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The only thing harder than beating the U.S. basketball team is an

August 3, 1992

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) _ The only thing harder than beating the U.S. basketball team is announcing the games.

After all, what can you say about games that are more lopsided than a sinking ship and less suspenseful than a Hitchcock rerun.

″The games are tough to do because there’s no real strategy,″ said Marv Albert, who is doing the play-by-play for NBC. ″You know the outcome before they throw the ball up for the opening tip.″

In its first five games, the Dream Team has averaged 116 points and won by an average of 46 points. The closest game was a 103-70 squeaker over Croatia.

When he’s announcing NBA games, Albert refers to the closing minutes of a blowout as ″garbage time.″ In Barcelona, he has seen more garbage time than a sanitation worker.

″It’s really what everyone expected,″ Albert said. ″It’s a no-win situation for the U.S. team. They get criticized for romping, but if they played half-speed, people would complain about that.″

So far, NBC has shown only two complete games - a tape of the U.S. opener against Angola and a live broadcast of U.S.-Spain. The network plans to televise the final live on Saturday.

″The Spain game was fun because the crowd was really into it,″ Albert said. ″In the second half, when Spain made a little run, the fans were going wild. It was like a bullfight.″

U.S. opponents aren’t the only ones frustrated by the blowouts. Because of the playground nature of the games, analyst Mike Fratello isn’t getting much use out of his telestrator - the electronic gadget that allows him to diagram plays on the screen.

Albert, who calls Fratello ″the czar of the telestrator,″ says his sidekick is so bored ″that’s he’s getting on everybody’s nerves.″

″We actually don’t need him,″ Albert joked. ″We’re thinking of sending him home.″

Some sensitive souls may have felt like sending Charles Barkley home after he created headlines with a series of physical and verbal outbursts. But Albert thinks Sir Charles got a bad rap.

″The stories were a little overblown,″ he said. ″Charles is always saying and doing crazy things, but he’s only half serious. I don’t think he meant to offend anyone.″

Remarkably, none of the Dream Team’s victims seem to be offended by final scores that read like misprints. They apparently consider it an honor to be thrashed by the likes of Barkley, Bird, Jordan and Johnson.

″The U.S. players are like rock stars,″ Albert said. ″Everybody wants their autographs and everybody wants to have their pictures taken with them, including the other teams. For them, playing against NBA stars is like an American kid going to fantasy camp with Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.″

While the scores don’t indicate it, Albert feels the level of international play has improved dramatically in recent years.

″It’s only a matter of time before they approach the NBA level,″ he said. ″The more they play against this type of competition, the better they’ll get.″

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