New York Times
: Jason Kidd is downright ancient. When he was graduating from middle school, half of his teammates on the United States Olympic basketball team were graduating from diapers. And at 35, he is at least five and a half years older than the rest of the 12-man squad that will travel to Beijing in August.
“I’m like a senior in high school, and they’re like the freshmen and sophomores,” said the 29-year-old Kobe Bryant, who, along with his teammates, met with the news media Monday during a stop in Manhattan to introduce the team. “Jason’s like a senior in college.”
But Kidd’s success with the national team stands out more than his age. He is the only member of this team who already has an Olympic gold medal, which he won in 2000 in Sydney, Australia. He has also never lost a game as a member of the United States team. He was injured in 2002, when the United States finished sixth in the world championship, and he did not play during the team’s disappointing run to a bronze medal in Athens in 2004.
But that is why the same teammates who joke about creaky joints and ice baths also hold Kidd as the team’s linchpin.
“Even if you try to go back to your individual game, he automatically brings it back to the team,” LeBron James said. “He hasn’t lost in an international game yet. So you have to play hard for that guy to keep his record.”
Kidd did not need to be convinced that the United States had a team capable of keeping his record unblemished.
“I believe that this team will go undefeated and will show the world that we can play the right way and be humble about it,” Kidd said.
His quiet confidence comes from three summers spent with the same group of players. After the 2004 Games, USA Basketball changed its approach. First, it switched to selection by a single person rather than by a committee. It also required players to make a three-year commitment to the team.
What type of results the new approach produces will become clear in August. What will follow the team through training camp, however, is an atmosphere that Bryant said he had not seen in years.
“It’s just like A.A.U. basketball, like Nike camp in high school all over again,” he said. “But once we get on that floor, it’s about understanding what’s at stake, what we need to do.”