By DAVID BAUDER, Associated Press
You'll be happy to know this, Magic, Michael and Larry. Doug Collins is on your side.
Collins, finishing up his fourth year as NBC's Olympic basketball analyst, said he believes the U.S. Dream Team from the 1992 Barcelona Games would beat the current United States team in a hypothetical matchup. The 1992 team's front line is too imposing, he said.
The more important matter at hand for the U.S. team is the gold-medal game Sunday against Spain. Spain has a solid front line, too, but will succeed or fail on the strength of its guard play, Collins said.
The Americans are "close to where they want to be, but all of the pressure is on them to win the gold medal," he said. "Otherwise, it's going to be a failure for them. They know that. It's gold or bust for them."
Collins is happy for a day off between games because his day job keeps him pretty busy. The current Philadelphia 76ers head coach has watched from London as the 76ers participated in a four-team megadeal that landed Andrew Bynum from the L.A. Lakers while sending Andre Iguodala to Denver.
Michael Jordan once said that participating on the Dream Team helped him learn some weaknesses of his All-Star teammates, things that he could exploit in later games. Collins said he knows the current players pretty well. The advantage to his analyst's job comes in getting to know some of the international players, and evaluate whether they could play in the NBA.
Being a current coach also brings him fresh material for his analyst's role.
"A big part of the Olympics is being able to story tell and to make it personal," he said, "so you know these guys by more than just their numbers."
The strength of the U.S. team this year is its versatility, with so many players able to operate all over the court. The team has proven to be explosive offensively when the 3-point shots are falling. Collins said he always believed the team's supposed weakness in the front court was overstated since the U.S. has steadily outrebounded foes.
London also is providing some family time for Collins. His son, Chris, is an assistant with the U.S. team and helps scout opponents and run practice drills.
"This is not only a professional situation for me, but I have a lot of personal ties that make it very rewarding," Collins said.
FINEST HOUR: NBC opened its prime-time coverage Saturday with a stirring one-hour documentary by Tom Brokaw on British resistance in World War II called "Their Finest Hour," but it opened the door for Twitter critics who wondered whether that scheduling was NBC's finest hour. Many were miffed to have to sit through a program on war before getting to sports. "An hour that will live in infamy," tweeted noted blogger Jeff Jarvis. "Turned off the non-Olympics," one woman wrote. NBC had no doubts about the programming decision, said NBC Sports spokesman Greg Hughes. "It's a tribute to the host country and an exceptional film," Hughes said.
RERUN: Track reporter Lewis Johnson on Thursday got Usain Bolt to declare he's planning to return to the Olympics in Rio in 2016. So why did Johnson ask him the same question on Saturday?
NEXT QUESTION: Considering the glare he got from U.S. women's basketball star Diana Taurasi, NBC reporter Craig Sager probably regretted his question as soon as it left his lips. He noted that Australia had won four basketball medals in a row, none gold. Does she feel sorry for them? "I don't feel sorry for anyone," said a stone-faced Taurasi. "We came here to win gold."
WALKING TALL: One of the joys of the Olympics — and of NBC Sports' daytime coverage — is getting absorbed in an exotic sport you would have no other reason to watch. Saturday's unexpected pleasure was the women's 20-kilometer race walk, and seeing if Russian Olga Kaniskina could keep a big lead against younger countrywoman Elena Lashmanova
She couldn't, and her small body was filled with mental and physical pain at the end.
UNHAPPY SILVER: Tough to remember a group of people looking so miserable receiving flowers as Brazil's silver-medal soccer team, following the surprising loss to Mexico. The players made American gymnast McKayla Maroney look happy.
PHELPS ON LINKS: What's next after the pool for Michael Phelps? Improving his golf game. Golf Channel said Phelps has signed on as the next star of "The Haney Project," the series that depicts Tiger Woods' former swing coach trying to improve the game of a celebrity guest. Now retired from swimming, Phelps said he's looking for things to keep him motivated. "We look forward to chronicling Michael's transition from the most-decorated Olympian in history to a frustrated golfer trying to enjoy playing the world's greatest golf courses," said Mike McCarley, network president. "Golfers everywhere will be able to relate to his quest to improve his game."
RATINGS: Due to processing issues, the Nielsen company said no viewership estimate was available for NBC's Friday telecast.
UPCOMING: Sunday's music-filled closing ceremony is expected to make a rousing finish for the games. The U.S. men's basketball team's gold medal bid will be aired live across the country, starting at 10 a.m. EDT.
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