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Monday, August 16, 2004
Brown: I can't coach effort

By Steve Woodward
Special to ESPN.com

ATHENS, Greece -- Allen Iverson's message to fellow U.S. basketball Olympians is a sobering one: the Olympics are not a dream, so wake up and prepare for a few slaps to the face.

On Tuesday, the Americans play host nation Greece, which was a 76-54 winner against Australia in its Olympic opener.

"I don't think we'll get any calls (against Greece)," Iverson said Monday afternoon during an appearance for shoe sponsor Reebok scheduled long before Sunday's mind boggling 92-73 opening-round loss to Puerto Rico. "They'll get all the calls. I'm not saying that just because they are the home team; it's always going to be that way, and we should expect it.

"It's not going to go our way (with officiating). If we realize that before the ball goes up, we'll be able to deal with it."

Iverson declined to pin part of the blame for the throttling by true underdog Puerto Rico -- only the third defeat in men's U.S. Olympic history in 112 games -- on those NBA stars who, for various reasons, declined to make the trip to Athens.

"If he, a guy, says he is afraid for his life, I definitely wouldn't question that," said Iverson referring to concerns expressed by some high profile NBA players about their security in Greece as Olympians. "I put my life in God's hands. I could walk off this podium and break my neck."

Despite the most abysmal first half imaginable against Puerto Rico, in which the United States trailed 49-27 at the break, Iverson said he did not arrive at the team's Monday practice with a prepared pep talk. He assumed if the team's youngsters "didn't get the message last night, they are not going to get it -- and they are going to be in trouble."

Head coach Larry Brown expressed total agreement when he reflected on the stunning first step, coming as it did after the team's whirlwind 5-1 exhibition tour in three countries.

"The fact is these teams are very truly teams," Brown said of the Olympic field. "And they want to win it so badly that if you don't play with unbelievable effort, what happened last night is going to happen again and again and again.

"Again, there is no way a coach can coach effort. No way. You play on the U.S. Olympic team, and you play in the Olympics, and then you've got to question people's effort? You have a serious problem. I don't think they understand the urgency of this.

"They don't understand how important it is to the teams we are playing against, and, in a sense, I guess we feel like we're the Dream Team, and you just roll the ball out and something good is going to happen. It's just not there, it's just not possible."

Lamar Odom, who scored 13 points Sunday, observed that the karma around today's U.S. team is not what it was a decade ago when the original Dream Team was minted in Barcelona in 1992.

"The other teams are watching us play (in the NBA) in November and December and they really want to beat us, and we have to understand that," Odom said. "They believe they can beat us. I don't know if they really wanted to beat Magic Johnson. I think they were happy just to play against those guys. It's not like that anymore."

The loss to Puerto Rico was the first for the United States in the Olympic tournament since 1988.

Iverson fears there might be others to come.

"We've got to become a team now," he said. "We've got to get the message right now. If we wait three or four days, it's going to be too late.

"We are over here to do this together. If you've got one or two guys on the court who don't understand that, it's going to be too late."

Senior writer Jim Caple contributed to this report.