Even without any Spurs suiting up for Team USA at the Olympics — although Tim “FIBA Sucks” Duncan would certainly look good in red, white and blue, even at his advanced age — there’s still plenty of reasons for San Antonio fans to keep a close eye on the competition.
No fewer than six Spurs will be taking part: Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and newcomer Nando De Colo with France; Manu Ginobili with Argentina; Tiago Splitter with Brazil; and Patty Mills with Australia. Whether or not some of them should be there is a moot point — even with concerns about age and injuries, players like Parker and Ginobili would have had to be forcibly barred from participating.
So Spurs fans have no choice but to enjoy the spectacle and mull the same debate their foreign legion has posed in previous Olympics: Club or country? If it’s the former, here’s a look at each team’s schedule with a brief overview. Must-see viewing is France/Argentina on Tuesday, pitting Parker and Ginobili against one another after so many years together in the NBA.
(For those not familiar with the format, the 12 teams are split into two groups of six, with the top four teams advancing to the tournament stage after playing each other once. The gold medal game is Aug. 12.)
Argentina (Lithuania, Sunday; France, Tuesday; Tunisia, Thursday; Nigeria, Saturday; USA, Aug. 8): If the USA had the Dream Team, Argentina has the so-called “Golden Generation” of Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino, who helped Argentina win the gold medal in 2004 and become the first team to beat Team USA with a full NBA roster at the 2002 World Championships. It’s an old group — average age, 33 — but it came as no surprise that they managed to give U.S. another challenge in their recent exhibition meeting.
France (USA, Sunday; Argentina, Tuesday; Lithuania, Thursday; Tunisia, Saturday; Nigeria, Aug. 8): With Parker and Diaw having long established themselves, the Olympics will afford most Spurs fans with their first real look at the team’s latest addition — swingman Nando De Colo, a fixture with Les Blues since 2009. Especially interesting will be how he matches up with his future NBA contemporaries in Sunday’s opener against Team USA. You can also guarantee Gregg Popovich, expected to be in attendance, will be keeping a close eye on Parker post eye injury.
Brazil (Australia, Sunday; Great Britain, Tuesday; Russia, Thursday; China, Saturday; Spain, Aug. 8): Unlike France and Argentina, Brazil’s lone Spurs representative, Splitter, is more role player than workhorse. He still fills a valuable role, teaming with Nene and Anderson Verejao to form a frontcourt rotation that worries even the mighty Americans. Combined with NBA veteran Leandro Barbosa and point guard Marcelinho Huertas, and coached by Argentine legend Ruben Magnano, it’s easy to see why some pick Brazil as a serious medal candidate.
Australia (Brazil, Sunday; Spain, Tuesday; China, Thursday; Great Britain, Saturday; Russia, Aug. 8): The same cannot be said for the Boomers, who could have a tough time getting out of pool play. While he’s never been a star at the NBA level, Mills has been a mainstay of the national team since he became one of its youngest members in 2007. He averaged 14 points to lead the Boomers at the 08 Olympics. Observant Spurs fans will also recognize Australia’s head coach , a long-time assistant and front office member.