In his drive for a gold medal as a member of the 2008 U.S. men's Olympic basketball team, Carlos Boozer has put his '04 Athens Games bronze medal in proper perspective in the proverbial rear-view mirror.
"At first, it was disappointment," said the Utah Jazz's star forward, who scored three points and grabbed two rebounds during the United States' 120-84 drubbing of Lithuania on Friday. "Now that we're here, it's a distant memory."
Boozer is one of four U.S. Olympic hoopsters the others being LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade who were part of an '04 squad that went 5-3 in Athens, suffered more losses in a single Summer Games than the Americans had in all previous Olympics, and came home having placed a disappointing third.
"We're learning from it," Boozer said. "The guys that were on that team we take that pain that we felt when we came back home with bronze. We know exactly what's at stake."
And the Beijing Olympics goal is the gold medal and all the trappings.
"We want to hear our national anthem on the 24th of August," said Boozer, well mindful of the championship game's date.
Mike Krzyzewski who after coaching Boozer collegiately at Duke University is reunited with his former Blue Devil All-America for the '08 run wants no part in second-guessing the United States' 2004 fortunes or lack thereof.
"I do know they were not given a lot of preparation time, and they had a lot of guys decline," he said. "Those two factors would hurt me or anybody else who would be coaching the U.S. team."
Krzyzewski knows of the general one-and-one nature of the Olympics. "This will be for me the only time I will have a chance as a head coach to coach a team playing for the Olympics gold medal," he said. "And for a number of them (the players), it might be the only time they get a chance to do this."
With Boozer being one of the few current exceptions and the no-gold-in-Athens a motivation.
"Absolutely that and having another opportunity," he said, mindful of the second chance afforded '04 returnees James, Wade and Anthony, who were reserves in Athens.
"We actually had some good guys in front of us," said Boozer, "but at that time we were young I was in my second year, and 'Bron, D-Wade and 'Melo were in their rookie years. ...
"At that time, we were all young we're much better players now we're all All-Stars and All-NBA players."
Point guard Jason Kidd is the only '08 team member who can lay claim to Olympic gold, having helped the United States to the top of the medal podium at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games.
Kidd, who also boasts a 44-0 record when playing for the U.S. at the senior international competition, was not on board in Athens."It was disappointing for us to lose because you always felt that we would dominate or always win," he said as an '04 onlooker. "But at the same time, I'm happy for the game of basketball because we've gone out and taught the game maybe too well to these other countries."
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