U.S. Hoops Team Has First Practice

Sunday, August 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — After settling in comfortably at their luxury hotel, the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team made it through the first day of practice Saturday with only one minor injury.

Vin Baker twisted his left ankle while landing awkwardly after taking a shot, but he said the injury would probably not keep him from practicing Sunday.

The U.S. team spent much its time working on half-court drills and scrimmaging, both 3-on-3 and 5-on-5, under the direction of coach Rudy Tomjanovich.

``The intensity was high and the conditioning was good,'' said Tomjanovich, who plans to increase the pace of practices over the next several days of training camp. ``You can't go with the Marine deal right away because you'll get a lot of injuries.''

The American team will spend the next week in Hawaii, holding training camp on the island of Maui and playing two exhibition games, against Canada and the U.S. Select Team, in Honolulu.

Their practice court is at the Lahaina Civic Center, which does not have air conditioning, although their accommodations are seven miles up the road in Kapalua at one of the finest hotels on the island. So ritzy is it, in fact, that players have the option of ordering three different kinds of butler-drawn baths complete with milk whey powder, lavender bath oil and/or floating orchids. The price: $50.

Lavish accommodations are standard fare for NBA players, but the chance to play in the Olympics is not. And so it was with a palpable sense of eagerness that the U.S. team went into its first practice at the steamy gymnasium less than a mile up a hill from the Pacific Ocean.

Tim Hardaway ended practice by sinking a shot from midcourt barefooted.

``Well, it was hot,'' Jason Kidd said, ``But we got some of the garbage out of the exhaust pipes. It was a good practice.''

And aside from Baker's little misstep, it was nothing like the first practice the U.S. team held one year ago upon its arrival in Puerto Rico for the Olympic qualifying tournament.

At that practice, which turned out to be the only one the team ever held in Puerto Rico, Tom Gugliotta broke his nose and Richard Hamilton sprained his ankle so severely that he never got to play in the qualifying tourney.

``You kind of expect something like that to happen on Day One, but you don't expect it to happen to you.,'' said Baker, who has lost 15 pounds since the end of last season and now weighs in at 258.