pcloudy.png
Saturday July 31st, 2021 9:11AM

Repeat? Spain reigned, US upset last time Japan hosted hoops

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

When major international basketball last came to the Tokyo area, the U.S. sent LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

All great players.

Just not good enough.

“We lost,” Paul said.

The 2006 world championship was perhaps the last truly wide-open international basketball event. Argentina arrived as the Olympic champion and Spain left as the world champion, the last time for a long while anyone other than the U.S. would hold either title.

It’s where Marc Gasol’s career would take off and where a devastated Mike Krzyzewski contemplated his ending — as the U.S. coach, anyway, after what would be his lone loss.

Even now, 15 years later, players can still recall certain moments as if they happened only 15 minutes earlier.

“I think it was a very good tournament,” Argentina’s Luis Scola said, adding there were “good memories” for his basketball-loving country.

And the Argentines didn’t even win a medal.

The Olympic tournament that begins Sunday in Saitama — about 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Tokyo — has some of the same feel as those worlds. The U.S. has the best individual talent, though maybe not the best team. Spain and Argentina are both formidable, just as they were back then when they played a thrilling semifinal at Saitama Super Arena.

The Spanish won that night, then beat the Argentines again in 2019 in the final to win a second world title. Ricky Rubio was MVP of the 2019 tournament, a star for his country who was too young for his chance to dance at center court with his teammates in 2006.

“It was special,” the Minnesota Timberwolves guard said. “It was special for Spain because it was a generation that was trying to win gold a couple years before in the Olympics and then they got beat by the USA team (in the quarterfinals).

“It was a great tournament all around, with the semifinal against Argentina was one of the best games I’ve ever seen and then the final was just, like, amazing.”

Games like those — along with Greece’s 101-95 victory over the U.S. in the semifinals, unheralded Nigeria nearly knocking off Dirk Nowitzki and Germany, and an exhausted Yao Ming keeping China in a game against Slovenia long enough for his team to win on a buzzer-beater and advance to the knockout round — gave the late-summer event a March Madness feel.

“The 2006 world championships were loaded with talent!” said Washington Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard, who was at the event and said it had “amazing coaches and players from top to bottom.”

Slovenia, with NBA superstar Luka Doncic, and a Nigerian team that beat the U.S. in exhibition play will be back as part of this tournament in Saitama.

The U.S. doesn’t remember the last one so fondly.

In the first tournament after Jerry Colangelo took over the USA Basketball program following the Americans’ third-place finish in the 2004 Olympics, the U.S. stormed to the semifinals without a loss and had a double-digit lead against Greece in the first half. The Greeks turned the game around with sensational shooting in the second and third quarters, leaving the U.S. without a gold medal in a major event since the 2000 Olympics.

“The worst day of my life in coaching,” Krzyzewski said. “The worst day. I wanted to end it, that’s it.”

He stopped on his walk back to the locker room to apologize to Colangelo, who wouldn’t hear of it.

“I said, ‘Coach, come on.’ I said, ‘Look, I’m as unhappy as you are. There’s no apology. This is a collective thing,’” Colangelo said.

In the other semifinal, Spain edged Argentina 75-74 when Andres Nocioni missed a 3-pointer from the corner on the game’s final shot.

“A great look from a great player who shoots very well from that position. It didn’t go in,” Scola said. “We could’ve won or at least been in the final, but I felt it was very good memories for our country in basketball. I think we did very well there.”

Tournament MVP Pau Gasol broke his foot in that game and missed the final, but younger brother Marc came off the bench to cap his debut with the national team as Spain crushed Greece 70-47.

The U.S. bounced back from its loss to Greece to beat Argentina for bronze, but that was little consolation. Colangelo said he didn’t even watch the tape of the loss for about a year and a half.

Once he did, it was clear what the Americans needed: bigger guards to defend the pick-and-rolls they had been punished by. With Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd as the starting guards in the 2008 Olympics, the U.S. routed Greece in the rematch and won gold as part of a winning streak under Krzyzewski that would last the next decade.

“It took some time for us all to get over that, but we learned a great deal about the international game and how our players adapted or didn’t,” Colangelo said. “It was a learning experience for sure.”

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/Olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Sports, Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Basketball
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Repeat? Spain reigned, US upset last time Japan hosted hoops
Major international basketball is back in the Tokyo area for the first time since a memorable world championship in 2006
10:32AM ( 55 minutes ago )
US women stunned by Sweden at Olympics
Stina Blackstenius scored a pair of goals and the Swedes stunned the United States at the Olympics with a 3-0 victory Wednesday in the women’s soccer tournament...
8:34AM ( 2 hours ago )
Two-a-Days: Tigers look to replace top two rushers
The Tigers sport a new coach for the first time in nine years. But new head man Mark Hollars, who came over from North Cobb Christian in Kennesaw, is no stranger to the Commerce tradition of winning, and its patented triple-option offense...
8:04AM ( 3 hours ago )
Sports
A small victory: Used-car prices slip from dizzy heights
For months, anyone who wandered onto a dealer lot to look for a used car could be forgiven for doing a double take — and then wandering right off the lot
11:15AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Belgian flood tragedy makes for subdued national day
The floods tragedy in Belgium which left at least 31 dead combined with the year-long COVID-19 pandemic is making for a subdued celebration of Belgium’s national day
10:57AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Tunisia's president orders military to manage virus crisis
Tunisia’s president has ordered the military to take over management of the national COVID-19 pandemic response
10:50AM ( 37 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Tokyo Games boast equal gender participation for first time
The Tokyo Games have 18 new events this year as part of a push toward gender equity
10:05AM ( 1 hour ago )
Let the fashion policing begin on opening day of Tokyo Games
Let the fashion policing begin
9:58AM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: South African firm to produce Pfizer vaccine
A South African firm will begin producing the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the first time the shot will be produced in Africa, Pfizer announced Wednesday
9:55AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Sports
Antetokounmpo caps extraordinary postseason as Finals MVP
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo was named NBA Finals MVP
6:24AM ( 5 hours ago )
For Suns, Paul's feel-good Finals story ends in frustration
Chris Paul’s feel-good story with the Phoenix Suns was denied the happy ending he craved
12:01AM ( 11 hours ago )
Oakland OKs terms for $12B ballpark but A's aren't happy
The Oakland City Council has approved preliminary terms for a new $12 billion waterfront ballpark project for the Oakland Athletics
8:33PM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Online Basketball
US women stunned by Sweden at Olympics
Stina Blackstenius scored a pair of goals and the Swedes stunned the United States at the Olympics with a 3-0 victory Wednesday in the women’s soccer tournament...
By Annie M. Peterson AP Sports Writer
8:34AM ( 2 hours ago )
Two-a-Days: Tigers look to replace top two rushers
The Tigers sport a new coach for the first time in nine years. But new head man Mark Hollars, who came over from North Cobb Christian in Kennesaw, is no stranger to the Commerce tradition of winning, and its patented triple-option offense...
By Jeff Hart | Video by Seth Chapman
8:04AM ( 3 hours ago )
Davenport wins CMH Diamond Nationals at Lucas Oil
Jonathan Davenport picked up his third career CMH Diamond Nationals win on Saturday Night at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri. The Blairsville, Georgia speedster...
By Series PR
7:57AM ( 3 hours ago )
2021 Olympics Wednesday notebook
USA Basketball expects to have its full 12-man roster available for Sunday’s matchup against France
7:28AM ( 4 hours ago )
Bucks' 50-year wait ends with a title behind 50 from Giannis
Giannis Antetokounmpo capped one of the greatest NBA Finals ever with 50 points as the Milwaukee Bucks won their first championship in 50 years
1:28AM ( 10 hours ago )