By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In less than three months, Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony will officially become sworn enemies, at least as far as the East River Rivalry is concerned.
However, for this weekend, and over the past several weeks, the Brooklyn Nets' $100 million point guard and the Brooklyn-born Knicks forward have joined forces for a common cause — capturing their second consecutive Olympic gold medal together.
International competition certainly makes for strange bedfellows.
Just ask Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who staged one of the greatest on-court rivalries in college and pro basketball history in the previous century, first in the 1979 NCAA Championship Game and then three times in the NBA Finals. Magic came out on top in all but one of those showdowns — the 1984 NBA Finals — but the duo have emerged from those well-chronicled, heated battles as one another's greatest admirers rather than life-long adversaries.
The story of Magic and Bird also had a shining Olympic moment as both were part of the original 1992 Olympic "Dream Team," which swept through the compeition en route to earning gold in Barcelona two decades ago. That team also featured NBA greats like Michael Jordan, Brooklyn's own Chris Mullin, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and David Robinson.
This year's version of the Dream Team has taken aim not only at its international foes, all six of whom it has vanquished en route to Friday's semifinal showdown with Argentina, but also at the legacy of the '92 squad, widely considered the greatest collection of basketball players ever assembled.
Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers boasted prior to the ongoing London Games that this year's Olympic squad could beat the legendary Barcelona team, eliciting a series of mocking tweets and hearty guffaws from Jordan, Barkley and Magic. Following Wednesday's 119-86 rout of Australia in the quarterfinal round, Team USA stood two wins away from doing their share to remain in the argument with their predecessors from the previous century.
Anthony scored 17 points in 20 minutes, and perhaps more importantly, woke a dormant Bryant, who was held scoreless in the first half before pouring in 20 following a pep talk from the Knicks star at intermission.
"I was on [Bryant] the whole game, though, 'Wake up!' He looked a little sleepy out there," Anthony revealed. "I guess I woke the Mamba up [at halftime] and he responded in that third quarter."
Williams added 18 points — his Olympic high thus far in London — as the Americans geared up for Friday's semifinal rematch with Argentina, whom they bested 126-97 during preliminary round play on Monday.
"We’ve already played them once and had a good test," said Williams of the Argentinians. "They’re probably better now than they were then and so are we. It’ll be a great matchup for us, another great test to see where we are at… the last game before the real fun stuff."
With a win Friday, the U.S. would meet either Spain or Russia in Sunday's gold medal game.
Anthony and Williams, who stood atop the podium together in Beijing after leading the "Redeem Team" to the 2008 Olympic gold medal, have two games left to decide their Olympic fate. After that, the two will be the top players on opposing sides of the bourgeoning Big Apple basketball rivalry for the foreseeable future.
And come Nov. 1 at the Barclays Center, they'll be representing the orange and blue, and black and white, respectively — rather than the red, white and blue.
As for the '92 Dream Teamers, Anthony believe it's impossible to take on history. But certainly well within his and Williams' grasp to create some of their own this weekend.
"We weren’t on that team," he said. "A lot of us were kids around that time, so we don’t try to compare ourselves to that team. We’re doing what we do now and they’ve already did what they did."
Melo and D-Will won't be the only Team USA greats inhabiting the Barclays Center in November.
The nearly complete state-of-the-art arena announced Wednesday that all five gold medalists from the 2012 U.S. Women’s Olympic Gymnastics team will be performing in Downtown Brooklyn on Nov. 18 at 3 p.m. in the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions.
The show will include Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, each of whom won two gold medals at the ongoing Olympics in London. Douglas became the first-ever African-American to capture gold in the prestigious all-around compeition, while Raisman was the first U.S. woman to win individual Olympic gold in the floor exercise.
In addition to the 2012 Women’s U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team, the impressive cast will feature Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Olympic all-around gold medalist.
Tickets are available through Ticketmaster by visiting www.barclayscenter.com or www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.