Sonics guard Ray Allen recently returned to Seattle after helping Team USA win the FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Puerto Rico. Allen finished as one of the teamís leading scorers, averaging 10.6 points. He is now preparing for the upcoming season by working at The Furtado Center, the Sonics training facility with teammates Rashard Lewis, Ansu Sesay, Reggie Evans, Jerome James and Calvin Booth. SUPERSONICS.COM checked in with Allen during one of those workouts to get his final thoughts on the Qualifying Tournament as well as his take on the 2003-04 season.
SUPERSONICS.COM: You were quoted during the tournament about how embarrassing it would be for Team USA to not qualify for the Olympics. Was the team at all playing not to lose?
After helping Team USA win gold, Allen is ready to start the new season.
: No, I donít think we ever thought about losing. We just had that fear to over-prepare to be the best, to win and to beat everybody in good fashion. I think thatís the fear that Iíve always had of not succeeding, the fear that most guys have had of not succeeding. You always want to work harder and do everything you can to prepare so you donít have to worry about putting yourself in a situation where you might lose.
By going undefeated and winning by an average of more than 30 points per game, has Team USA shown that itís back?
Allen: We havenít gone anywhere. I think we just had a wake-up call. Itís not a situation where our talent has weakened, but other teams are being taught the game of basketball to the point where we have to respect them. By respecting them, we have to focus in on really trying to beat them and respect the players on the floor.
How did this team compare with other Team USAs youíve played for?
Allen: I was part of a good team when I was in college in í95; we annihilated our competition. The guys on this team, putting egos aside and individual play aside, I think it was probably the best team that Iíve played on.
Was it important to beat Argentina soundly in the finals after they played you close earlier in the tournament and beat Team USA last year?
Allen: Yeah, because I think they thought that we were vulnerable and we were beatable. We just proved to them that that was a fluke, and the team that we have that will play in the future, we know we are going to make sure that we bring our best to the ballgame and show them that we are the best.
Have your expectations changed for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece?
Allen: Itís the same. Thinking about all the players that play in the NBA now and all the teams that beat the U.S. team last year, they figure thatís still their ultimate goal, to beat the U.S. team. It only gets tougher for us. I canít say that weíre going to dominate in future Olympics. We want to win, as long as we continue to win, thatís what itís all about is winning. Itís for the love of the game, and for the good of the game. There will be a time where a team will get beat, just like last summer. Statistically, as the years go by, it becomes more likely for us to lose in Olympic play. The players will only get better. Some countries will probably have five players on their team that play in the NBA one of these days. There will be a five-man NBA roster in Lithuania, or Italy, or Greece, France, Yugoslavia one of these days. Our five against their five will just be an NBA game. Thatís what we will probably start approaching in the future.
Does your fatherís military background make playing for Team USA more meaningful for you?
Allen: I think I have a greater understanding of what your government does. Weíve been a government family, working for the government our whole lives. Even though weíre not working for the government at USA Basketball, weíre still representing the United States, and thatís what we did most of my life growing up. It is somewhat the same, representation. You have the same sort of pride when you do it and you know youíre playing for the ultimate good of the country.
After playing with teammate Nick Collison in Puerto Rico, what are your expectations for him as a rookie?
Allen tied for the Team USA lead in three-pointers.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty
: Honestly, I donít expect much from Nick, because I donít want to put a lot of pressure on him to have to come in and contribute to a situation that heís unfamiliar with. I think he will be a bonus to give us more than what we probably expect. He was our first-round pick, along with Luke. Those guys will come in and be learning everything, learning playersí tendencies. Itís always a bonus if you can get a first-year player in the fold, playing like they have been playing for a couple of years already. Knowing that heís got to expect a dramatic change, the rigors of the NBA season, itís going to be tough for him. We just have to do a good job of helping him ease his transition.
Have you found fatigue to be a problem after playing international basketball during the summer?
Allen: No, itís always been good for me. In 2000, we went straight from the Gold Medal game one day to training camp the next day. I just look at it like this Ė I would be here training anyway, but I get to be around some of the best players in the NBA and get workouts in. Thatís all I would be doing. Itís no different.
Are you excited to play a full season with the Sonics?
Allen: Yeah. Coming here in February, it was okay, being part of a new system and being around new guys. But having a chance to try to start fresh from the beginning is something I really look forward to. Itís going to be something exciting for me this year.
Is it encouraging that so many players are here working out already?
Allen: Thatís probably one of the biggest keys to being successful early. Being in shape going into training camp is the biggest coup that we can score early in the season. We donít want to have to try to get in shape during training camp. Thereís nothing like training-camp shape, though. To have everybody here, ready, and working on the same page already, I think weíd already be far ahead of 75% of the rest of the NBA teams already.
What are your expectations for yourself and for the team this season?
Allen: I never put expectations on a season. I donít put expectations on any one player, because every season is different, every team is different, and we have to strip ourselves of any awards or recognition and move forward and just allow it to happen. Weíve got five guys. You donít look at whoís starting, you just come into training camp and who works hard. Win the first game and weíll try to go on some winning streaks. Everything takes care of itself. You win, you get the notoriety, everybody falls in line that way. I donít look at it as far as what types of goals for me to achieve, Iíve never done it that way, and itís always allowed me to focus in on taking care of the team that I have.