BEIJING The 1992 Barcelona Olympics boasted "The Dream Team." Will the 2008 Beijing Summer Games bring the arrival of "The Redeem Team?"
Smarting from a bronze-medal finish at the 1988 Seoul Games, USA Basketball turned for the first time to the professional ranks to bring in the likes of NBA superstars Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley and the Utah Jazz duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone to bring back the gold medal to the United States.
And after a disappointing 5-3 record and another bronze-medal result at the 2004 Athens Olympics, USA Basketball revamped its selection process and firmed up its call for player commitments and has another superstar-loaded squad which has its sights set squarely on bringing home a gold medal.
The '08 U.S. team featuring another Jazz guard-forward pairing, this time Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer with the latter making his second consecutive Olympics appearance has already posted a pair of impressive victories thus far in this year's Games.
"We're on a mission to bring back honor and respect to USA Basketball and to change the perspective people had after Athens," said Boozer, a young reserve on the 2004 team.
That team experienced constant roster changes in the months counting down before the Olympics, as would-be players begged off "for personal reasons" while security concerns cast a pre-Games pall over Athens.
It seemed as though the U.S. locker room should have installed a revolving door for all the comings and goings.
"We're a lot better than the team in Athens," said Boozer, citing team familiarity as a plus compared to four years ago. "In Athens, we were put together in two and a half weeks. We were unprepared we weren't ready."
USA Basketball created a "select roster" of 33 players committed at least one year out (as in the case of Williams, a selection last summer) and some for as many as three years.
And U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been in front from the start, instilling his system and expectations the entire way.
The result is a squad featuring the likes of starters Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd, with the reserves including the Jazz duo as well as Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Michael Redd and Tayshaun Prince.
Boozer describes Team USA as possessing point guards who excel at pushing the offensive attack and pressuring the ball coming down the court, a collection of the quickest and most talented wing players in the sport, and including several top-notch post players who can bang with the best international inside players."We're a veteran team," he said, "and our youngest guys (Williams and Paul) are two of the best point guards in the NBA."