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Sunday, October 1, 2000
U.S. will be beaten: Stern

By CRAIG DANIELS -- Toronto Sun

  SYDNEY -- NBA commissioner David Stern says its "inevitable."

 Eventually the NBA-laden U.S. men's national team is going to beaten and -- as Lithuania proved in a two-point semi-final loss -- that day might come sooner than many would have expected.

 "The reality is eventually it is going to happen," Stern said.

 "It's very exciting for basketball."

 Stern, holding court with the international media, said he did not watch the Lithuania-U.S. game live because he was in synagogue because of the Jewish high holidays. He watched the tape later -- and did his praying for the U.S. then.

 "My real thought was I would like to see it happen, but a few years down the road and on TV from my retirement home," he said.

 Stern did not buy the notion that the U.S. sent a second-tier team because of the absence of several top players, including Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Allen Iverson.

 "I don't accept that," Stern said. "This is an elite team."

 He said there would be no re-thinking of the way the team is chosen.

 "In 1987, when FIBA (the world governing body of basketball) asked us to become involved, it was to increase the level of competition," Stern said. "They said, 'Let's work together to develop the sport,' and we have.

 NARROWING THE GAP

 "The world is getting better. Lithuania -- just ask (Dallas Mavericks and Lithuanian assistant) Donnie Nelson -- is a good team. Think of the teams you would have if the Soviet Union had not fallen apart and Yugoslavia had not broken up.

 "Nothing shocks me."
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