

Silver medalists at Los Angeles in 1984 (with the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia boycotting), they were eighth in Seoul. They were upset in their opener here by Germany, then were stunned in a 20-point loss to Angola.

El Periodico, a local paper, called the Angola loss "A National Shame" in one headline and said in another: "Angola conducts national team to Hell."

The first question coach Antonio Diaz Miguel was asked was: "Do you intend to resign?"

U.S. officials, fond of him, did what they could to demonstrate their respect. They asked Spain to pose with them for a picture before the game, rather than the other way around, and had publicists inform the press.

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