NBA stars looking for revenge

Beijing (AFP) – Revenge is on the minds of the US National Basketball Association stars in today’s Olympic match-up against Greece, the only team to defeat the Americans since the 2004 Olympics. The Greeks ran their pick-and-roll attack to perfection to defeat the US 101-95 in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Championship in Japan and the team, trying to reclaim US supremacy in the sport, has ached for a rematch. «Since we left Japan it has been circled on my calendar,» said US forward Carmelo Anthony. «We get a chance to redeem ourselves. Everybody is excited. Everybody can’t wait. This is going to be our first test. «It’s getting on two years now and we haven’t forgotten. We are really looking forward to playing them.» NBA scoring champion LeBron James, Miami playmaker Dwyane Wade, New Orleans star Chris Paul, Toronto’s Chris Bosh and Anthony were among those on the US squad that was beaten by Greece and are hungry for payback. «Yeah, we want to get them back. The team that loses never forgets. Ever,» Bosh said. «They beat us. It’s a bad feeling. We’re looking to come out and get our revenge.» NBA stars feel they have a score to settle. «We definitely feel like we owe them,» Paul said. «It’s going to be a very emotional game.» Stunned The Greeks feature no NBA talent but have worked together for years and use superior teamwork to frustrate the elite US players. «Basketball is such a global sport, you really don’t have to have NBA players,» Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant said. «We’re looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity to see how much we’ve improved since we last played them.» James has not forgotten how stunned he and his teammates were after the loss which led to a third-place finish. «It gave us a new appreciation for international basketball,» he said. «It’s going to be exciting. It’s the team that beat us in 2006, so we are looking forward to the challenge.» Handling Greek pressure and offensive schemes will be the big test for NBA players who seldom see such systems as the pick and roll run so well so often. «It’s the only play they ran and they ran it to perfection, so we don’t expect them to do anything different come Thursday,» US guard Jason Kidd said. The Greek players are older and have been together longer, but the US talent has come of age in the past two years. «We were really young and I think a lot of us have grown and matured since then. We’ve gotten a lot stronger,» Anthony said. «We have to stay focused, stay calm and keep our heads. They are going to be very emotional, and we just need to play through that. They’ve been playing together for a long time and they know how to play the game.» Also, Greek players are not the mystery they were to the Americans in 2006. «I wouldn’t say we overlooked them. We didn’t know much about them,» said Anthony. «We didn’t know what to expect. By the time we realized we had to make some adjustments, the game was over and we lost the game. «Now we have been working on it for the last two years. I think we are much improved in defending the pick and roll now. I think that Greece game two years ago opened up our eyes and showed us some things that we had to work on. The preliminary round contest will be the feature attraction of a Group B lineup that includes China against Angola and world champion Spain against Germany. Group A sees Australia meet Iran, Russia play Lithuania and defending champion Argentina against Croatia.