2008 Beijing Primer
Posted Jul 22 2008 2:49PM
SECAUCUS, NJ, July 22, 2008 -- Few NBA players win an NBA title. Even fewer win Olympic gold. Only 14 current NBA players have an Olympic gold medal (Can you name them? Answers at the end of the story.) and a couple of them might not be in the NBA come October. So, to say that the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing are a big deal is an understatement.
For the other 11 countries, it's about proving that they belong and that there's more to basketball than just having the best talent.
The men's basketball competition in Beijing gets started on Aug. 10, and runs every even-numbered day through the medal games on Aug. 24. It will be an intense two weeks for sure. And here's a primer to get you ready...
What's the Format of the Competition?
Like all FIBA events, the Olympics starts with a round-robin preliminary round. Each team will play the other five teams in their group once. The preliminary round takes place from Aug. 10-18. After those five games, the top four teams in each group advance to the quarterfinals and the bottom two are eliminated.
After that, it's a single-elimination (except that there's a third-place game for the bronze medal), eight-team tournament. The quarterfinals take place on Aug. 20, the semifinals on Aug. 22 and the medal games on Sunday, Aug. 24.
Who's Good?It's safe to say that there are four favorites: Argentina, Greece, Spain and the United States. Any one of these teams can win the Gold, but at least one of them will go home without a medal.
Argentina is the defending Olympic champion with several NBA players on their roster. Manu Ginobili, recovering from a sprained left ankle, is expected to play, and Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola and Fabricio Oberto give the Argentines a tough frontline.
Greece won silver at the 2006 World Championships and just cruised through the Olympic Qualifying Tournament last week. While they don't have any current NBA players on their roster, they play brilliant team basketball and are lead by Theo Papaloukas, the best playmaker in Europe.
Spain is the reigning World Champion. They are led by Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro, but they're as deep as any team other than the United States. Jose Calderon joins Navarro in the backcourt and is backed up by 17-year old sensation, Ricky Rubio. They have new Trail Blazer Rudy Fernandez at the wing, and Gasol is joined by his brother Marc and Jorge Garbajosa up front.
With Kobe Bryant in the fold, the United States may have their strongest squad since the '92 Dream Team. Jason Kidd is 38-0 in international competition, LeBron James now has three years of FIBA basketball under his belt, and Carmelo Anthony has been the USA's most consistent player over the last two years. Up front, no country can match the size and strength of Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh.
Who Else Has a Shot?Almost every other team in the draw is solid and has a chance to make some noise. No team, other than perhaps Iran, should be taken lightly, and no game is a gimme.
China has the homecourt advantage. Obviously, these games are huge for the country and for its players. That's why Yao Ming is back on the court after surgery on his left foot in March. These games could also be a coming out party of sorts for Yi Jianlian. He had a fairly low-key rookie season in Milwaukee and should see more playing time in New Jersey this coming season, but he can really make a mark on the world stage with a strong performance in the Olympics.
With Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman, Germany has a puncher's chance for sure. They qualified by finishing third in the Qualifying Tournament, and they shot better than 50 percent from the floor in their five games in Athens, with Nowitzki averaging 26.6 points and Kaman averaging close to a double-double.
Australia, with Andrew Bogut, played a classic game against Greece in the preliminary round of the 2006 World Championships. Russia, led by tourney MVP Andrei Kirilenko, won last year's European title with a surprise, one-point victory over Spain. And Croatia and Lithuania have both had international success in years past.
The top four teams we listed above, even though three of them are in the same group, shouldn't have any issues advancing to the quarterfinals. But once they get there, they're in danger of going down at any point. And one loss takes you out.
What Does Team USA Need to Do to Win?When you've got several great teams and a one-and-done format, anything can happen. But here are three keys to help the Americans minimize the chances of that anything sending them home early:
1. Defense, defense, defense
2. Make perimeter shots
3. Know your opponent
What NBA Players are Participating?We know the 12 members of Team USA. Here's the list on other rosters as they stand now (last-minute changes can be made in case of injury):
Including the United States' squad, 28 NBA players representing 19 different NBA teams will be participating in the Olympics. Seven NBA teams have two representatives, while the Utah Jazz have three (Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams).
Current NBA gold medalists: USA: Grant Hill, Suns ('96); Shaquille O'Neal, Suns (96); Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Kings ('00); Antonio McDyess, Pistons ('00); Ray Allen, Celtics ('00); Vince Carter, Nets ('00), Kevin Garnett, Celtics ('00); Jason Kidd, Mavericks ('00); Alonzo Mourning, Heat ('00); Argentina (all '04): Walter Herrmann, Fabricio Oberto, Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni