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Shaq likely to say no if Brown is coach

Posted: Monday November 18, 2002 12:09 AM

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - The "Big Aristotle" says he's not going to Greece.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar center Shaquille O'Neal said Sunday he likely would not play for the United States in the 2004 Olympics if Philadelphia 76ers coach Larry Brown is tabbed to guide Team USA.

Responding to a report in Sunday's New York Post that said Brown was the favorite among four NBA coach candidates that includes Lakers mentor Phil Jackson, O'Neal said he doubted he would participate if Brown got the nod.

"There's a pain on the outside of my knee in 2004," said O'Neal, still sidelined by a toe injury. "So if Phil was not picked, I probably will not play through the pain. However, Larry Brown is a great man. He's done a lot in basketball. I wish him well. It's kinda too far to really think about it, but my knee will be hurting in 2004."

Brown, Jackson, Miami Heat coach Pat Riley and Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan are being considered by the USA Basketball Selection Committee. The report in the Post said Brown is the leading candidate because of his ties to American international hoops that date to 1964.

Inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in September, Brown was a player on the 1964 U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal. He was an assistant coach on the 1976 and 1996 squads which also brought home gold.

Leading up to the 2000 Olympics, Brown filled in for Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, who took some time away from Team USA to deal with exhaustion. Brown guided the Americans to a first-place finish in the 1999 Tournament of the Americas in Puerto Rico.

The 7-2, 350-pound O'Neal is considered the best player in the game. Earlier this year, he said he would consider playing in the Olympics if Jackson - who has won nine NBA titles - were chosen as coach. Jackson has never been part of Team USA.

Once dubbing himself the "Big Aristotle," the three-time NBA Finals MVP played for Team USA in the 1994 World Championships and 1996 Olympics, winning a gold medal each time. However, he said it is someone else's turn.

"I have two, three gold medals," O'Neal said. "I'd just give someone else a chance to shine. Like I said, 2004 is a little bit too far to be answering that. But as of now, today, there is a pain on the outside of my knee."

The 2004 Olympics are closer than O'Neal thinks. It is less than two years away, and the Selection Committee must choose a coach and a team of 12 players for next summer's Tournament of the Americas.

The U.S. must finish among the top three in that tournament in order to qualify for the Olympics, a predicament brought on by Team USA's terrible sixth-place showing in the World Championships this past summer.

NBA players lost in international competition for the first time, ending a 57-game winning streak. Team USA lost to Argentina in group play and Yugoslavia in the quarterfinals before falling to Spain in the fifth-place game.

That team was made up of players that clearly were not the best the NBA has to offer. O'Neal is, and did not entirely close the door on his participation in 2004.

"I'll be 32," he noted. "I shouldn't be the first choice is what I'm saying. If they want me to come there, keep the guys in line and be a backup, and give them good quality minutes, I should be able to do that. (But) I think they should groom these other young upcoming guys."


 
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