Dream Team Is a Snooze

Setting a new standard for dullness,

the U.S. men’s basketball team fidgeted, fussed and flung out

endless cliches at its inaugural news conference at the Olympics.

If there was any doubt that this team is not the Dream Team, that point was driven home relentlessly today in a gathering with the international media that might have been the most mind-numbing 35 minutes in Australian history.

Flirting with the all-time Olympic record for use of the phrase “it’s a tremendous honor,” the U.S. team did nothing to dispel the notion that they are boring and nobody cares about them.

“Our goal is to step on the floor every night and get the job done,” said the team’s biggest star, Vince Carter.

To their credit, none of the players was seen yawning.

Different Type of Player

They slumped forward, they slumped backward. They drank water, they tried on headphones and listened to different translations of their, um, insight.

The stretched their necks, they rubbed their eyes, they fiddled with pens, they giggled among themselves.

They arrived 15 minutes late and left 10 minutes early, and no one even considered complaining.

“These guys are a lot different from the ’96 guys,” said Gary Payton, the only holdover from the men’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics. “They are younger guys, more athletic guys.”

Charisma, Veteran Showmanship Gone

They are not, however, more interesting guys.

They are not like the 1992 team, a star-studded crew that included Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and John Stockton. That team inspired awe.

They are not like the 1996 team, a veteran cast that included funnymen Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller and Shaquille O’Neal. That team at least knew how to lighten the atmosphere.

This team features the likes of Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antonio McDyess, Ray Allen and Allan Houston. They all seem like good guys, they all have a good sense of humor, they all have a flair for showmanship.

They just don’t know how to show it, a point that was illuminated Friday as brightly as the glare radiating off of assistant coach Gene Keady’s head.

Play Could Get Interesting Later

The U.S. team begins Olympic play Sunday night against China. Other preliminary opponents are Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand and France.

Many of the best teams from the rest of the world, including Yugoslavia, Australia and Canada, are grouped in the other bracket.

The Americans might not have a compelling game until the Olympics are almost over.

“People that love basketball are in for a treat,” assistant coach Larry Brown said. “These guys play the right way.”

Problem is, the world wants something more.

And this U.S. team didn’t provide it as they were introduced to the world.