Commentary

Kidd planning to extend 28-0 record as Team USA point man

Originally Published: July 22, 2007
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

LAS VEGAS -- Only one player on Team USA has an Olympic gold medal and a perfect record wearing the red, white and blue for the senior national men's team.

He's also the oldest player on the team, a fact that Jason Kidd kept coming back to over and over again Saturday after the second day of the U.S. national team's mini-camp.

"My job is to help the younger guys, and that's everybody, I guess, because I'm the oldest," said Kidd, adding that he had "adopted" Deron Williams so he can raise him to be a USA Basketball stalwart for the next 10-12 years.

Kidd is the closest thing USA Basketball has to a stalwart, a player who first put on the U.S. uniform in 1993 when he teamed with then-fellow collegians Lamond Murray, Donyell Marshall, Bryant Reeves and Michael Finley, touring Europe and playing against five different national teams, going 3-2.

Kidd was also a member of the 1999 and 2003 Olympic qualifying teams, compiling a 28-0 record (34-0 including exhibition games) over two qualifying tournaments and one Olympics.

Knee surgery kept him off the 2004 Athens team, and a lack of enthusiasm kept him from accepting an invitation to play on the 2006 World Championship team. But after that squad finished a disappointing third last summer, Kidd picked up the phone and called team director Jerry Colangelo, asking if he could have another chance.

What spurred him to make that call?

"Competition, I love competition," Kidd said Saturday. "In 2000 it came down to the last shot against Lithuania [in the semifinals], and that's the last time we had any success in the Olympics. So I thought I would put my undefeated record on the line, and I can put it in these young guys' hands, and hopefully we'll come out with a gold medal."

At 34, Kidd is four years older than his oldest teammate, Chauncey Billups. They are the only 30-somethings wearing Team USA jerseys this weekend, as Brad Miller, 31, Bruce Bowen, 36, and Antawn Jamison, 31, are not attending mini-camp.

After two days of practice, Kobe Bryant is already in awe of what Kidd brings to the team.

"It's scary actually, what he sees on the floor. I learned a lot just playing with him and talking with him the last couple days, being that we're the two old dogs on the team -- he's actually the old dog by a long shot," Bryant said.

Kidd, Bryant and the rest of Team USA will play an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday afternoon before breaking camp. They will return to Las Vegas on Aug. 13 for an eight-day camp prior to the Tournament of the Americas, with Olympic berths going to the top two finishers.

Kidd has participated twice in the Tournament of the Americas, going 10-0 for the 1999 team that beat its opponents by an average of 31.6 points per game, then going 10-0 for the 2003 team that won by an average of 30.9 points, including playing one of the best games in USA Basketball history, a 33-point romp over Argentina in the championship match. That roster included Kidd, Tim Duncan, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Jermaine O'Neal, Ray Allen, Tracy McGrady, Mike Bibby, Elton Brand, Kenyon Martin, Nick Collison and Richard Jefferson. But only three of those 12 players remained on the roster for the 2004 Olympics, when the Americans lost three times and finished with the bronze medal.

"The '03 Puerto Rico team was good, but none of those guys played in the Olympics," Kidd said. "The 2000 team was the best, had a mixture of young and old, KG, Zo, Steve Smith, Tim Hardaway. And coming down the stretch, Vince and [Antonio] McDyess stepped up and made big plays, so that was probably the best team I've played on, but that '03 team was pretty good."

Kidd told LeBron James upon his arrival in Las Vegas that he wasn't here to lose, and the team is counting on his veteran leadership to anchor what still remains a relatively young squad\.

Winning the gold medal next summer in Beijing is the ultimate goal, and Kidd and Bryant have been genuinely passionate in discussing the quest.

"This is huge, huge for us," Bryant said. "It's priority No. 1, it's extremely important. We have our troops fighting for our freedom, defending our freedom, preserving our freedom, and this is what we do, so this is our opportunity to go out there and represent our country and defend it in our own way.

"We began the domination, and we held that title for such a long period of time, and now the teams across the borders have caught up, and that's why basketball is the No. 1 watched sport at the Olympics. Everyone wants to see what's going to happen, and we have to make sure we're ready for that stage."

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.