Argentina Olympic Basketball Team Gives Team USA Their Toughest Foe
Team USA is the favorite to win the Men's Olympic Basketball Tournament. They are the reigning gold medalists, and every player on their roster currently plays in the NBA. They are the only team in this tournament who can make that claim.
But there will be challenges along the way while navigating a deep field. Team USA's biggest challenge will come from its nemesis, Argentina. These two rivals will meet on Monday, August 6 on the last day of group play. Hopefully, for the sake of basketball fans around the world, that will not be the only time this pair of basketball superpowers face each other at the London Olympics.
Here are five reasons why Argentina poses the toughest test for Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
5. NBA Experience
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Argentina has four current NBA players on their roster: Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola (pictured), Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni. A fifth player, Pablo Prigioni, was recently signed by the New York Knicks.
Ginobili, Scola, Delfino and Nocioni have a combined 30 years of NBA experience between them. Only Team USA and Team France have more cumulative NBA experience on their rosters among the teams in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Throughout their professional careers, these four Argentinian players have honed their skills against the best basketball players in the world. Now they can showcase their skills on a global stage, to the detriment of the other nations present. Team USA will not be spared from facing the best of Argentina's world-class talent.
4. International Experience
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Eight of the 12 players on the Argentina roster won bronze for their country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
And five players on this team won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, upsetting Team USA along the way.
Argentina's roster also includes four players who participated in the 2002 FIBA World Championship in Indianapolis. That team upset the United States on the way to the silver medal. It marked the first time since NBA players began playing for the national team that Team USA failed to win a gold medal at a major international competition.
Since 2000, Argentina has won three medals at the Summer Olympics and FIBA World Championship combined. Only the United States, with five, has won more combined medals at the two competitions in the same period.
Argentina knows how to play basketball at the international level, and they know how to win.
3. Know Your Enemy
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With the NBA experience on the Argentine roster comes the history of doing battle against their Team USA opponents while in the NBA.
In the case of some players, such as Andres Nocioni against Carmelo Anthony (pictured), they may have the experience of only a few games to draw from when they face their American counterparts in London.
But other players have many more games against certain opponents to recall from their memories.
Manu Ginobili has played his entire career with the San Antonio Spurs, in the same conference as Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. The two guards have squared off against each other countless times, in both the regular season and postseason.
Forward Luis Scola has also played his entire NBA career with one team, the Houston Rockets of the Western Conference. The Rockets play in the same division as the Oklahoma City Thunder, so Luis is well acquainted with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden of Team USA.
This edition of Team Argentina knows they can hang with Team USA. They narrowly lost to the Americans on July 22 in Barcelona, in one of the last Olympic tune-ups for both teams.
The current NBA players on Argentina's roster can use their knowledge of their NBA brethren to create an advantage when they face Team USA in the Olympics.
2. Revenge Best Served Gold
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Argentina and Team USA have met in the medal round of each of the last two Summer Olympics.
The winner of that game went on to win the gold medal. The loser settled for the bronze.
Team USA defeated Argentina in the semifinals at Beijing, and restored themselves as the rightful owner of Olympic basketball gold by defeating Spain in the gold medal game. Argentina won the bronze.
The American victory in Beijing was revenge for an historic defeat they suffered at the hands of Argentina in Athens in 2004. Argentina defeated the U.S. team, also in the semifinals, and went on to win the gold medal against Italy while Team USA settled for bronze. It was the first time since NBA players began playing in the Olympics in 1992 that the American team did not win the gold medal.
Argentina will look to continue this trend and once again stand at the top of the podium during the medal ceremony in London.
1. No Pressure
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Team USA is under tremendous pressure to not only repeat as gold medalists but also to equal the precedent established by the original Dream Team, whose 20th anniversary is this year.
But Argentina is under no such pressure. They have fewer NBA players on their roster, won bronze at the last Olympics and not gold, and are not considered the odds-on favorite to win this tournament.
It's scary when a team good enough to win has nothing to lose.