MADRID, September, 2007 -- While the United States and Argentina qualified for the 2008 Olympics at the FIBA Americas tournament in Las Vegas this month, two more teams will receive their invitations to Beijing at Eurobasket 2007 in Madrid, Spain this week and four more will keep their Olympic hopes alive as well.

But Eurobasket is about more than just earning an Olympic berth. If it wasn't, you wouldn't see Jorge Garbajosa playing when his team has already qualified by winning last year's World Championships. This tournament is about playing for your country and the pride that comes along with it.

A host of NBA players are in Madrid, and some of them will be checking in with during the course of the tournament.

Importance of EuroBasket
Posted by Darius Songaila on September 13, 2007, 1:20 p.m. ET

The Importance of Playing in EuroBasket
For myself, there are a lot of different reasons why this tournament is important. I didnít get to play a lot last year with Washington because of the injuries so one part is it is good for me to play a good level of basketball, get ready for the season and get in shape. I donít think you can get a better level of competition during the summer than weíve got right now. Secondly, it is national pride. I am from Lithuania and we are one of the smallest countries in the world. Iíve been involved with the national team since I was a teenager playing on the junior teams and Iíve been on the national team for eight years now. Basketball is the No. 1 sport in the country and that pride, you want to come back and play for your own country and wear those colors. In Europe there may be less than a handful of countries where basketball is the No. 1 sport and Lithuania is one of them. It is like a second religion in Lithuania, so there is a great deal of pride for us.

Qualifying for the Olympics
People in Lithuania now are thinking European championships. If we happen to play in the finals theyíll realize later that it qualifies us for the Olympics next summer. If we win or finish second, weíre not going to have to play in the qualifying tournament and that will be easier on the team. Itís a big deal for us. Weíve been in every Olympics since Lithuania was independent. There was a question poll in Lithuania of what hopes the fans have for the 2008 Olympics and the No. 1 answer was the basketball team. So it is very important.

Basketball Craziness in Lithuania
The fan reaction in Lithuania has been crazy. I have been talking to my mom and my sister after every game. It seems like with every game, the energy of the fans in Lithuania is building up and people are going crazy after every win. I canít imagine what itís like there, but from what I hear from people, everybody is really excited and happy and it gives people something else to do from every day life. They can get away from work and watch basketball and live that basketball atmosphere for a couple of weeks during the summer.

EuroBasket: The European Version of the NBA Finals or NCAA Tournament
We're into the quarterfinals now and our undefeated record doesnít really matter anymore. There are no weak teams left and itís kind of a one game and done situation, similar to the NCAA Tournament. Itís not going to be easy. The fact that we, Lithuania, is the only undefeated team left in the tournament, well, that doesnít really mean a lot.

This tournament kind of has the atmosphere of the NBA Finals, the NCAA Tournament, something like that with the fans and everything. The structure maybe is a little bit different, how you play three games in your group, then three games with combined groups, then quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, but the whole fan atmosphere is like the NBA Playoffs or NCAA Tournament.

Sarunas Jasikevicius Update
Sarunas Jasikevicius is a big part of our team, maybe the biggest part of the team. Once he hurt his groin yesterday against Slovenina, it was a major concern, not just for guys on the team, but for coach and pretty much the whole country of Lithuania with whatís going to happen. Ramunus Siskauskas really stepped up in that game, running the team. He took the point position and did a great job. I think we played pretty well with Sarunas being on the bench. Unfortunately I am not a team doctor to be able to say how well he is feeling and if he'll play versus Croatia. What I do know is that there is nothing major wrong with him. There is just some cramping and stuff like that.

Keys To Success vs. Croatia
We have to rebound the ball and play physical. Most of the teams that we play against have a lot of big guys that play physical. We have to get on the court and do our job of defending them and getting rebounds. I think weíve been doing a great job rebounding. Weíve pretty much won the rebounding battle in every game weíve played. I think that is a big part of our success. It starts out the fastbreak and things like that. That is just part of my job. Go out and play defense, rebound and obviously you have to be able to make shots. At the same time, Iíve had a couple of good games the last couple of outings. Just playing together with the guys like Sarunas and Ramunus, weíve been playing together since 2000 pretty much every summer. You know each other and what to expect from each other and it makes it easier

Spain: The Team to Beat?
Iím not looking past this next game against Croatia since they are responsible for Spainís only loss in the tournament so far, but all the press and everyone around seems to say that Spain is the ďitĒ team, the team to beat, and everyone has them in the finals winning the whole thing. Obviously they are a good team. We got to play against them before the championships a couple of times. The thing with them is that they can explode at every moment. Even though you play evenly with them for three quarters, they can just go off at any time. That is what makes them so dangerous. They are very deep. They are playing at home, they have very good players and they are going to be the team to beat.

It's My Life
Posted by Marco Belinelli on September 11, 2007, 5:10 p.m. ET

This has been very busy summer for me, playing NBA Summer League in Las Vegas to now the European championships in Spain. Playing in Las Vegas gave me a lot of confidence because I played very good in my first game when I scored 37 points. All the games were very important because I know the NBA style of basketball is different than European. In Italy and Europe, it's much different physically and mentally from American basketball. I am a person who likes to work and I think I have to improve. I have to improve my offense and defense. But I like to play. It's my life.

It would be a dream for Italy to win the European Championships. It is very important to play for my country because I am Italian and I want to play with the players on this team like Bargnani, Basile, and Soragna. Bargnani is very good player. Last year he couldn't play with the national team because he was the top overall pick in the draft. Playing for your country is especially important to European players. There is a lot of pride to wear the colors of your country on your uniform. There are so many teams in this tournament that are very good, like Greece, Spain and Lithuania. Some teams have one, two, even five players like Spain, who are playing in the NBA. These players want to play for their country. The Finals MVP Tony Parker is playing for France while the regular season MVP, Dirk Nowitzki, plays for the German National Team. Nowitzki is incredible, now especially, because he is MVP of the NBA. Now he is the top scorer in the European championship.

I started playing on high level for Italy last year in the World Championships in Japan. Playing against the U.S. and LeBron and Wade was my most memorable basketball moment. That game changed my life because I score 25 points. We lost, but that is a game I remember especially. But before last year, I played on Italy's under-20 national team.

In this tournament we haven't played really good. We won only two games against Poland and Turkey. But this team has a great coach, Carlo Recalcati, and for me and the team, it's important to play together. And for European players, it's one of the best experiences you can can have as a basketball player.