A gold medal around his neck would mean more to Clyde Drexler than even an NBA title. Not that the latest member of the U.S. Olympic team is looking past the playoffs.
“There would be nothing better than to win an NBA championship and then go to Barcelona and win the gold medal,” said Drexler, the star guard of the Portland Trail Blazers who, along with Duke’s Christian Laettner--the only college player--was added to the U.S. Olympic team on Tuesday. “That would be a great, great season.
“I think going for the gold medal for your country has to take precedence over an NBA championship at this time. I think, of course, an NBA championship is our goal now. I think the ultimate goal is to win a gold medal for your country.”
Drexler and Laettner were the final two players selected for the first U.S. Olympic squad with NBA players. Laettner, who led Duke to the last two national titles, has verbally committed to playing at Barcelona. Drexler, whose Trail Blazers are one victory from the Western Conference finals, accepted his invitation Monday.
“I was told right before the game yesterday and I was pretty happy,” said the 6-foot-6 guard, who averaged 25 points and 6.7 assists this season. “At the same time, I had to put it in the back of my mind and go out and play, really concentrate on the Phoenix Suns.”
The 10 NBA players named last year are Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin and David Robinson.
“We’ve never been on a level playing field with the rest of the world,” said Dave Gavitt, president of USA Basketball. “There’s rules we are not familiar with, and they have had all of their best eligible and we had the best of our 18- to 22-year-old players available.
“I don’t think anyone can argue that the greatest players in the world play in the NBA, and now the USA will have equality in that all of our citizens are eligible to represent the USA in the Olympics.”
The team will begin practicing at San Diego in June and will participate in the Tournament of the Americas at Portland, Ore., from June 27-July 5.