Monday, July 21, 2008 | 10:12 p.m.
Kobe Bryant expects the atmosphere inside Wukesong Indoor Stadium to be electric come Aug. 10, when the U.S. finishes the first day of Olympic basketball against China in Beijing.
Especially if, as anticipated, center Yao Ming plays for the Chinese team in its own arena.
“It’s going to be berserk, no question,” Bryant said Monday. “I really don’t know much about how the other guys handle crowds – if they listen to them, if they feed off of them.
“Personally, I block it out. It doesn’t hype me up. I just tune it out and do what I do.”
Yao suffered a stress fracture in his foot five months ago but returned to action Friday, scoring 11 points in China's 96-72 exhibition victory over Serbia.
Locals have dubbed Wukesong, which has a capacity of 18,000 fans, the “big Olympic yellow box.” Its exterior resembles a giant piece of yellow tofu.
After the U.S. national team started training for the Olympics with a three-hour session here at Valley High School on Monday, Bryant also said he’s taken a good look at the two Beijing groups.
The Americans are in Group B, with China, Germany, Greece, Angola and Spain.
Australia, Argentina, Croatia, Iran, Lithuania and Russia make up Group A.
“On its face, our group is the toughest,” Bryant said. “But we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what we’re here for. It’s the greatest challenge in the world and the greatest players in the world in one tournament.
“Let’s have at it.”
The U.S. plays a warm-up game against Canada on Friday night at UNLV, then it has pairs of tune-ups in Macao (against Turkey and Lithuania) and Shanghai (against the Aussies and Russians) before the Olympics.