Questions Raised During the Spain vs USA Olympic Gold Medal Final

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Questions Raised During the Spain vs USA Olympic Gold Medal Final

Sunday morning at 4:30 eastern time I, along with anyone dedicated enough to stay up, let out a satisfied sigh of relief as USA battled to reclaiming our No. 1 spot in the basketball world.  They struggled at times, but in the end there was never any doubt that America was the best team on the planet.

As the game went on there was passion, there was fire, and there was the determination and will to win that had been missing from USA basketball during the 2004 and 2006 debacles. 

Critics can attempt to tear down the accomplishment by saying they should have won. In the end, the USA basketball team overcame more pressure than any other competitor in the 29th Olympiad.

Yes, Phelps wanted to win eight golds.

Yes, Usain Bolt wanted to break Michael Johnson's record.

But know this. If Phelps had only won two golds, a silver, and five bronzes, and Usain Bolt won gold with no records, they both still would've come out of the Olympics as heroes, albeit to a lesser degree.

On the flip side of that coin is Team USA:

“I can't go back home to North Carolina without it.”

These are the words of USA point guard Chris Paul, sentiments echoed by the entire USA roster and coaching staff.  Winning a silver would've been devastating to them, and the public massacre of Coach K, Kobe, Lebron, and company by the media would've been much worse.

There will be no more Le-Bronze talk, and for the moment it seems that all is right in the basketball universe.

Or is it?

Although I know college football season is upon us watching the gold medal game pushed my mind ahead to the coming NBA season and tons of questions rolled through my head about the ramifications of this game on the upcoming season.

Will Pau Gasol keep that attitude?

He played with fire in Beijing.  Pau was chippy, he was vocal, and he was without a doubt a leader on that Spanish national team.  From pushing Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh to gain position down low to bowing up against Carmelo Anthony, the eldest Gasol showed a range of emotions that he's largely lacked in his Los Angeles and Memphis stints.

In short, Gasol's Olympic play was the antithesis of his NBA game.  He lived on the low block, snatching rebounds, dunking over people, and being an overall physical presence at both ends of the court.  Pau didn't shy from contact, walk from confrontation, or play his normal role of matador to the rim. 

Let's hope the seven-foot Spaniard can keep this edge when he steps on to the court for the LA Lakers.

How good is Portland going to be this season?

Defensive assistant Nate McMillan worked on a staff with Coach K, Jim Boeheim, and offensive whiz Mike D'Antonio.  He's now spent his summer game planning with and picking the brains of two hall of fame coaches and one fast rising offensive guru. NBA Northwest, take note.

The young team also looks to add college standouts Greg Oden and Jerryd Bayless to their rotation of quality players Joel Pryzbilla, Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge.  They've got a great young nucleus with these players sitting there for Nate McMillan, but then enters Spanish newcomer Rudy Fernandez.

The wing from Spain put all his skills on display in scoring 22 points to keep the Spanish team in the game.  He broke down Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, and Derron Williams with his dribble drives to the lane en route to dropping his floaters over the waiting USA big men. 

The future Blazer was also responsible for the most spectacular play of the game when he slipped past a gambling Bryant and took the ball to the rack and dunked over Dwight Howard.

Portland's prospects look ridiculously promising with the massive influx of talent over the last couple of seasons. Rudy Fernandez will only serve to sweeten the pot.

Is Jason Kidd officially ready for the senior circuit?

Watching one of the greatest point guards of all time in the Olympics was difficult.  Watching him get abused by the Spanish guards was simply painful.  Kidd was slow, he was old, and he was the least effective he's been in his career. 

Though he was a leader who brought the team together, his game play left him out of the rotation for much of the games crucial moments. Instead, K turned to the younger, quicker Chris Paul and Derron Williams. 

Once a reliable defender and a capable offensive player, Kidd looked surprisingly average and worn out as he struggled to stay in front of Ricky Rubio.  The Dallas Mavericks may be in for a long season with Kidd at the helm, especially with an extra month of games and global travel on his already aging legs.

Will Ricky Rubio be the prize of the 2010 NBA draft?

We all know about the free agency prospects for 2010 and the big money that is going to be fired around the NBA during that summer less than two years away, but the draft itself is a mystery.

Fill out your number one spot now with Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio.  As the NBA trends toward becoming a guards league, Ricky Rubio is the best point guard not currently on an NBA roster. 

The 17-year-old who, as Mike Breen repeatedly let us know, idolizes Chris Paul and Jason Kidd, was stellar in his Olympic debut.

For a kid he was poised, he was calm, and he wasn't intimidated playing against a legendary point guard in Kidd and the NBA's premier point guard Chris Paul.  Several times Rubio's ball-handling skills and quickness got him to the lane, scooting past Kobe, Paul, and Derron Williams setting up feeds to teammates for open looks at the basket.

Is there any doubt that Kobe is the greatest on the planet?

Kobe Bryant didn't play very well all game Sunday, but he played great when the chips were down.  While the US struggled to create open looks and get points on the board in the fourth quarter Kobe Bryant did what we've seen him do countless times in the NBA, call for the ball and make good things happen.

During a stretch in the fourth he scored on a contested jump shot in the lane, got into the lane and kicked the ball out for a three and then found Dwight Howard in the lane for an easy basket to stretch the US lead to a comfortable nine points.

Kobe, remember, has won an NBA MVP with torn ligaments in his right pinkie finger and now he's won his first gold medal.  He is, simply put, a spectacularly gifted and doggedly determined player. 

 

This NBA season is going to be exciting, and thanks to the Olympics we got a taste of just how special things are going to be.

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