Though there are a number of competitive teams partaking in this summer’s FIBA World Championships, Spain was understandably considered the best possible candidate to upset the Americans. Those chances have dwindled significantly with Pau Gasol’s announcement that he will miss this summer’s tournament in order to rest for next season. From Janis Carr of the O.C. Register:
Gasol said on his website that he will not help Spain defend its
title because doctors say he needs a rest and “present circumstances
advise against my participation” in the championship that will be held
in Turkey from Aug. 29-Sept. 12.
“This year I have suffered two major muscle injuries, the first in
my career, and I firmly believe it is time to rest,” Gasol said on his
site. “I think the best is to choose an appropriate time to rest first
than your body decides for you at the most inopportune time.”
The Americans are having some personnel issues, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and now Dwight Howard wavering in their commitment to the program for a variety of reasons. It’s clear that the glitz, glam, exposure, and marketing opportunities of the Olympic Games mean far more to these stars than a comparatively low-profile event like the World Championships. That could open the door for even a Pau-less Spain team to give Team USA some trouble, but a lot of that depends on which other American stars participate.
Regardless, this is a huge blow for Spain. Whereas they were previously seen as a lock for the final round, they’ll now run a gauntlet of teams that could pose a significant threat. Marc Gasol can still give them the force they need in the middle, but Pau’s just on a different level than Marc, talent-wise.
Team USA may be able to compensate for the loss of a LeBron James or a Dwyane Wade with some the incredible depth in the program, but most national teams (Spain included) don’t have that luxury. Marc’s presence will help, but even he isn’t good enough to lock in Spain as the second best team in the tournament. They could get there and probably will, but things just got much more difficult for the Spanish national team.