Carmelo Anthony remembers everything about his two previous Olympic Games: the disappointment of winning bronze in Athens and the euphoria of having the gold medal being draped around his neck in Beijing four years later.
“I never felt no feeling like that,” Anthony said. “It really didn’t hit you until the national anthem came on and they raised the flag and the whole arena was singing the national anthem. That’s when it hit.”
The Knicks’ All-Star forward has one thing on his mind when the red, white and blue begin play in these Olympics — repeating.
Anthony said “it will be that much better” if it happens because the rest of the world is improving and he knows the United States is counting on this team to stay on top. But it also could be Anthony’s last Olympics, and it would be special to go out with another gold medal.
Anthony will be 32 in the next Olympics and it takes a major commitment. He’s one of just three players to participate in three Olympics, joining his buddy LeBron James and David Robinson.
There also have been discussions about limiting the competition to players 23-and-under, but there have been no changes yet. All Anthony and his teammates are concerned with now is London and their first game July 29 against Tony Parker and France.
The United States lost Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Chris Bosh and Blake Griffin to injury. But it still is considered the favorite to win the gold. The U.S. team still has James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Anthony, Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.
The Knicks’ Tyson Chandler is the only center on the roster, with Kevin Love and Anthony Davis the power forwards, but U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski can go “small” with James, Durant or Anthony in those spots.
The size issue could hurt the U.S. against bigger teams, such as Spain, which has Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. But the U.S. thinks it has more than enough.
“I think Spain is going to have a big problem defending all the versatility and athleticism that we have,” USA basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said. “We don’t worry about them. We worry about ourselves. If we do what we need to do and perform the way we’re capable of performing we’ll be fine.”
Anthony wasn’t as diplomatic. “We hear the things said and we’re trying to work on that and shut everybody up,” he said.
Krzyzewski can put together some lethal lineups that should give fits to opposing countries. One is Paul or Williams with Bryant in the backcourt, and James, Anthony and Durant up front. Krzyzewski can insert Westbrook and Andre Iguodala to speed up the tempo and give the U.S. more athleticism.
The American’s chief competition will be Spain, which also has Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez and Jose Calderon; France with Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf and the Argentine team that features Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, Carlos Delfino and Knicks point guard Pablo Prigioni.
Argentina beat the United States in the 2004 semifinals en route to the gold medal. Four years later, the United States knocked off the Argentines in the same round on the way to gold.
“In ’08, people called us the Redeem Team because of what happened in ’04,” Colangelo said. “In ’08, we were climbing the hill. Now we’re on top of the hill. We’re defending the hill. I would rather be on top of the hill than climbing it.”
Anthony and the U.S. plan to stay on top.