London 2012 Basketball: Russia vs. Argentina Full Grades for Top Stars
OK, it's not the Gold medal game, but plenty of stars—and some others—played a part in Russia winning the Bronze. Several former, current and future NBAers participated and showed what they could do, be it good or bad.
Who shined? Who didn't? And who shouldn't even be included on this list? Hint: His defining moment is getting posterized by a now-injured Olympian.
David Blatt, Russia: A
I didn’t want to include coaches on this list, but it’s hard not to give the Framingham, MA native props for the job he did for the Russian squad. Blatt, widely considered one of the best coaches in Europe, took a team not expected to go far and brought them a bronze medal by using soon-to-be-Timberwolf Alexey Shved at the point and getting Andrei Kirilenko to play like the guy once thought to be the cornerstone of the Utah Jazz.
There’s no shame in his overachieving club losing in the semifinals to Spain—a much deeper team with a wealth of current and former NBA talent—either. You wonder if an NBA executive will ever take notice and give Blatt a shot.
He’s certainly made his case.
Andrei Kirilenko, Russia: A-
Admit it: When Kirilenko took the 2011-2012 season off from the NBA, you probably didn’t even realize he was gone. The assumed bridge between the Stockton/Malone era to Utah’s future success never quite panned out.
At one point, he was a defensive whiz with the ability to get to and over the rim, but somewhere along the way, he lost the fire. He didn’t flame out; he simply sneaked out of the room.
After sandwiching 20 points and 8 boards in the Bronze medal game and a 19-and-13 effort against Lithuania around a tough outing vs. the Gasol brothers and Spain, it actually appears as if Minnesota President David Kahn might be getting the hang of things—making another shrewd-looking decision by signing Kirilenko to a two-year contract.
Manu Ginobili, Argentina: B+
True, Argentina didn’t medal and the Golden Generation may have ended, but you can’t really blame Manu. The San Antonio Spur scored 21 points in the final game, shooting 4-for-8 from three-point land and scoring a go-ahead layup with 43 seconds to bring his team back from an 11-point hole.
That followed an 18-point effort in Argentina’s semifinal loss to the United States and a 16-point, 8-rebound performance during an 82-77 win against Brazil. Without that performance, Argentina probably wouldn’t have made it out of the quarters.
Maybe it’s because he didn’t make it to the U.S. until 2002, or because he’s played his entire career with Tim Duncan, but Manu may end up as one of the most underrated players of all time.
Luis Scola, Argentina: B+
Scola is your prototypical B+; he’ll never be a top dog, but you’ll always be glad the solid-if-not-spectacular forward is around. He averaged a shade over 14 points for the final three games and played decently enough all around.
Sounds like a textbook B, no? Yes, but Scola gets bumped up for this quote after a controversial non-call may have cost the Argentineans a chance to medal: “We didn’t lose it in the last play. It’s not the ref’s fault, it was our fault.”
As opposed to his New York-bound teammate Pablo Prigioni (C+, in case you’re wondering) who kicked the substitution clock, Scola is a man.
Alexey Shved, Russia: B
This should really be a B- overall, but the ranking is for the future Timberwolf’s star turn in the bronze medal game against Argentina. After an uneven Olympics, Shved saved his best for last and propelled his country to a surprising medal with 25 points, 7 assists, 5 boards and just one turnover.
The 23-year-old showed his age in his previous games, shooting just 1-for-6 in the loss to Spain and a dreadful 2-for-12 with six assists against four turnovers in the win against Lithuania. Maybe the youngster’s eyes just get wide the bigger the moment.
There haven’t been many of those in Minnesota for some time, so if he’s able to take advantage of his opportunities in the NBA like he did against Argentina, he’ll be rewarded with more than just a medal.
Carlos Delfino, Argentina: B-
Wait, are we at the point where we have to pretend that someone like Delfino, who never was nor ever had a chance at being a household name, is a star? OK, if we must.
Delfino scored 16, 15 and 15 in the three medal games, hitting several open jumpers some of the time—but not as consistently as Argentina needed, either. He’d have a higher grade if only he hadn’t lost his touch (and kept shooting) in the Bronze medal game, shooting 2-for-9 from behind the arc against Russia.
If you don’t got it, you gots to give it up. Especially in a four-point loss.
Timofey Mozgov, Russia: C-
No. No way. I’m completing this list in protest. Just because you hold up a trade for Carmelo Anthony and score 17 points in a victory over Lithuania does NOT make you a “star,” and Mozgov is nowhere near that.
Maybe had he scored more than four combined points in the next two games I’d reconsider. But he didn’t, so the point is moot.