Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Anthony surprises fans with display of overconfidence


Carmelo Anthony has a message for Argentina, Lithuania and the other best basketball teams from around the world: The US is going to win at the Athens Games.

"We're guaranteeing a gold medal. We're bringing it back," Anthony boldly predicted Monday on his first day of practice with the US national team.

It took very little prodding for Anthony to basically repeat what he said last week on David Letterman's late-night television talk show. It betrayed a level of youthful cockiness that might seem at odds with one of the main messages the American coaching staff tried to get across at the team's welcome dinner Sunday night: Respect the competition.

"That's just a young kid saying that," coach Larry Brown said when informed of Anthony's guarantee. "But as long as he respects the people we're playing against and understands how good they've got, I don't have any problem with that."

The US will field the youngest roster, with an average age of 23.6, since it began sending professionals to the Olympics in 1992.

Anthony turned 20 less than two months ago, making him the second-youngest member of a team that includes three players -- Anthony, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- coming off their rookie NBA seasons, along with rookie-to-be Emeka Okafor.

"We've got a lot of teaching to do. If we would have had the nucleus of the guys from last summer, that wouldn't have been necessary," said Brown, who also lamented a shortage of preparation time.

"They've already mentioned that the other Olympic teams opened their camps a couple of weeks ago," Jefferson said.

From the looks of things Monday during a portion of practice that was open to the media, Brown has plenty of work ahead to get his team to conform to his mantra of "playing the right way."

"One pass and a shot, we can't do that!" Brown yelled at Amare Stoudemire after he clanged a mid-range jumper early in a possession during a four-on-four drill.

"I've got to reprogram you guys!" Brown later yelled, unhappy with the level of intensity he was seeing on the defensive end.

One clanged foul shot later, it was wind sprints for everyone.

Iverson, named a co-captain along with Tim Duncan, screamed at himself when he missed the pressure shot. It was not the type of leadership moment that the team's oldest member (29) wanted to show his teammates and the man who coached him for six seasons in Philadelphia.

"I never know how much something means to me until it's gone, and that's how I am with coach Brown," Iverson said.

One of the challenges for the coaching staff will be educating the youngsters about the intricacies of international basketball. After the players responded with shock to a foul call, Popovich took it as an opportunity to impart a lesson: The quality and objectivity of the refereeing will not be what these players are accustomed to in the NBA.

"Let's assume I just made the worst call in America," Popovich told the team. "Get used to it."

That's not all they'll need to get used to.

James and former teammate Carlos Boozer will need to set aside any lingering tension related to Boozer's departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Stephon Marbury will have to learn to coexist with Richard Jefferson after the two exchanged angry words during the Knicks-Nets playoff series, and all the players will have to adjust to running much of their offense through Duncan, who Brown on Monday called "the greatest player in the game."

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