This was a punch to the gut to Spain.
Everyone expected a USA vs. Spain gold medal showdown at the World Cup — and this year Spain thought they had a real shot. They brought their “A” team (Pau Gaol had played like a tournament MVP, there was Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navaro, Rudy Fernandez and so on), plus they were playing on their home soil in front of raucous fans. They were 6-0 having win their games by an average of 26.5 points a contest. They thought this was their year to win it all.
Then they lost to France, 65-52. France owned the paint. The Spanish offense fell apart up against a good defensive plan (save for Pau Gasol who had another strong game). Spain couldn’t hit their threes, they played isolation basketball too much. They couldn’t get key defensive stops when needed late.
All of it left new Chicago Bull Pau Gasol, 34, wondering if he would play for the Spanish national team again, he told the New York Times.
“You never know when it is your last game or your last tournament,” Gasol told reporters after the 65-52 loss.
“I would like to play until I am 50 but I doubt I will. It is an honor to play for my country but you never know…We have great young players coming through and I am sure that we will have a strong side for the future,” said the 34-year-old.
“It is a painful defeat. We had big hopes and up until now had been playing very well.… I am proud of the team and my team-mates. It reminds me of Athens 2004 (Olympics) when we won all the games and we lost in the quarter-finals. It is very painful but it is part of sport.”
Pau has played a lot for his national team over the years, but the Bulls are primed for a deep playoff run next season and you have to wonder if Pau wants to suit up next summer to play in EuroBasket. Without him Spain should still qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, will Gasol play there pushing age 36?
I somehow doubt Gasol, who loves playing for Spain is done in the red jersey of España. But at this age, with the long grinds of the NBA season wearing on his body more, he’s going to really pick his spots. There may be one more tournament in him. At most.
Gasol is too intellectual to make big decisions after an emotional loss like this one. That’s not how he’s wired. But that thoughtful side of him also knows this run is coming to an end. Soon. Not just for him but for this group, this golden age of Spanish basketball.
Which is another reason this loss stings.