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Volume 68, Issue 98 , Tuesday, February 18, 2003


Dream Team takes shape; Spurs on roll

The NBA Report

Daniel Huron

 Americais attempt to reclaim its prominence as basketballis best began Thursday when USA Basketball announced that Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and Tracy McGrady would play for the 2004 Olympic team.

 The team, which when completed should consist of at least nine NBA players and three players playing professionally overseas or in college, will take part in the qualifying tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in August. The top three teams there will earn a trip to Athens, Greece.

 Team USA should have no problem making the cut, but they did finish sixth in the world championships last summer.

 A recommitment to defending national pride has been felt throughout the NBA since the embarrassing world championship showing, and some of the Associationis best players have been volunteering to play.

 Kobe Bryant has shown great interest in joining the team, and USA Basketball knows that having him is key. Yes, the team is guaranteed to have a plethora of talent (Kevin Garnett may be another future addition), but to have the best team, you need the best player.

 It took Bryant only two games and 62 minutes of playing time to firmly establish himself as the
player in this Jordan/ Post-Jordan/ Pre-Jordan era. In back-to-back games against the Denver Nuggets, Bryant dropped 42 points and 51 points despite sitting out the fourth period of both games, willing the surging Los Angeles Lakers to victories.

 With Bryant and an improving Shaquille OiNeal, the Lakers have been storming to seven consecutive wins. On Friday, the team was half a game from overtaking the Houston Rockets for the eight spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

 Then came Friday.
 The San Antonio Spurs went into the Staples Center on a six game winning streak -- all part of a franchise-long nine game road trip. Indiana and Portland were among the teams that failed to protect their home court against the third-seeded Spurs.
 Go ahead and add the Lakers to that list.

 OiNeal scored 21 points in the game, and Bryant went crazy again. He had 44 points (his eighth consecutive game with 35-plus points) and was 19-of-41 from the field.
 The Spursi Tim Duncan had his typical night: 28 points and 20 rebounds. Guard Tony Parker added another 24 points in the 103-95 Spurs victory. It was San Antoniois third victory over Los Angeles this season.

 With all the talk about the resurgence of the Lakers, the Spurs have had very little said about them. The Lakers had some impressive victories minus the two lay-ups against the Nuggets, but the fact remains the team is still out of the playoffs.

 On Sunday, the situation didnit get much better for the Lakers. OiNeal sat out with a sore knee and the team dropped its second consecutive game, this time to the surprisingly mediocre New York Knicks, 117-110. Bryant did score 40 -- his ninth consecutive game with 35-plus points -- but the Lakers are a full game behind the Rockets who they face Tuesday in Los Angeles. Shaq is questionable for the game.

 The Spurs continued to impress with a 104-101 victory over the Sacramento Kings at Arco Arena. San Antonio now goes home after their 8-1 road trip to face the Nuggets.

Welcome to Miami
 Miami Heat head coach Pat Rileyis habit of criticizing the officials may have to stop.
 The veteran coach was fined $50,000 in December and $20,000 more last week for his post-game comments.

 After picking up his latest fine, Riley said he had begun to get complaints from his wife and daughter.

 "The fines have cost (them) about three trips to Saks Fifth Avenue," Riley said Tuesday.

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