Looking unbeatable

After rolling past Germany, U.S. advances to medal round

Men's basketball

Beijing 2008

August 19, 2008|By Mark Heisler | Mark Heisler,Tribune Olympic Bureau

BEIJING - Auf Wiedersehen.

So much for the preliminaries, not to mention Chris Kaman's Excellent Adventure.

Closing out pool play undefeated, untied and unchallenged, the U.S. men's basketball team routed Germany, 106-57, last night, advancing to the medal round and ending the Germans' Olympics. Michael Phelps and about 20 members of the U.S. swim team cheered on Team USA.

Invited to the dressing room afterward, Phelps gave the players a pair of goggles. Dwight Howard wore them to the interview room.

"I told him [Phelps] I was going to do the 100-meter medley next year," Howard said.

The irrepressible Kaman, the Los Angeles Clippers' gift to Germany, did not start, played 17 minutes and scored six points, so if anyone still thinks he's a traitor, at least he won't go down with Benedict Arnold.

In another positive note for the Clippers, Kaman held his hand over his heart during "The Star-Spangled Banner" and has no plans to emigrate.

"It wasn't as weird as I thought," Kaman said. "I just put my hand over my heart and stood there leaning like I normally do.

"I never sing it anyway. It was kind of regular for me."

On the irregular side, there was the fact that he was halfway around the world, playing against his country and about to get the stuffing beaten out of him.

"No one's going to beat them," Kaman said of the Americans. "It's not going to happen. ...

"As bad as it sounds, I think they can take whoever they want lightly and no one's going to beat them. You saw them shooting half-court shots before the game.

"They're probably the second-best team the United States has ever had, third-best. ...

"The crazy thing is, Kobe [Bryant] isn't scoring a lot of points. No one is. They're doing it together. You don't know - who do you stop? Who do you double?

"No one's going to beat them," Kaman said. "They're going to win a gold medal and I'm happy for them. Everyone's playing for second place."

The Germans went 1-4, although they're still muttering about the charging call on Dirk Nowitzki at the end of their 59-55 loss to China that sent the host country into the medal round.

The Germans' bad luck started when the U.S. bus arrived and 12 players got off.

After that, it looked more like one of those fantasy camps where businessmen pay to play against NBA stars.

Any thought that the U.S. squad, which had been lethargic before dispatching supposed contenders Greece and Spain, would not be up for this game was dispelled in a hurry.

The U.S. team scored three seconds into the game, or almost as fast as humanly possible, with Dwight Howard winning the opening tip, getting it to Jason Kidd, who threw the ball ahead to Carmelo Anthony (Towson Catholic), who laid it in.

The "Redeem Team" led by 18 in the first quarter, by 30 in the second and by 49 at the end.

As for Kaman, he's headed home - to Los Angeles - but he said it was great.

"The opening ceremony was the best for me," he said. "It was unbelievable in that stadium. Whether you're from the U.S., Germany, wherever you're from, just all those people being in one place, it was awesome."

He got to see events he likes that do not get much air time in the United States, such as shooting and archery. He was also surprised to learn that badminton is an Olympic sport.

And he didn't get hurt. For the Clippers as well as their wandering center, all's well that ends well.

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