Allen Iverson, LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire of the U.S. Olympic team were suspended from yesterday's exhibition game in Jacksonville, Fla., against Puerto Rico for showing up late to a pregame team meeting.
Coach Larry Brown's decision brought back memories of the six fractious seasons he spent with Iverson in Philadelphia. Brown left the 76ers after the 2003 season, in large part because the two never fully got along. Earlier this week, both men said they had patched up their once-fractured relationship.
"They broke a team rule and we are a team," Brown said. "They paid the penalty. Nobody wanted to embarrass them, and now we're moving on."
The suspensions left the U.S. team with nine players. One of them, center Emeka Okafor, was hobbled all week with an injured ankle.
Minus the three stars, the U.S. team tipped off its exhibition season with a 96-71 win.
Carmelo Anthony and Carlos Boozer led the Americans with 16 points each. Dwyane Wade had eight assists, and Tim Duncan finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Larry Ayuso scored 19 points for Puerto Rico.
The three suspended players watched the game from the end of the bench. When the suspensions were announced over the public-address system to the sellout crowd, the fans booed, and Brown shot a nasty look over to the press table.
"I was totally embarrassed by the announcement, because it embarrassed those guys, and it was totally uncalled for," Brown said.
Iverson claimed he "couldn't have been more than five minutes late. . . . I'm the captain on the team and to be suspended just for being a couple minutes late just doesn't sit well for me."
Afterward, the U.S. team departed for Germany, where it will continue with workouts and exhibitions until the Olympics. The team's first game in Athens is Aug. 15 against Puerto Rico.
El Guerrouj Wins 1,500 in Belgium
Hicham El Guerrouj of Morroco won the 1,500 meters at the Heusden IAAF Grand Prix II meet in Belgium, finishing in 3 minutes 29.18 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year.
El Guerrouj's return to form comes after he finished eighth in Rome two months ago, a loss that ended his 29-race win streak.
Backley Set to Retire
British javelin thrower Steve Backley, a three-time Olympic medalist and former world record holder, said he will retire after the Olympics. Backley, 35, won silver medals at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and bronze at the 1992 Games.