Calf injury could keep Paul Gasol out of (or slow him during) Olympic semifinal vs. USA

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Spain remains the biggest threat to the USA’s gold medal plans in Rio. Don’t take my word for it, ask Mike Krzyzewski and the USA coaching staff. Or just do a head-to-head comparison: The USA beat France by 3, Spain beat them yesterday by 25.

But Spain’s anchor Pau Gasol is battling a calf injury that could keep him out Friday, or more likely just limit him.

Here is what Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo said to the Spanish media in Rio, via Eurohoops.net.

“He is not well, I can not say for sure that he is going to play. We continue with his treatments and the truth is that we needed him right now. We hope his condition to evolve well and at least be ready to help as much as he can his teammates in the game. I can not say anything more right now.”

Part mind game? Likely. I’d be shocked if Gasol didn’t suit up for the biggest game to date in the Olympics. But if he’s limited, that would be big.

Gasol leads Spain — which has rolled Argentina, Lithuania, and France in its last three games — with 17 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting, plus he leads the Olympics averaging 8.7 rebounds a game. He’s dishing out 2.3 assists a game, too.

Gasol’s below-the-rim game is not based on explosive athleticism; it’s about a high hoops IQ and rock-solid fundamentals. Even slowed some, he could be trouble for the USA.

It’s something to watch as the game goes on Friday, tipping off at 2:45 Eastern on NBC Sports Network.