Piston-less U.S. team puts Daly in bind


DETROIT -- Chuck Daly wasn't home yesterday.

He was off in search of anonymity. Hiding, really. Away from the questions he knew would come.

If you are the coach of the U.S. Olympic basketball team, what do you tell players who have helped you win a couple of NBA championships when none of them are invited to go with you to Barcelona, Spain?

That is Daly's problem.

That is why he was flying away from home, to a few days of solitude on Monday, the day USA Today revealed that the Olympic selection subcommittee had sent letters inviting 10 NBA players to represent the United States next summer in Barcelona.

Magic Johnson and Patrick Ewing have already said they would -- if invited -- accept the invitations. Each told Daly during the regular season that he would be delighted to play in the Olympics.

The selection committee is still waiting to hear from the other eight: Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, Larry Bird, Karl Malone and David Robinson.

Did you say: Where's Isiah Thomas?

Did you say: Where's Joe Dumars?

Me, too.

Chuck Daly, too, as a matter of fact.

Daly has access to the committee members and has been allowed to lobby for the players he prefers. He has lobbied for some of his Pistons. He has made a case for Thomas and Dumars, and perhaps has even tried to justify the selection of Dennis Rodman. But Rodman's defensive brilliance was overshadowed by some irresponsible roughhouse play late in the season, which effectively ended any chance he had of being selected.

All three Pistons have told Daly they would like to be on the team.

And Daly has told the selection committee that the absence of a Piston on the Olympic invitation list presents a potential problem for him in the upcoming NBA season.

Jack McCloskey, a member of the selection committee as well as general manager of the Pistons, refused to confirm that the letters had been sent to the 10 players named, saying, "only [Kentucky athletic director] C.M. Newton can comment for the committee."

Newton was out of his office yesterday.

"But I don't know that that team will go to the Olympics without a Piston," said McCloskey, who obviously would also like to see a Piston -- one of his draft choices -- on the 12-man team, which will probably include just two college players.

The Olympics are 11 months away, but the team will be announced on Sept. 21, on a national television show. Based on career statistics and results, it is difficult to see how Dumars and Thomas can be bypassed.

Each has played on two NBA championship teams, a statistic bettered only by Johnson and Bird. Thomas was on Indiana's 1981 NCAA championship team, twice has been named the MVP in the NBA's All-Star Game and was the MVP in the 1990 NBA Finals.

Dumars was the MVP in the 1989 Finals and has been the most consistent Piston during the past few seasons.

Their styles are drastically different, but both are, simply, winners. And though the Pistons' championships were team efforts, none of their teammates was more responsible for those successes than Dumars and Thomas. If neither is selected, one might wonder how seriously Daly pushed for either's inclusion.

On the other hand, if one is selected and the other is not, does that solve Daly's potential locker room problem? Or does it make it worse?

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