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Nothing less than gold will do, says Bryant

8 August 2008

BEIJING – Kobe Bryant made clear Friday that the United States basketball team would only be satisfied with winning the Olympic gold medal in Beijing and that he was well prepared to adapt to the international game.

"We’re here to win gold and it’s serious business," said the LA Lakers star ahead of Sunday’s opening game against China.

"We just have to continue to get better, that’s the key for us. Every single game that’s our message, every single day the team tries to progress to be a better basketball team."

The US has not won a major basketball title since the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Bryant also said he would have no trouble adapting to the slightly different rules from the NBA used in international basketball.

"I’ve been involved in international competition since I was six so the rules are a little easy for me," he said.

Meanwhile, US coach Mike Krzyzewski said that despite being the tournament favourites, his team would not underestimate host China and its superstar Yao Ming in a game which US president George W Bush is rumoured to attend.

"I think the Chinese team is a very good team," he said. "Chinese basketball has improved greatly and I know Yao Ming personally and China could not have a greater representative for the country.

"He will play at an amazing level for that game and we will treat that game as we will all games, with dignity and respect."

Krzyzewski said his team wasn’t feeling burdened by the pressure that has grown since the US failed to win gold in Athens and then lost to Greece in the 2006 world championships and that a side had been picked that could best adapt itself to the international game.

"It’s the world’s game, it’s not the United States’ game. We understand that. Over 30 per cent of the players in the NBA now are international," he said.

"Over the last three years we’ve tried to learn the international game because it’s different. It’s beautiful but it’s different.

"I think in the past we’ve sometimes wanted people to adjust to us and that’s just not going to happen. That’s what I talk about respecting. We need to adjust to the way the game is played."

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James said everybody was focused on what he called "the biggest stage" for sport.

"We have one task and one goal and that’s to win the gold medal," he said.

[dpa / Expatica]

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