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Olympic leftovers could win gold

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Now that Tim Duncan has become the latest NBA star to beg off the Olympic basketball team, how low will we go? Chris Dudley? Will Perdue? Otis Thorpe?

Have they called Shawn Bradley yet?

Is Jeff Hornacek driving the kids' carpool that month?

The Olympic team will soon be looking for a replacement — again. Duncan would be the third player to leave the Olympic team in the last five months. At least two others said don't call.

By now it's clear that this won't be much of a Dream Team. More like a Daydream Team. There are only two or three players who would even make the original 1992 Dream Team roster, which featured Bird, Magic and Jordan.

They're leaving the best players at home. Olympic roll call: Shaquille O'Neal? No, he passed. He couldn't fit the Olympics into his schedule. Kobe Bryant? Nope. He's getting married (so he couldn't choose another week?). Tom Gugliotta? Injured. He was replaced by Vince Carter, so we'll call that an upgrade. Grant Hill? Injured and absent. He'll be replaced by Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Karl Malone? Nobody asked. Rasheed Wallace, Eddie Jones, Chris Webber, Stephon Marbury, Allen Iverson, Latrell Sprewell? Nobody asked them, either.

Tim Duncan? He wants out. The selection committee reportedly is trying to talk Duncan into participating in the Olympics, but it's unlikely he will change his mind.

Since when do they have to beg players to go to the Olympics? It's not like they're asking them to climb Everest.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Olympic team, as of Friday evening: Ray Allen, Vin Baker, Carter, Kevin Garnett, Tim Hardaway, Allan Houston, Jason Kidd, Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, Steve Smith and Abdur-Rahim.

Vin Baker? On the Olympic team? Isn't he that plump guy who sleepwalked through the playoff series with the Jazz?

Is that yesterday's Tim Hardaway, or today's?

Abdur-Rahim? Smith? They weren't even invited to play in the All-Star Game.

This is what happens when you pick most of the Olympic team a couple of years before the Olympics. Things change. Baker goes in

the tank. Bryant becomes a superstar. This is also what happens when talent and character are considered. When you start considering character among NBA stars, it tends to limit the field severely. You could fit most of them in a closet.

The U.S. is sending the second string to Sydney, and they hardly look unbeatable. The best team in the world will be resting in their mansions, sitting on their assets. With the players who aren't going, you could build a team that would beat the American Olympic team. To wit:

1 — Malone (Ask, that's all he asks. How many hints does a future Hall of Famer have to drop?)

2 — Iverson ("Send me over there to play soccer, anything.")

3 — Jones (like Malone, he only wants to be asked)

4 — Webber (also eager for a phone call)

5 — Jalen Rose

6 — Hill

7 — Wallace

8 — David Robinson

9 — John Stockton

10 — Kobe Bryant

11 — Shaq

12 — Michael Finley

Taxi squad: Michael Jordan (he has plenty of time to run the Washington franchise into the ground after the Olympics), Magic Johnson (he can retire again later), Marbury, Tracy McGrady, Charles Barkley (bring him along for the quotes), Sprewell, Scottie Pippen, Reggie Miller, Glenn Robinson, probably Duncan.

Even if you ignore injured players and those who don't want to play in the Olympics, you could assemble a team of Malone, Iverson, Jones, Webber, Rose, Pippen, Robinson, Wallace, Stockton, Marbury, Finley, McGrady, Miller, Glenn Robinson, Sprewell — none of whom are on the Olympic team.

The coach of the Olympic Leftover Team would be the leftover coach — Jerry Sloan, an Olympic assistant four years ago who, in a break from tradition, was passed over for the job in favor of Rudy Tomjanovich.

Who would you bet on? The Olympians or the guys who were left behind?

E-mail: drob@desnews.com