One Key Injury That Is Killing Every Olympic Basketball Team Remaining
Olympic basketball has advanced past pool play, now narrowed down to eight teams and readied for the single-elimination tournament that leads up to the gold medal game on Sunday afternoon.
A few teams have dominated the competition up to this point, and there have been quite a few surprises as well, including Brazil's win over Spain and Australia's win over Russia on the final day of group play.
Still, you can't help but feel like this Olympics has been marred a bit from the number of injuries that happened either leading up to the games, taking players completely out of the competition, or during the Olympic warm-ups and the actual games themselves, which have slowed guys down and hindered their teams.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the biggest player injured, either on the court or sitting back at home, for each team left still playing with that short three-point line.
Australia: Andrew Bogut
With the Boomers showing off effective play in their second straight Olympics, they're given the task of taking down the American team in order to get past the quarterfinals, the round in which they were eliminated in Beijing.
Australia has done a wondrous job of cobbling their team together and playing defense under Brett Brown, and it seems like they've barely missed the most famous Australian in the NBA these days, Andrew Bogut. Bogut is still nursing an ankle injury which held him out of the Olympics.
Whatever Bogut could bring this team on offense would come three-fold on defense, especially because it would mean moving David Anderson to the bench, giving them a rebounding threat there and possibly Aron Baynes over to power forward.
With some sturdier ankles, Bogut could have brought this team an extra win in pool play, helping them avoid the US in the quarterfinals and possibly taken them to the medal stand.
Just imagine if that would have happened and if Kyrie Irving would have decided to play for the Aussie team as well.
Lithuania: Robertas Javtokas
Lithuania has been hurting for some sturdy big men in this tournament. With one guy in the middle capable of stepping forward and playing defense on the pick-and-roll or denying some backdoor cuts here and there, they could have beaten the US team on Saturday.
The problem here is that Robertas Javtokas, the team's starting center and captain, was knocked out of the games with a stress fracture in his foot. The injury left Lithuania with just Jonas Valanciunas as their one true center, and he's proven to be too green to take Javtokas' place.
With Javtokas on the team, they would have a reliable player to dump the ball down to in the post and a guy who could keep the team level when things start to get out of hand. Plus they definitely wouldn't be 2-3 after pool play.
France: Tony Parker
Tony Parker finished pool play tied with Luol Deng and Linas Kleiza as the ninth-highest scorers in this tournament, averaging nearly 16 points. However, you can tell that Parker still isn't shooting the ball as well as he could with those goggles on.
Parker has played into them, that's for sure, but he hasn't played into them well enough for the concern to go away.
While he's playing well on defense and converting on his mid-range jumpers quite consistently, his passes don't seem to be as on target and his three-pointers just don't seem to be finding the twine. Parker's shot less than 30 percent from the closer three-point line and he's seeing them go left and right of the rim, rather than long or short.
A healthy Parker could mean a better French team, but the fact is they've played well with wins over both Argentina and Lithuania.
Brazilian big man Nene missed a portion of the 2012 season with plantar fasciitis, which has apparently flared up over the past week, something that can happen with the common foot injury.
While Nene has tried to play through the pain, it's been obviously hampering him from time-to-time. The big fellow is one of the top rebounders in the tournament, but he has hardly been a part of the Brazilian attack on offense, putting up just over 6 points a game. For comparison sake, he's scored the same number of points as Team USA's 12th man, Anthony Davis.
The injury had the Brazilian team so concerned that Nene even sat out the final game of pool play against Spain, but the boys in green and white took home the win anyway.
Russia: Timofey Mozgov
Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov has played well on the offensive end for Russia, despite recovering from an ankle injury in the weeks leading up to the Olympics.
Mozgov, who tweaked his ankle in an Olympic qualifying tournament in early July, has been one of Russia's top scorers, putting down over 70 percent of his shots. However, a good hunk of credit has to go to the stellar ball movement of Russia and the terrific drive-and-dime game from Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved.
However well he's playing on offense, he's playing poorly on defense. Mozgov is failing to rebound anything that doesn't come within a four-foot radius of his lumbering self and he's not getting up very high any time he jumps.
Even still, Russia has plenty of talent to help Mozgov play to the best of his ability and even mask the slight tweak in his ankle.
Argentina: Torn Sails
While the Argentineans as a whole seem completely healthy, it's hard to argue that they weren't dealt a tough loss on the last day of pool play.
Argentina was never going to be favored against the US, and a win would have been a huge upset, so when they found themselves down by just one point at halftime to a stellar US squad, they were rightly excited.
The second half didn't go as well. A 42-17 third quarter allowed Team USA to cruise to a 29-point win over Manu Ginobili's squad. The sudden burst of dominance really seemed to take the wind out of Argentina's sails as well, their body language shouting disappointment.
Hopefully they'll be able to recover and play well in the quarterfinals against rival Brazil, otherwise they'll be flying home without a medal.
Spain: Juan Carlos Navarro
The Spanish squad continues to be the biggest threat to Team USA, but a few injuries here and there could squash that talk quicker than it started.
Initially Marc Gasol was the big question mark as he has spent the entire Olympics dealing with a left shoulder that's bothered him more often than not.
However, Gasol has played effectively enough and a new Spaniard is dealing with an injury.
This time plantar fasciitis rears it's ugly head again, now against Juan Carlos Navarro. The injury has been so serious for Navarro that he's been forced out of Spain's wins over Australia and Great Britain.
Navarro did play in their final two games, but he put in just three of 11 shots against Russia and one of six against Brazil, both losses.
It's quite a concern for Spain, as Navarro was stellar in the warm-up game at the end of July, slashing and passing with efficiency and scoring 11 points.
Here's hoping he can play up to his ability moving forward.
United States: Dwight Howard
It's hard to say whether or not Dwight Howard would have actually played in the Olympics or not, but if he were to have stayed healthy and ended up on the USA squad it's easy to get the giggles over just how good this team could have been.
Sure, they beat Nigeria by 483 points or something like that, but they have played the last two games too close for comfort for some people and Tyson Chandler really hasn't made himself felt like he did back in the 2010 World Basketball Championships.
Howard might have been bad for this team, potentially slowing down the Mike D'Antoni run-and-gun that has worked so well at times, but he would have been so dominant in the post.
It's useless to wonder what might have been, but when it comes to Howard joining Team USA, what might have been might have been amazing.
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