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Thomas Not Part of Best in the U.S. : Basketball: As expected, 10-man Olympic squad has Magic, Jordan and Bird--but not Pistons’ star guard.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The United States’ dream team took its first giant step Saturday when the NBA joined the Olympic movement but not without some NBA-style partisan bickering.

As expected, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were named to head a 10-man squad.

The Americans will be overwhelming favorites in Barcelona, prompting someone to ask Jordan: “Are we going dove hunting with a bazooka?”

And Jordan deigned to answer.

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“It could be looked at in that sense,” he said. “I’m part of those shells and that gun, so let’s go get the job done.”

As expected, Detroit’s Isiah Thomas was passed over.

Thomas, who has expressed his anguish for weeks, Saturday called it “a very big disappointment.”

The affair rapidly mushroomed beyond one man’s disappointment.

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Piston General Manager Jack McCloskey protested by resigning his seat on the Olympic selection committee.

“The committee has said to me that Isiah must prove himself again next year (for one of two remaining spots on the squad),” McCloskey wrote in a letter to the committee.

“This is ridiculous because we are penalizing perhaps the greatest small man ever to play this game.”

This was nothing new for McCloskey, who last season hotly criticized the omission of another Piston, Dennis Rodman, from the All-Star game.

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Was McCloskey pursuing his own narrow interest here?

“I’m sorry that Jack felt that way,” said Dave Gavitt, Boston Celtic president, USA Basketball president and the 1980 Olympic coach.

“I understand the sensitivity of his own situation in Detroit, but this is the United States Olympic team. It’s a very special privilege for people to serve that cause in my opinion. I think we’re heartened by the 10 superstars who stepped up and said yes. I have to leave that (question) to Jack.”

Just to prove the NBA’s family feud still lives, new Olympian Scottie Pippen suggested Thomas was left off for bad manners after the Bull-Piston playoff series.

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Said Pippen: “Whatever happened, I feel he brought it upon himself.”

To which Thomas replied to the Flint Journal’s Dean Howe: “Well, I can’t really speak for Scottie Pippen. I don’t know where he’s coming from. I wish the Olympic team a lot of success.”

Thomas has not been named to one of the top two All-NBA teams in four seasons, regularly finishing behind Johnson and John Stockton, the NBA’s four-time defending assist champion, who was chosen for the Olympic team.

Thomas’ friends say Isiah felt he earned his place with a decade of greatness, a la Larry Bird.

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Indeed, Bird missed more than 100 games over the past three seasons, underwent back surgery this summer and acknowledges that his career “is winding down.”

However, Bird was talked into accepting his invitation because of his outside shooting, which is important against European zone defenses, his passing, and past contributions to the game.

Thomas’ close friend, Magic Johnson, supported Isiah but was effusive in defense of Bird.

Said Johnson: “A team wouldn’t be a team without Larry Bird on it.

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“Isiah deserves to be on the team but when I was referring to Larry Bird, it was in terms of what Larry has done for the league, in terms of bringing it where it is today: the TV revenue, the excitement, the crowds.

“Because back before Larry and I came into the league, it was an ‘I’ league in terms of guys just looking for the lead in scoring, not really worrying about passing. And Larry brought that element to the game. He brought the fans back.

“Now Isiah, with his play, deserves to be on the team. That was a choice the selection committee had to make. You got John Stockton or Isiah. But what Isiah has done? Yeah, he deserves to be there. But that’s their choice, their decision.”

Two players will be named later, including one collegian. Louisiana State’s Shaquille O’Neal is considered the front-runner.

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Coach Chuck Daly, calling it “an array of stars,” noted he would only have six days of practice before next June’s American Zone qualifying tournament and another six days before Barcelona.

“Frankly,” Daly said, “that will be the most difficult challenge.”

Frankly, Saturday may have been the most difficult challenge.

Olympic All-Star Team

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The first 10 members of the U.S. basketball team that will compete in the 1992 Summer Games at Barcelona, Spain. At least one amateur will be named to fill one of the remaining two spots.

Player Position Team Charles Barkley Forward Philadelphia 76ers Larry Bird Forward Boston Celtics Patrick Ewing Center New York Knicks Magic Johnson Guard Lakers Michael Jordan Guard Chicago Bulls Karl Malone Forward Utah Jazz Chris Mullin G-F Golden State Warriors Scottie Pippen G-F Chicago Bulls David Robinson Center San Antonio Spurs John Stockton Guard Utah Jazz

Coach: Chuck Daly, Detroit Pistons


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