US NBA stars, women chase more history in Rio
WASHINGTON, USA – An American squad of NBA stars and their Women's NBA counterparts are expected to add more Olympic history to their amazing legacy at Rio.
The US Olympic men, guided for the third and final time by coach Mike Krzyzewski, seek a third consecutive gold medal and the sixth in 7 tries since NBA talent debuted on the 1992 Barcelona "Dream Team."
"That Dream Team, I think everyone realizes what they did and then moving forward just putting USA back on top. That's where we want to stay," US guard Jimmy Butler said.
"That's what everybody's goal in mind is, to never accept defeat, to win gold and that's what everybody is about right now."
The US women have been even more dominating since settling for bronze at Barcelona, making 5 unbeaten runs to gold to enter Rio on a 41-game Olympic unbeaten streak.
Add in 1984 and 1988 gold medals and the US women are 55-1 with 7 of the past 8 Olympic titles.
"So many athletes before us have set the standard of how to play. I just want to continue in their footsteps and keep that standard of play the same," US Olympic debutante center Brittany Griner said.
"I know everybody is coming for us. No country, no team is going to roll over and just give it to us. We're going to have to go and take it. We have to take our best ball on both ends of the floor."
Krzyzewski, coaxed out of retirement for the Rio run, is 52-1 in international tournament play, a semifinal loss to Greece at the 2006 worlds in Japan the only blemish on his tenure.
"I'm not nostalgic until something is over," Krzyzewski said. "It's one of the biggest mistakes any competitor can make, to be in only your moment. So I've got to coach them like it's my first time.
"We just want to play as well as we can, be worthy of winning the gold. And also be worthy of winning the respect, continuing to win the respect of our country and the world as we're doing it."
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will replace "Coach K" in the role after Rio and players want Krzyzewski to go out on top.
"Well we obviously expect to win gold," said US 3-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson. "We know it's not going to be an easy road. If we respect our opponent, play hard every night and trust each other then I think we will win gold."
Melo chasing treble
Carmelo Anthony, in a US men's record fourth Olympics, could become the first man from any country to win 3 Olympic hoops gold medals.
"I don't think there are many weaknesses with this team," Anthony said. "We're doing well. Everybody is on board and locked in."
Paul George is back from a horrific leg injury two years ago while training for the US world team that cost him an NBA campaign.
"What's really the final step in the chapter of this is coming home with that gold," George said.
Several stars withdrew from consideration for the US squad, with long seasons and health and safety concerns the key factors in such stalwarts as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden saying no to Rio.
"A lot of those guys that aren't here already have gold medals," said Kyrie Irving, James' teammate on the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. "They decided not to play. We respect their decision and now we have to move on with this Team USA and go out there and compete for gold."
The US women are sparked by tri-captains Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings – 3-time Olympic champions on a team featuring 9 gold medalists chasing a sixth consecutive USA crown.
"It takes a lot to get to a fourth Olympics," Bird said. "It has nothing to do with anything in your control. You have to stay on top of your game and be ready, but so much can happen that can derail, so I just feel really lucky."
The US women already own the longest gold medal streak for any women's Olympic team sport. Only the US men's basketball tean winning the first 7 Olympic titles have done better for such a sustained period. – Jim Slater, Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com