ATHENS (Aug. 28, 2004) --
It certainly wasn't the finish that they had hoped for. But for the United States, it turns out a bronze is better than nothing.
With their impressive 104-96 win over Lithuania on Saturday night, the U.S. exacted a bit of revenge against one of the three teams to defeat them in this Olympics. The win, which gave the U.S. a 5-3 record in Olympic play, came on the heels of a disappointing loss to Argentina, something that wasn't lost on coach Larry Brown.
Despite a third-place finish, Iverson said he would 'definitely' play in another Olympics.
"This is probably the hardest game I've ever been involved in as a coach, and the players would probably say the same thing," said Brown. "I'm proud of our guys. To come back after the loss [against Argentina], with the expectations that people had and to play this game tonight is very good for U.S. basketball ... I don't know if I've ever been more proud of a group of people than I am of this group tonight."
U.S. captain Tim Duncan agreed with Brown, and was pleased the U.S. would at least be taking home a medal of some sort.
"Our guys showed a lot of character tonight," said Duncan. "Honestly, I'm excited we have something to show for our hard work."
Fellow captain Allen Iverson also felt that it takes a little of the sting away from being the first U.S. men's team not to win the gold since 1992.
"It'd be hard to go home with nothing," said Iverson. "It'll feel better to be up there and get a bronze medal."
But while U.S. forward Richard Jefferson agrees that the bronze is better than nothing, it apparently doesn't override the disappointment he's feeling.
"I don't think anyone comes to the Olympics and gets a bronze and gets excited," said Jefferson. "It does make it easier [to stomach], but we're still disappointed we didn't get the gold."
The U.S. team probably isn't the only group disappointed they weren't able to win it all in Greece. The players have been coming under a lot of scrutiny for losing a single game, let alone not finishing on top of the world. Iverson wasn't surprised at how critical others were being of the United States' finish, however.
"Honestly, it's real life," said Iverson. "A lot of people don't understand how Smarty Jones lost his last race. A lot of people don't understand how Muhammed Ali lost a single fight. And a lot of people don't understand how hard it is over here. I could go on about what didn't happen, but I don't want to take away from what the other teams did here."
Iverson also was quick to understand why many seemed so happy to see the U.S. fail.
"If a guy wins 100 fights in a row, people do get sick of it," said Iverson.
So given all of the scrutiny, would the players return for another Olympics? U.S. assistant coach Gregg Popovich thinks most of them would.
"I think our guys got a taste for 2008, and it'll give them the passion and they'll want to come back again," said Popovich.
Iverson was also quick to answer that question.
"I'd definitely [play in the Olympics] again," said Iverson. "If my body is where I want it to be, I would do it."
However, the other U.S. captain, who frequently struggled with foul trouble due to some rather questionable calls in the tournament, didn't quite share Iverson's enthusiasm.
"I'm 95 percent sure my FIBA career is finished," said Duncan after the win against Lithuania.