- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2006

The U.S. national basketball team opens with the American commonwealth tomorrow that trounced Larry Brown’s contingent by 19 points in the Athens Games two years ago.

The intrigue is merely a convenient start of the team’s world championship schedule that follows with China, Slovenia, Italy and Senegal in the preliminary round.

Puerto Rico offers Peter John Ramos, the 7-foot-3 dust collector who has led the Wizards in pre-game introductory bumps the last two seasons.

The fantasy of Ramos often appeals to Scott Jackson’s erudite post-game general managers after Brendan Haywood has fashioned a one-rebound masterpiece in 20 minutes.

The post-game general managers lobby hard for Ramos whenever they are not measuring the value of a Poet-Kevin Garnett trade.

LeBron James and the Witnesses already granted the Ramos-led Puerto Ricans a preview of the newly designed operations of USA Basketball earlier this month.

The one-for-all and all-for-one exhortations of Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski resulted in the Witnesses waxing the Ramos-led Puerto Ricans 114-69.

The Witnesses posted a 5-0 record in the prelude to the world championship and chanted their devotion to sharing the ball, playing defense and helping little old ladies cross busy intersections in Japan.

Other than a challenge from the ghosts of Oscar Schmidt, the Witnesses used a disproportionate amount of power to vanquish the opposition and no doubt stirred the wailing of Flat Fatima at www.thepeoplescube.com/red/viewtopic.php?t=798.

In the five games, the Witnesses averaged 110 points on offense, while surrendering 75.8 points on defense, nearly a 35-point margin of victory.

The Witnesses appear poised to re-educate the globe on the basketball might of America after a sixth-place finish in the world championship in 2002 and a bronze-medal performance in Athens in 2004.

America’s decline in basketball has not been lost on the players, notably James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, each deemed too young to aid the cause in Athens but now seasoned enough to be selected the tri-captains of the team.

“I personally get an opportunity to redeem myself, along with Dwyane and Carmelo,” James says. “It’s motivation for me.”

The 12-player roster has been set after Gilbert Arenas came down with a groin pull and Bruce Bowen lost his role player’s role to Shane Battier.

The injury to Arenas was reminiscent of the injuries that used to afflict the NBA’s team leftovers of yesteryear, when the wounded would be banished to the injured list because of mysterious back pain, a contagious paper cut or a terminal hangnail.

Krzyzewski took a liking to the penetrate-pass instincts of Chris Paul and Kirk Hinrich, which resulted in the marginalizing of Arenas, who previously had offered to drive the team bus, sweep up the locker room and sign autographs late into the night in order to make the final roster.

Arenas so desperately wanted to be on the team that it is hard to imagine a groin pull sidelining him, not unless the groin pull provided the USA Basketball coaching staff with the cover to add a push.

Krzyzewski’s goal is to win the gold medal, however jingoistic that quest may be.

At least one ESPN commentator questioned Krzyzewski’s desire to win all the games in the preliminary round, as if any coach ever goes into a competition and says, “We’ll be trying to win three-fifths of the games.”

At least one of the Witnesses is elated with the robust showing of the red, white and blue.

“It’s been fun to go out there and go through the process and have fun with it,” Antawn Jamison says. “It has been a joy.”

The joy, alas, is subject to change, depending on the outcome of each game.

In a perfect basketball world, all the games would end in a tie.

The world is not perfect, as Flat Fatima is forever willing to attest.

“We feel very good about where we are,” Colangelo says.

As well the Witnesses should.

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