CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- One thing the members of Dream Team II don't lack is confidence. In the days before they were officially unveiled here last night, several were quoted as saying that, given an opportunity against Dream Team I, they would win.
So it was somewhat surprising that Dream Team II had a few problems with the German National Team, who were competitive for much of the first half before eventually falling, 114-81, before a sellout crowd of 23,690 at Charlotte Coliseum.
There's no need to worry. When the winner's anthem is played Aug. 14 at the World Basketball Championships in Toronto, it'll be the USA team that will be standing on the podium, listening to the national anthem with gold medals around their necks. Last night's game just proved that the players might want to take care of business on the court first.
"We might have been a little tentative in the first half trying to get a feel for everything," said Mark Price, who played 15 minutes and scored 11 points. "You have to give Germany a little credit. They played hard and well, but the numbers we had and kept throwing at them kind of took over."
The takeover occurred at the start of the second half, when USA began pressing full court and picking up its intensity. A 14-point halftime lead became 23 in the first five minutes.
"I'd give us a B, B-minus," said Indiana Pacers' guard Reggie Miller. "I think our better games are ahead. I think the second half was a total shutout. That's how it should be, and probably how it's going to be."
Joe Dumars scored 20 points, Reggie Miller had 17 and Shaquille O'Neal 14 to lead the Dream Team, which had six players in double figures. The team shot 64.8 percent -- 69.6 percent in the second half.
Don't think the players are taking the competition lightly. Twice O'Neal dived for loose balls, on one occasion crashing into a table just behind the German team's bench. Miller, after a four-point first half, put on a shooting exhibition in the second half. And Alonzo Mourning, playing before the home crowd, offered up a lot of lip and a few sharp elbows and at one point was called for an intentional foul.
Mourning and teammate Larry Johnson got the biggest ovations before the game, as the Charlotte Hornet teammates were received warmly by their home fans. But it was the overpowering play of O'Neal that generated the most response.
The Orlando Magic center scored all of his 14 points in a span of 11 minutes in the first half when he made seven of eight field goals. As one would expect, six of those shots came on dunks -- the last on a feed from Joe Dumars in which O'Neal soared from the dotted circle in front of the foul line. Awesome.
O'Neal's star can grow even more during the upcoming championship as it's doubtful there will be a big man in Toronto able to match his 7-foot, 300-pound frame. The Germans, obviously facing a man of O'Neal's size and strength for the first time, tried to double-team him. The tactic proved useless, and the Germans were fortunate O'Neal was on the floor for only 15 minutes.
"We have a big front line and each guy on the front line can play," O'Neal said, when asked about his brief appearance. "I'm not worried."
Opponents better worry, against a team that had O'Neal, Shawn Kemp and Derrick Coleman coming off the bench.
"They are really good, both individually and as a team," Germany center Detlef Musch said. "They have only been practicing a short time, and they'll get a lot better."
In an earlier game, the women's USA Goodwill Games team beat USA Select, 104-47. Maryland coach Chris Weller coached the Select team, which had former Western star Dana Johnson as a member.