Host country emerges victorious in six-team Olympic tune-up tourney
Serbia & Montenegro Shines in Diamond Ball
From July 31-Aug. 3, six Olympic squads -- Angola, Argentina, Australia, China, Lithuania and Serbia & Montenegro -- played in the Diamond Ball tournament in Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro. The host country won the title, topping Lithuania in the final game. Here's a closer look at how Serbia & Montenegro and the other five teams at the Diamond Ball fared in their recent tune-up tourney.
1st Place: Serbia & Montenegro
Radmanovic is part of a talented Serbia & Montenegro squad.
(Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images)
Beat: China, Australia, Lithuania
Leaders: Dejan Bodiroga (11.7 ppg), Igor Rakocevic (11.3 ppg), Vladimir Radmanovic (9.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Milos Vujanic (9.3 ppg, 8-17 3FG), Nenad Krstic (8.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.7 bpg)
Breakdown: The host country looked very strong in winning the title over Lithuania, and has to be considered one of the gold-medal favorites in Athens. Led by forward Dejan Bodiroga, this is a very deep and talented squad; consider that NBA players Aleksandar Pavlovic and Predrag Drobnjak are roughly the eighth and ninth players on the team's rotation. Further, consider how difficult this team would be to stop if Peja Stojakovic, Vlade Divac, Zeljko Rebraca and Marko Jaric were all dressing in Athens. This is an explosive, athletic team that thrives in international play. They will be tough to beat in Greece.
2nd Place: Lithuania
Beat: Angola, Argentina
Lost to: Serbia & Montenegro
Leaders: Saulius Strombergas (16.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 7-12 3FG), Darius Songaila (12.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Arvydas Macijauskas (11.3 ppg), Sarunas Jasikevicius (6.3 ppg, 6.3 apg)
Breakdown: Lithuania should also contend for a medal in Athens. Led by the outside shooting of Strombergas, the inside play of Songaila, and the heady ball-handling of former University of Maryland star Jasikevicius, this is a balanced squad that has a wealth of international experience. In fact, Serbia & Montenegro coach Zeljko Obradovic went so far as to tell FIBA.com that Lithuania "are the main favorites for the final game in Athens vs. the United States of America."
3rd Place: Argentina
Beat: Angola, China
Lost to: Lithuania
Leaders: Luis Scola (13.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Fabricio Oberto (11.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Andres Nocioni (9.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Alejandro Montecchia (9.3 ppg, 8-17 3FG), Carlos Delfino (8.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 spg), Manu Ginobili (7.3 ppg, 3.0 apg, 2.0 spg)
Breakdown: Like Lithuania, Argentina is a well-balanced team that should also be in the medal hunt in Greece. One of the most encouraging signs for the South American squad was the play of big man Fabricio Oberto. If Oberto can continue to work his post moves inside, he helps round out a balanced attack which includes NBA prospects Scola, Nocioni and Delfino. Ginobili struggled offensively for the Argentinians (shooting 7-for-21 from the field), but his all-around play and defense still make him a formidable player heading into the Olympics.
4th Place: China
Songaila helped lift Lithuania to second place in Belgrade.
(Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)
Lost to: Serbia & Montenegro, Argentina
Leaders: Yao Ming (22.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 2.0 bpg), Li Nan (12.3 ppg, 1.7 spg, 5-15 3FG), Liu Wei (11.7 ppg, 3.0 apg), Zhu Fangyu (9.7 ppg, 7-10 3FG)
Breakdown: China doesn't have a sterling reputation when it comes to international play, but that could change in the Athens Games, thanks in no small part to the play of Yao. Yao was nearly unstoppable in Diamond Ball play, going 20-of-27 from the field, and was named MVP of the tournament. Perhaps equally impressive was the play of guard Liu Wei. Liu hit 13-of-23 field goals and gives China a decent complement to Yao on the perimeter. Liu will be in camp with the Sacramento Kings this fall.
5th Place: Australia
Lost to: China, Serbia & Montenegro
Leaders: Matthew Nielsen (14.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Andrew Bogut (10.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg), Shane Heal (9.7 ppg, 3.3 apg, 9-25 3FG)
Breakdown: For Australia, one of their chief concerns is their relative lack of international experience. "Since the first Diamond Ball tournament, when we beat Yugoslavia in the final, we've lost six players who played about 12 years for our national team," coach Brian Goorjian told FIBA.com. All isn't lost, however, due to the emergence of 26-year-old center Matthew Nielsen, who had 24 points against Yao Ming in Australia's hard-fought loss to China. Nielsen played with the Nuggets this summer. His inside game is complemented by guard Shane Heal, who played with the Spurs last season and the Timberwolves before that.
6th Place: Angola
Lost to: Argentina, Lithuania, Australia
Leaders: Abdel Moussa (10.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.3 spg), Victor Muzadi (7.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Antonio Carvalho (7.3 ppg, 6-13 3FG)
Breakdown: While Angola is a long shot to do much damage in Athens, they did show some promise at the Diamond Ball tournament, especially in their final game against Australia, where the margin of deficit was just six points. "We still have problems in the paint as we don't have enough tall players, but we are improving our performance anyway," Angolan coach Mario Palma told FIBA.com. "Here, we played well against Argentina, Australia, and even Lithuania, so that shows we are on the right track."