RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Two losses in two games by a total of three points have the Spanish men’s basketball team in an unenviable, yet somewhat familiar position.
Spain dropped to 0-2 after Tuesday’s 66-65 loss to Brazil, but there’s still a level of optimism in the locker room.
The disappointing start to the Rio Games – losing twice before the medial round – is reminiscent of the London Games. The Spaniards started better in 2012, then lost twice only to rebound and capture the silver.
“Honestly, I don’t like the situation for sure,” Rudy Fernandez said. “We lost the first two games, but I remember in London we lost two games, too.
“I trust in my teammates. … We are very good players. We know the situation we are in. Honestly, we have a chance. We have a chance to win the next three games.”
What’s different this time, however, is a large part of that core team is showing signs of age, roles have changed – or are not here.
Spain has been an international power for a decade with silver medals at the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 London Games, gold in the 2006 world basketball championship, three FIBA EuroBasket titles and four other top -three finishes, but they are facing a transitional period.
“It’s my last Olympics, that’s for sure,” point guard Jose Calderon said. “I don’t know, I think everybody is totally different. I think personal health and situations are different to decide if it’s the last one or not, but it is what it is. I think we’ve been playing two good basketball games and we just couldn’t finish.”
Calderon, 34, is playing in his fourth Olympics, but has played less than two minutes in Rio.
New San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol is reaching the twilight of his career and, at 36 years old, may be playing in his last Olympics.
His brother, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, is not playing in Rio while he rehabs a broken foot.
Fernandez is still playing big minutes, but he hasn’t been knocking down jump shots like he did as player that logged four NBA seasons. He’s just 1 for 7 from the arc in Rio.
There are six players on the team born in or before 1986 and just three who were on the team for the Beijing Games. Younger players like Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotic and Willy Hernangomez seem to be the future of the team.
While still optimistic, Spain has clearly missed Marc Gasol, a two-time NBA All-Star and 2012-13 Defensive Player of the Year. Brazil was physical with the Spanish team and got the go-ahead basket on a follow shot by Marcus Marquinhos with 5.5 seconds left.
Spain lost 72-70 to Croatia in its opener when Dario Saric blocked Pau Gasol’s point-blank shot at the buzzer.
“Well it could sound like an excuse if we talk about Marc tonight,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. “Of course. We became a special team especially when we found a way to have Marc and Pau play together a few years ago. Unfortunately in the last couple of years, this was not possible because Marc was out.
“So we are a good normal team and we have to find a way to compete like we are doing and to win without Marc. We are happy about the players we have. There’s no point to regret or to double-guess today.”
Scariolo called the situation frustrating, but lamented that they could easily be 2-0. The Spanish team plays Nigeria, Lithuania and Argentina in the final three games of pool play.
“I would call it challenging,” Scariolo said. “Challenging, not bad because this is not bad until you’re out and we are still very in. For how our training camp went, it shows that we miss some fluidity in our offensive game. Our shooting percentages have been so far really low, even free throws tonight. Which is not usual.
“Of course we would have liked to be 2-0 instead of 0-2, but we lost by two with a block against in the very last second and by one today. So we cannot make a long speech about losing when you lose” by such a small margin.