Saturday, June 21, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Deron Williams might be a newcomer to the international basketball stage, but he completely understands Team USA’s challenge at the Beijing Olympics in August.
For the first time, the Americans have not played in three consecutive international finals.
They finished sixth in 2002 and third in 2006 at the FIBA world championship. At the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, the United States finished third, behind Argentina and Italy.
Last summer in Las Vegas, as part of the U.S. team that smashed its way to the FIBA Americas Championship title, earning it a spot in China, Williams was aware of recent history.
“Over the past few years, we’ve fallen off,” he said. “Our job is to get it back to where we’re supposed to be.
“When we represent our country, we represent troops fighting for us. Everything. We represent everything the U.S. stands for. The whole world is watching us. We have something to prove.”
The 12-man squad will be announced Monday, then it will report to Las Vegas for a couple of days next week. It will return next month for a few practices and a tuneup game against Canada.
Then the U.S. team leaves for China.
We have done the heavy lifting for USA Basketball Managing Director Jerry Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Williams and Chris Paul would be our guards to fuel the United States. We’d let Carmelo Anthony stay stateside this summer to tend to his legal matters.
That trio of Celtics who might want to bask in their glory all summer? Gentlemen, how about capping off a fantastic season with Olympic gold?
Williams said the team feels it can do something special; we just want to tweak it a tad to ensure that the United States does not suffer yet another international hoops incident.
THE SUN’S DREAM TEAM
Here’s the team that should represent the U.S. in Beijing:
Tyson Chandler (7-1, 235), New Orleans Hornets, center: Had a fine season with the Hornets and his chemistry with Paul would make their two-man game difficult to stop in Beijing. He deserves to go along for the ride to spell Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard (6-11, 265), Orlando Magic, center: Played better than Amare Stoudemire at the FIBA Americas Championship last summer in Las Vegas, where he shot 81.4 percent from the floor and collected a team-best 53 rebounds and 18 blocks.
Chris Bosh (6-10, 230), Toronto Raptors, forward: Averaged 24 points and 9 rebounds in the first round of the playoffs for the Raptors, but we admire his acting ability, too. Haven’t seen his YouTube video? No doubt he’d file great clips from China.
Kevin Garnett (6-11, 253), Boston Celtics, forward: Legendary hoopster and Las Vegas resident Spencer Haywood has tried to woo Garnett to play for his country for the past year. We can only hope that those chats worked and he takes Mike Miller’s spot.
LeBron James (6-8, 250), Cleveland Cavaliers, forward Connected on a ridiculous 62.2 percent of his 3-point shots against hapless opponents at the FIBA tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center. Just hope he never chews his nails – that means he’s nervous – in China.
Paul Pierce (6-6, 230), Boston Celtics, Forward: Like his Celtics teammate Allen, Pierce has a few bruises. But after the euphoria of winning his first title, Pierce deserves this honor. Carmelo Anthony’s legal troubles (DUI charge) make Pierce a worthy substitute.
Tayshaun Prince (6-9, 215) Detroit Pistons, forward: The final player to make our cut, his rebounding ability and defensive skills make him an asset. This team’s offensive arsenal allows him to be a defensive pest, and we like him over Dwyane Wade for continuity.
Ray Allen (6-5, 205), Boston Celtics, guard: He’s a bit banged up and, sure, he’s getting up there in age. He turns 33 next month. But he canned some big 3-pointers in the NBA Finals and would be a better selection than the Milwaukee Bucks’ Michael Redd.
Kobe Bryant (6-6, 205), Los Angeles Lakers, guard: Pity the international foes who come between the Mamba and the hoop in China, after Bryant came oh-so-close to adding a ring to his jewelry collection without Shaq.
Jason Kidd (6-4, 210), Dallas Mavericks, guard: He’s 38-0 in international competition, so respect must be given to the 35-year-old veteran. Had a gaudy assists-to-turnovers ratio of 46-5 last summer. His teammates’ reverence for him makes him invaluable.
Chris Paul (6-0, 175), New Orleans Hornets, guard: Broke out in a big way this past NBA season, finishing second to Bryant in league MVP voting. He torched Kidd with at least 30 points and 10 assists in back-to-back playoff games.
Deron Williams (6-3, 205), Utah Jazz, guard: Had a breakout campaign in the NBA two seasons ago and did not rest. Shot 61.3 percent from the field last summer and followed the lead of Kidd, his idol, by dishing out 46 assists and turning it over only 10 times.
THEIR DREAM TEAM
The likely Team USA Olympics roster, which will be announced Monday:
• Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets
• Chris Bosh, Raptors
• Kobe Bryant, Lakers
• Dwight Howard, Magic
• LeBron James, Cavaliers
• Jason Kidd, Mavericks
• Mike Miller, Grizzlies
• Chris Paul, Hornets
• Tayshaun Prince, Pistons
• Michael Redd, Bucks
• Dwyane Wade, Heat
• Deron Williams, Jazz