You could start an NBA All-Star Game with the Americans who aren't going to the 2004 Olympics.
Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd and Shaquille O'Neal aren't going to Greece. Ray Allen, Mike Bibby, Karl Malone, Tracy McGrady and Jermaine O'Neal have also begged off. Their excuses range from court dates to birthing plans to fear and loathing of spending a good chunk of the offseason in what could be a very hot spot.
Take away veterans like Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson, and this Olympic squad could be as young as some of the U.S. teams that had military men and true amateurs spicing the mix of collegians.
Larry Brown needs a vacation, not a trip to Athens, but he'll be in charge of Dream Team IV. The only man to coach NCAA and NBA champions, Brown can add another distinction by motivating young Americans like Amare Stoudemire and LeBron James with lessons on history and current events.
Has there ever been a basketball team that played as hard as the Detroit Pistons in the NBA playoffs? Football defensive coordinators demonstrating how to "fly" to the ball can show Pistons playoff games in the film room.
This Olympic team also knows about the 2002 world championships, when another of Dean Smith's boys, George Karl, oversaw a U.S. team that lost three times in as many nights.
Brown can also lean on his experience in the 2000 Olympics. He relished being the underdog in the NBA Finals, but knows what it's like to be in Phil Jackson's position, because Brown sat alongside Rudy Tomjanovich four years ago in Australia.
Having dispatched France by 15 at the Superdome in Sydney's Olympic Park, Tomjanovich ducked outside and inhaled a cigarette. His anxiety increased four days later, when American professionals nearly lost for the first time in Olympic competition.
The United States' semifinal opponent was Lithuania, which relied on a couple of good, but hardly great players from the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland's Sarunas Jasikevicius and Wake Forest's Darius Songaila. Jasikevicius beat Kidd and Gary Payton from baseline to baseline for 39 minutes, only to see his attempt at a winning three-pointer fall short at the buzzer.
Defensive help on that play came from Antonio McDyess, who was rushed in off the bench during a chaotic stoppage. Brown was one of the men shouting in Tomjanovich's ear.
Brown, who can't afford to revive his Philadelphia feud with Iverson, is still filling his roster. While other nations have familiarity that comes with years of international play, USA Basketball sought continuity with late invitations to Pistons Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace. Critics of the process include a shunned Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic).
"I could wait four years for the next one," Anthony told the Rocky Mountain News. "Hopefully, I'll be globally known in four years."
By then, the Americans might not be favored. The 2008 Olympics will be held in China. Can you imagine what kind of great wall the home team will erect around a veteran Yao Ming?
Not all of the locals heading to Athens will be representing the United States.
While Michael Phelps and 11 others from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club will be at the U.S. swim trials in Long Beach, Calif., July 7-14, another member of the NBAC's Senior Elite Group will be in Toronto, attempting to make her record fourth Olympic team.
Marianne Limpert, a silver medalist in 1996 who has been in Baltimore since last September, will be favored at the Canadian trials in the 200-meter individual medley. Limpert, 31, also expects to compete in the 400 and 800 freestyle relays for the Canadian women.
"In the early 1990s, one of my training partners was in her mid-20s," Limpert said. "I remember someone asking her, `Why do you still do this?' It's become much more acceptable for women my age to remain in the sport."
While former UMBC swimmer Carlos Canepa tries to make the Peruvian team, the Retrievers' track and field program is assured of sending two of its alumni to Athens.
Cleopatra Borel, the NCAA indoor champion in the shot put in 2002 with a toss of 57 feet, 5 inches, has earned a spot on the Trinidad and Tobago squad. Her 2003 best was 58-10 3/4 . Jean Huguens, who didn't try the high jump until he was a senior at Howard High, then went 7-3 1/4 at the 2003 NCAAs, will be among Haiti's handful of Olympians.
Stann Waithe has been told he'll be among Borel's Trinidad and Tobago teammates. A multiple state champion for Loch Raven High, Waithe lowered his personal best in the 400 to 46.95 seconds during his freshman track year at the University of Michigan.
On the bubble
Georgetown's Jesse O'Connell, a senior from Westminster, finished second at the NCAA track and field championships in the 800. He lowered his personal best to 1:46.79. The automatic qualifying standard for the U.S. trials is 1:46.40, but O'Connell is far enough up the provisional list to go to Sacramento, Calif., next month. ... Ohio State's Joel Brown, a senior from Woodlawn, locked up an Olympic trials berth in the 110 hurdles with his fourth-place time of 13.43, below the trials cut of 13.55. ... Sam Gelb, a 13-year-old from Columbia who swims for Retriever Aquatics, has a personal best of 2:37.27 in the 200 breaststroke. She'll attempt to make the Olympic trials cut of 2:35.99 next weekend.
Games at a glance
When: Aug. 13-29
Where: Athens, Greece
TV: NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, Bravo, USA
Web site: www.athens2004.com