Together at Last

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A dream Cal fans have had for years is about to come to fruition.

It's nothing too ambitious. It doesn't involve watching the Bears play football on New Year's or basketball in early April. Not even late December or mid-March, for that matter.

Are they asking too much to watch the greatest point guard in Cal history dish to the best forward the Bears have ever had?

If they want to see it at Newell Court, the answer is yes. But at the Olympics this September, former Cal greats Jason Kidd and Shareef Abdur-Rahim will don red, white and blue in lieu of blue and gold to play on the same team for the first time in their careers.

It's a moment that could have come five years ago. If Kidd had stayed at Cal until his senior year, the tandem would have wowed crowds at Harmon in 1995-96, when Abdur-Rahim was a freshman.

But no one who plans to watch the 2000 USA Basketball Senior Men's National Team take on the world in Sydney this fall is complaining.

"As an athletic department, we take a great deal of pride in (Kidd and Abdur-Rahim)," said Bob Driscoll, Cal's executive associate athletic director. "They're part of our family - when they have success, we have success."

This September, Kidd and Abdur-Rahim will represent an even larger family. They are both excited to play for their country at the Olympics for the first time in their young careers - especially since they both grew up watching the 1992 Dream Team.

"The biggest thrill is to be able to represent your country, and being able to watch the Dream Team and always dream about having the opportunity," Kidd said. "It is any kid's dream."

The American squad opens Olympic competition Sept. 17 against China in preliminary round play. The 12-team tournament concludes with the Gold Medal Game Oct. 1 in the Sydney Superdome.

Kidd and Abdur-Rahim earned their spots by establishing themselves as NBA superstars, but even so, they may not start on a team that looks like a Hall of Fame audition.

NBA standouts Ray Allen, Vin Baker, Vince Carter, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Tim Hardaway, Allan Houston, Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton and Steve Smith round out the Team USA roster.

In fact, Abdur-Rahim got the nod only last week, after a broken ankle forced Orlando Magic forward Grant Hill to withdraw from the team. Team USA head coach Rudy Tomjanovich was pleased with the National Team Committee's decision, since the 6-foot-9 forward is a multitalented threat.

"He is an exciting, athletic young player who can play at both forward spots for us," Tomjanovich said. "He can exploit smaller players by posting up and use his quickness to beat bigger players with his driving ability."

Abdur-Rahim left Cal in 1996 after a prolific freshman season. He averaged 21.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game with the Bears, and became the first freshman ever to win Pac-10 Player of the Year honors. He was also named the National Freshman of the Year and to the All-America third team.

After Vancouver selected him third overall in the 1996 NBA Draft, Abdur-Rahim quickly became the Grizzlies' go-to player. He has a career average of 20.9 ppg and 7.9 rpg. Still, Abdur-Rahim has never played in an NBA All-Star Game, and his isolation in bottom-dwelling Vancouver has led him to develop a reputation as one of the best players no one ever sees. The Olympics will be many fans' first exposure to Abdur-Rahim.

"I'm not really concerned with that and haven't been throughout my career," Abdur-Rahim maintained. "This is not something you can get caught up with, yourself and what it can do for me. I'm just looking forward to going in and fitting in with the guys, and doing the best that we can do for the country and try and bring home the gold."

But Abdur-Rahim is looking forward to being part of a winning team, something he hasn't experienced since he was at Cal.

"It's been a while, three, four years, since I've been part of something that was expected to win and win big, so that will be exciting," he said.

Kidd has been no stranger to winning in the NBA. After being traded from the Dallas Mavericks to the Phoenix Suns in 1996, the 6-foot-4 guard hasn't missed the playoffs. Kidd is a three-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA first team selection, and along with Seattle's Payton, is considered the top point guard in the league. His career averages stand at 13.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg and 9.3 assists per game.

In his two years at Cal, Kidd was a first-team All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year in 1994 before he left for the NBA following his sophomore season.

With talent like Kidd and Abdur-Rahim, Team USA is the prohibitive favorite to win the gold. But recently, Australia team captain Andrew Gaze said his team is capable of beating the Americans.

"I think Australia is one of the teams expected to be in competition for the medals," Tomjanovich said. "They're a solid team, and I respect players believing they have a chance to win. That's the way it should be."

Barring a monumental upset, though, the U.S. basketball team will bring home the gold for the third straight Olympics. Cal is ecstatic to be the only school to field two alumni - even if the two alumni spent a combined three years with the Bears - on the national team.

"It speaks to the kind of student athlete we've been able to recruit in the past," Driscoll said. "It sends a message to the kids we're recruiting right now, that they can have a great experience here and go on to bigger and better things."


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