by Marcel Mutoni

-Aside from the guys on Team USA, there are 32 other NBA players playing in the WBC. That has to be some kind of record.

NBA.com has a panel featuring six of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to the international game, and four of the six picked the US to win the whole thing.

-Former Tar Heel and NBA journeyman Shammond Williams is the assist leader in the Euroleague (where he plays for Winterthur FC Barcelona). I have no idea what to make of this.

-Unless something absolutely insane happens (like Carlos Arroyo dropping 81), I don’t see the US facing the possibility of defeat in the preliminary round. The medal round, however, is another story.

-Team Italy features a guy that goes by the name of Angelo Gigli. Let’s hope he has a better showing than the J.Lo vehicle of the same name.

-The big news so far : Tony Parker won’t be playing in the tournament at all due to injury. One would have to think that France’s chances of winning a medal have been severely hurt.

-The military’s peculiar role : According to an article written by Sam Smith in the Chicago Tribune, something like ten thousand tickets were given to Army personel and their families to watch the US/Puerto Rico scrimmage from a little while back.

Jerry Colangelo had this to say :

Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) and I were having dinner last summer and talking about ways to connect this team with America. We talked about engaging ourselves (with the military): `Can this become their team? America’s team?’ It seemed like a natural.

It goes along with why we’re all involved. We’re asking for a three-year commitment and building on the opportunity to represent your country and possibly change some attitudes and perceptions around the world of us Americans and the athletes we have.

Etan Thomas, one of the most outspoken people in the NBA, had a slightly different take on the matter. He spoke with The Nation’s Dave Zirin :

I don’t have a problem with the troops talking to the players on their own. But for them being brought in to build a better basketball team just feels wrong. If I was there, my reaction would have been completely different. The fact that…Scott Smiley has lost his sight would not have made me feel patriotic pride. It would have made me feel ashamed, angered and saddened that this soldier was blinded at the service of a war we shouldn’t have been in in the first place.

The Nation article is filled with all kinds of juicy info about Team USA’s architect, Jerry Colangelo. It would seem that Colangelo’s interest in the military effort goes a little bit beyond the basketball court and simple motivational tactics: He funded the Presidential Prayer Team (a non-profit organization “with the singular purpose to encourage Americans to pray daily for the President”); he was a deputy chair on the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign in Arizona; and even dedicated a Suns game in 2003 as Arizona Right-to-Life Day.

We all know Colangelo is a very tough on players whose personal issues come to the forefront, just ask Jason Kidd. According to Wikipedia, he got rid of guys like the Suns’ Dennis Johnson and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Bobby Chouinard after their personal problems became public news.

Maybe this is why Iverson wasn’t put on the team.

-You should probably head over to this site if you want to get caught up on most of the teams in the tourney.

-Here’s the TV schedule for all of the games. Happy viewing everyone!