BEIJING Think the rout-o-matic United States men's basketball team won't be up to today's task of facing on-its-way-out Germany? Think the double-digit-hour time differences, tournament contests ending past midnight and the five-games-in-nine-nights schedule is too draining for the Americans?
It doesn't matter that the U.S. (4-0) has already clinched the top spot of Group B's four berths for Wednesday's quarterfinals, nor that Germany (1-3) will be making its Beijing Olympics exit after playing today's pool finale.
No, the United States will be ready and set to go.
"Everybody on this team knows what's at hand," said U.S. point guard Deron Williams after Saturday's 119-82 late-night romp over Spain carried into Sunday morning. "Every game we play is a statement game. We want to show the world we're the best team in the world every game means a lot to us."
Williams said the above well past 12:30 a.m. Sunday as he and the rest of the Americans were conducting post-game interviews with the media at the mixed zone, the Olympics' answer to athlete availability.
Rather than have access to locker rooms at the Olympics as they do at other major sporting events, journalists have to catch the athletes on their way to the locker room, with a metal, waist-high barrier separating the line of media representatives from the players.
Or, in the case of the United States, journalists interview the U.S. players on their way back from the locker room.
The Americans have eschewed stopping in the mixed zone after their four routs to date, instead walking nonstop through the pathways cleared in front of the media. Or they've simply hurdled the barriers and avoided the mixed-zone area altogether.
To their credit, the U.S. players to a man return albeit belatedly and answer questions from the international media. But they return sometimes close to a half-hour after the end of the game.
Since several of the United States' preliminary games haven't started until 10 p.m. or later (like Saturday's), it means players are finishing well after midnight and conducting interviews close to 1 a.m.
Add to that the fact they're already in a time zone 12 to 15 hours different from back home in the U.S. and that tonight's game will be their fifth in nine nights, and it's a wonder their bodies' clockworks haven't gone haywire.
"We realize we made a sacrifice to come out here, and part of it is our bodies and our sleep," said U.S. forward Carlos Boozer. "So for us, this is all part of the journey to get a gold medal. We don't think of it in a negative connotation. We think of it as, 'This is what we signed up for. Let's go do whatever it takes to get it."'
Williams pointed out another factor keeping the United States from reaching a level of exhaustion, despite regularly deploying full-court pressure and a high-octane end-to-end effort.
"I think we've got it a lot easier because we have so many weapons and we're so deep," he said. "Nobody's playing more than 25 minutes a game. Guys are fresh. We don't do too much in practice a lot of shooting and going over other teams' stuff so we're not worn out at all."If only their opponents could say the same after their lopsided losses at the Americans' hands.
E-mail: [email protected]