Hosts Spain aim to upset under-manned Team USA

Hosts Spain and the rest of the field must believe they finally have a decent shot at knocking off the mighty United States as the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup tips off on Saturday.

Hosts Spain aim to upset under-manned Team USA
Pau Gasol vies for the ball with US player Carmelo Anthony. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP

The United States were clearly the better team at the 2012 Olympics when LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and company knocked off Spain in the final in London.

But at the 2014 World Cup, Spain bring back almost their entire team and are dying to get some revenge against an under-manned US team.

None of that Olympic trio is back for the Americans, who have not lost in their runs to the titles at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics and the 2010 World Championship.

James and Bryant were not expected to play in Spain but the Oklahoma City superstar Durant pulled out of the team just three weeks before the start, citing exhaustion.

In addition to Paul George – who like Durant was expected to start for the Americans in Spain until the Indiana Pacers star broke his leg – US coach Mike Krzyzewski also has seen stars like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard all withdraw for a variety of reasons.

While Krzyzewski still has great players like Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving, it's a US team that is much weaker than past squads.

And Spain have a motivated group which includes brothers Pau and Marc Gasol as well as fellow NBA stalwarts Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio, not to mention Euroleague stars Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Sergio Llull and an ageing but still dangerous Juan Carlos Navarro.

Because of the format of the tournament, Spain and the United States cannot meet until the final – or the third place game – both of which will take place in Madrid.

The tournament runs from August 30 until September 14. 

Spain are drawn into Group A in Granada which also includes 2013 European champions France, Serbia, Brazil, Iran and Egypt – with the teams playing each other in round robin fashion of five games in six days.

The top four teams in each of the four groups advance to the Round of 16.

In the knock-out stages in Madrid, Group A's teams will face the four top sides from Group B, which has Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Philippines, Puerto Rico and Senegal in Sevilla.

Barcelona will host the knock-out stages for the teams in Groups C – United States, Dominican Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Turkey and Ukraine in Bilbao – and D – Angola, Australia, South Korea, Lithuania, Mexico and Slovenia in Gran Canaria.

None of the teams from Groups A and B can face nations from Groups C and D until the final or third place game.

In addition to the United States and Spain, another contender as of earlier this week was Lithuania. But the 2013 European Championship runners-up saw leading point guard Mantas Kalnietis break his collarbone in the team's final warm-up game, ruling him out of the full competition.

Among the other challengers will be France, who will be missing 2013 EuroBasket MVP Tony Parker; Croatia, who took fourth last summer in Europe; perennial European powers Greece and Serbia; South Americans Brazil and Argentina; as well as Australia.

Group A – Granada: Brazil, Egypt, France, Iran, Serbia, Spain

Group B – Seville: Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Senegal

Group C – Bilbao: Dominican Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Turkey, Ukraine, United States

Group D – Gran Canaria: Angola, Australia, South Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Slovenia

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Spain’s greatest-ever basketball player Pau Gasol retires

Double NBA winner and Europe's most successful basketballer Pau Gasol said on Tuesday he had made the "difficult decision" to retire, but at 41 was at ease with his choice.

Spain's greatest-ever basketball player Pau Gasol retires
Spanish player Pau Gasol Saez attends a press conference to announce his retirement, at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)

Gasol, the older brother of recently-released Memphis Grizzlies centre Marc Gasol, won the competition in 2009 and 2010 during his time at the Los Angeles Lakers.

Two years ago, he suffered a foot injury which threatened to end his career earlier than planned.

“It is a difficult decision. As you can imagine, it is difficult, after so many years, but it is a considered decision, you have to change gear a little, and know how to enjoy it,” ex-centre Gasol told reporters at a press conference in Barcelona.

“I wanted to end up playing and enjoying myself, not on crutches and with operations,” he added.

He was a six-time NBA All-Star after being named the league’s Rookie of the Year in 2002 and won his two NBA crowns alongside Kobe Bryant.

Gasol emotionally paid tribute to former Lakers team-mate Bryant, who died in January 2020 in a helicopter crash.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12: Pau Gasol #16 and Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate a play in the second quarter while taking on the Denver Nuggets in Game Seven of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on May 12, 2012 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
Los Angeles Lakers stars Gasol and Bryant celebrate a play during the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Photo: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AFP

“One last word for my friend Kobe Bryant. I would have really liked for him to be here, but it’s not possible,” Gasol said with tears in his eyes.

“Life isn’t fair some times. He taught me how to be a better player, a better leader, I always considered him as a big brother,” he added.

‘The Golden Kids’

For Spain, Gasol, who also had spells with the Grizzlies, the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs and the Milwaukee Bucks, claimed two Olympic silver medals and a bronze as well as three EuroBasket crowns.

He was the leader of his country’s generation nicknamed ‘The Golden Kids’ as he led a side including his sibling as well as former Grizzlies shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro and ex-Portland TrailBlazers small forward Rudy Fernandez to the 2006 FIBA World Cup.

(L-R) Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro react as Spain wins the gold medal of the Eurobasket 2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)
(L-R) Pau Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro react as Spain wins the gold medal of the Eurobasket 2011 in Kaunas on September 18, 2011. Spain defeated France 98-85. AFP PHOTO / JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo by JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP)

The Catalan, standing at 2.16m, is among the continent’s greatest players in the NBA along with German Dirk Nowitzki, Croatian Drazen Petrovic, the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo and Frenchman Tony Parker, who he passed as EuroBasket’s leading scorer in 2017.

His last international appearance came at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo during the quarter-final defeat to the USA.

He finished his club career with a Liga ACB title in Spain in June while with hometown club Barcelona but failed to clinch the EuroLeague.

“I am thankful to all. Having won one more league with Barca,” he said.

Gasol said he did not want to become a coach but indicated that his future still lay within the game he has graced for over 20 years. “Consultant or director… We’ll see. I’ve already started to speak with many NBA teams,” he said.