- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

Many big-name players who have had their names mentioned in connection with USA Basketball have all sorts of preconditions that must be met for them to represent the nation in international play.
Not so with the Washington Wizards' Jerry Stackhouse, one of the top small forwards in the NBA. Stackhouse just wants the honor of playing for his country.
"I'd love to go," Stackhouse said of the Olympics. "No question about it. From the standpoint of it being the first opportunity to represent the country and to get some [payback]. Everybody saw the World Championships. I'd love to be a part of it."
Stackhouse's reference was to the deplorable performance the team of NBA players assembled by USA Basketball put on this summer, when it finished sixth at the World Championships in Indianapolis.
That team featured Boston's Paul Pierce, New Orleans' Baron Davis and Ben Wallace, Stackhouse's teammate last season in Detroit and a former Wizards power forward. In all, seven All-Stars were on the roster.
Nonetheless, after teams made up of NBA players had won 58 consecutive international games dating back to 1992, that team proceeded to lose three in less than a week. As a result, the United States now must qualify for the Olympics
"The wrong guys went, plain and simple," Stackhouse said.
Now, however, it appears that some of the NBA's truly elite players Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Allen Iverson are looking to be a part of that qualifying team and, ultimately, the Olympics.
Stu Jackson, chairman of the senior men's basketball committee, said USA basketball "has reached out" to Kobe Bryant. And Shaquille O'Neal, who has not been contacted, said he would play if Los Angles Lakers coach Phil Jackson coaches the team. However, Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown is likely to be named next month.
Wizards coach Doug Collins was a member of the 1972 Olympic team that finished second to the Soviet Union in the most controversial basketball game in the history of the Olympics. Although he and his teammates have refused to accept their silver medals after losing to the Soviets in a disputed finish, Collins still considers his Olympic experience to be one of the greatest in his career as player and a coach.
Collins believes Stackhouse, the league's sixth leading scorer (23.9), deserves a long, hard look from the selection committee.
"I wish Jerry would get a great opportunity," Collins said. "Jerry, I think, has established himself as one of the best players in the NBA, I don't think there's any question about that."
Stackhouse, laid back by nature, doesn't have the big commercial endorsements or public persona of some of the players likely to be selected. However, he has shown an incredible ability to adapt his talents to any situation, something that would be crucial on a team loaded with superstars.
After finishing second overall in the league in scoring (29.8) in the 2000-01 season, Stackhouse readjusted his game last season for the benefit of the Pistons, averaging 21.4 points and a team-high 5.3 assists in his fifth season in Detroit. While Stackhouse's individual numbers dipped, the Pistons benefited big time, winning 28 more games than the previous season.
Stackhouse made it clear yesterday during preparations for the Wizards' games tomorrow and Saturday in Houston and Memphis that he doesn't lose any sleep because his name is never mentioned in connection with the Olympics. It does, however, puzzle him.
"I don't know what it is," Stackhouse said. "I have my opinions about it, but I don't waste a lot of time with that. I think what I do on the basketball court speaks for itself. If that's not something that would bode well with the Olympic team and who the Olympic committee selects to be a part of it, I can't do anything about it. The only thing I can do is try to focus on helping my team win. And, hopefully, from that I may get an opportunity to compete."
Notes Michael Jordan had no comment after yesterday's practice for reporters' questions concerning a woman who filed a lawsuit seeking $5million from him for breach of contract. In a suit filed in October against Karla Knafel, Jordan admitted paying her $250,000 to not expose their relationship publicly. Jordan contends that Knafel tried to extort $5million from him. Knafel claims Jordan fathered a stillborn child with her.

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