Nostalgic Dream Teamers fancy US chances
BARCELONA, Spain - Original "Dream Team" members David Robinson and Chris Mullin renewed their love affair with Barcelona 20 years after the squad's gold medal triumph and are confident the current crop of U.S. Olympians will match their achievement.
"Old great memories," Mullin, a jumpshooter on the all-conquering 1992 team, told Reuters after watching the U.S. practice at Palau Sant Jordi on Monday, a day ahead of the Olympic champions' final tune-up before London against Spain.
"I love the city, it's a beautiful place to be. I think there's a connection with Barcelona and that team. I think we embraced the city and I think that the people that were around at that time have a connection. It's a distant home."
Robinson also basked in the memory of the 1992 Dream Team experience, when he along with Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird ushered in an era of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars competing on the Olympic stage.
"We went back to the arena out there in Badalona and it was a lot of fun," Robinson said about the arena where they enthralled fans around the globe.
"It brought back memories of how nice the people were, how crazy it was out on the Rambla. There's always zillions of people around. It made it a lot of fun."
Robinson, Mullin and team mate Clyde "The Glide" Drexler were honoured during halftime of Sunday's U.S.-Argentina friendly to enthusiastic cheers from the Barcelona crowd.
Despite a tight 86-80 scoreline in favour of the Americans, the Dream Team alumni said they were impressed by the latest squad.
"They can put the ball in the basket," Robinson said. "They've got a few guys that are virtually unstoppable when they want to be.
"You've got a LeBron James and a Kevin Durant. You've seen guys like Russell Westbrook go off and Kobe (Bryant), you know what he can do. These guys are unstoppable. It's going to be tough for any team to slow us down."
Said Mullin: "Offensively, there are so many gifted players sharing the ball and creating good shots for each other."
Robinson said defensive pressure was the U.S. key.
"They have to work together a little bit better, especially on perimeter defense. Giving wide open three-point shots, people are going to make those shots out here," he said.
"You have to at least get a hand in their face to challenge some shots. They get a little better on their rotations and they're going to be OK."
Mullin saw it differently.
"Perimeter-wise they're phenomenal. Defensively they're off the charts. They can really apply pressure and force turnovers and take other teams out of their offensive sets."
Neither former Dream Teamer thought a lack of size, brought about by injuries that ruled out Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh, would derail the Americans.
"They can play Carmelo (Anthony) at the 4 (power forward), LeBron at 4," said Mullin. "They can do it a little bit differently than a traditional lineup."
Spain, losers to the U.S. team in the 2008 Beijing final, will have a size advantage inside, while the U.S. team has greater depth, quickness and athleticism.
They figure to give the United States a good challenge, unlike the series of routs registered by the '92 Dream Team, who went 8-0 with an average victory margin of 43 points.
"We weren't exactly tested, whereas these guys will be tested probably a few times in this Olympics," Robinson said. "But that's great. It's great to see basketball on the world stage get better and better."