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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dream Team II Challenge: A Big Pair of Air Jordans to Fill

As the World Championships of Basketball unfold over the next 11 days in Toronto, Americans are advised to concern themselves only with the minor feats executed by their men in uniform. For example: the margin of victory, how many timeouts Coach Don Nelson is forced to call, amount of sweat (and backboards) broken by Shaquille O'Neal. Things like that.


As for the ultimate reason to watch any competition -- to see if your team wins -- well, Team USA passed its fiercest challenge the other day, when all 12 players cleared customs.


Once again, the U.S. will deploy overqualified pro players to go against the world, beginning Thursday night against Spain. It is sort of like sending men to do a boy's job.


The last time this happened, the Dream Team was constructed and the competition destructed, collectively losing by an average of 44 points to Magic, Bird, Jordan, Barkley, and their like. Dream Team II is less legendary but just as frightening to the Spains and Argentinas and Germanys of the world. From Shaq to Dominique Wilkins, from Larry Johnson to Joe Dumars, Dream Team II is virtually assured of a gold medal. The motto for the rest of the globe should be Shoot for the Silver.


And the Dreamers seem to have a sadistic bent. "We want to demoralize teams, crush 'em, let people know we've got the best players in the world," said the unflappable Reggie Miller, one of the guards on Team USA. "We don't want any 10-, 15-, 25-, 35-point margins. We want it all."


Therein lies the real mission for the Dreamers: to do as much damage as their predecessors did in 1992 at the Barcelona Olympics. In terms of star quality, this team realizes it does not measure up to the originals. This year's version is being passed off as a Diet Dream Team, one that tastes great but is less fulfilling than the first. That is why there is such a strong desire to copy Dream I in every other way.


When Nelson revealed that he will probably call a few timeouts -- something Dream Team Coach Chuck Daly never did -- Miller begged against it.


"We don't want any timeouts and we want to at least match their victory margin," Miller said.


And whereas Charles Barkley caused a diplomatic stir by tattooing an Angolan player with his elbow, Miller plans on being a little less physical with his message-sending in Toronto.


"I'm getting translation books," he said. "I'm going to see how to trash talk in Croatian, Brazilian, Chinese."


It is clear these Dreamers are haunted by the ghosts of Dream I. They are resigned to the fact that they cannot match the mystique of the originals. They can only play a good game, then talk to back it up.


"That first team had more experience and savvy, but I think we have just as much or more talent," guard Kevin Johnson said.


"You wouldn't think that by just scanning the rosters of the teams, because they definitely had bigger names. But we have more guys in our prime. Magic and Larry were about finished by then, and no one knew it but Michael was only going to play one more year."


The tournament is a good way to stay in shape for the fall. Nelson ran the club hard through a week of practice in a Chicago gym with faulty air conditioning. Considering the quality of the other teams at the World Championships, the shirts and skins game in Chicago was the most intense the Dreamers will play this summer.


They followed with two exhibition tuneups, a 33-point romp against a German select team and a 38-pointer against the U.S. Goodwill Games team.


Afterward, Nelson said: "We still haven't hit our stride yet. I think we can play a lot better than we've been playing."