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Friday, January 23
U.S. to play Olympic tuneups in Germany

By Marc Stein

Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and the rest of Team USA will prepare for the Summer Olympics with two exhibition games in Germany, giving the Dallas Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki at least a small measure of consolation for not being able to join his American counterparts in Athens.

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki and Germany lost to Team USA at the Worlds but finished higher than the U.S.
Call it a sliver.

Nowitzki considers leading his country to the Olympics his foremost basketball dream, but Germany -- one of the favorites at last summer's European Championships in Sweden -- failed to get out of the first round. The early exit, after a third-place finish in the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis, prompted Nowitzki to take an active role in pushing for Team USA's visit.

Italy has been lined up as the third team in the exhibition round-robin, which is scheduled for Aug. 1-4 in Cologne. An official announcement is expected later Friday.

"Nothing can replace going to the Olympics," Nowitzki said. "When we lost in Sweden, it was the low point of my career. But this will be a huge honor for me and a huge thing for German basketball, to have the Dream Team in Germany."

Olympic play in basketball opens Aug. 15 with Team USA facing Puerto Rico.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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