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Brian Schmitz: U.S. will hardly field Dream Team for Rio Olympics

Stephen Curry, left, and Klay Thompson celebrate after winning the final World Basketball game against Serbia in 2014. Curry has already said he will not compete in Rio Olympics this summer, but Thompson does want to play. (Daniel Ochoa de Olza / Associated Press)
Stephen Curry, left, and Klay Thompson celebrate after winning the final World Basketball game against Serbia in 2014. Curry has already said he will not compete in Rio Olympics this summer, but Thompson does want to play. (Daniel Ochoa de Olza / Associated Press)
By Brian Schmitz Orlando Sentinel

This won’t be a reincarnation of The Dream Team.

It won’t even be The First Team.

Let’s just call it The Not What It Seems Team.

Our country will not be fielding its very best basketball players – some of the highly paid pros of the NBA – for the Olympics this summer in Brazil.

In fact, we’re waiting on yet another LeBron James decision to see if there’s even a star the paparazzi will follow en mass.

The announced no-shows for Rio: Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. In other words, a possible Western Conference starting All-Star lineup.

Paul wasn’t interested after winning gold in 2008 and 2012. The rest of the players cited injuries and/or fatigue for dropping out of the Olympics, like it’s the Pro Bowl or something.

Team USA director Jerry Colangelo said that none of the players pulled out because of concerns over the Zika virus. James Harden, also a no-show, is allergic to defense, but that’s a whole other story.

The absence of those superstars creates at least a kernel of doubt that the gold medal is automatically ours. Losing in archery, handball and synchronized swimming is one thing, but America doesn’t even like anyone to get within 25 points in hoops.

If LeBron bails on the heels of Curry pulling out – the two have six MVPs between them – things could get interesting for those who like a competition over a coronation. Spain and Argentina suddenly have hope beyond bronze.

I was just hoping that maybe we’d send Curry and most of the Golden State Warriors to Brazil and let them run up the score on everybody.

Curry wanted to play in his first Olympics, but he said in a statement that “due to several factors – including recent ankle and knee injuries – I believe this is the best decision for me at this stage of my career.”

The Warriors won’t admit it, but they have to be relieved that their top player is sitting out to recover. No telling if we’ll ever see Curry in the Olympics, considering Golden State’s challenge for titles could easily extend to the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Hard to predict whether the recent rash of players withdrawing from the Olympics signals a trend every four years.

The NBA tried last season to create more rest for players during the season, cutting back the number of back-to-back games and extending off-time around the All-Star break. But there’s only so much it will do (and, no, owners aren’t about to reduce the 82-game schedule.)

It would be understandable if the quick turnaround causes James to skip Rio. At 30, he has more mileage on him than a ’75 Ford pick-up, having played in six consecutive NBA Finals.

If James commits, he’ll be playing in his fourth Olympics.

Colangelo, planning to announce the 12-man team on June 27, is waiting on word from LeBron and leaving a spot open. James says he will decide shortly after Cleveland’s title series against Golden State as will James’ teammate, Kyrie Irving.

It’s not that the USA’s talent well still isn’t ridiculously deep.

The pool includes Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, Paul George, Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins and three of Curry’s teammates – Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.

There’s certainly still interest from players wanting to represent the red, white and blue.

I mean, what other chance will Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony have to win anything?

The Americans surely will be favored to win gold again.

And look at it this way: Maybe without a rebirth of The Dream Team or the appearance of even The First Team, USA Basketball has unwittingly created something we haven’t seen on the Olympics hoops stage in a while.


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