BY MATT CAPUTO
It’s been 24-years since Spain salvaged a silver medal against Michael Jordan and Team USA at the ’84 Olympics. Today, It’s hard not to notice how stacked the Spanish national team is. Besides Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon, the squad from Spain will feature several current, former and future NBA players. Having earned a gold medal run at the 2006 FIBA World Championships and a silver medal in the 2007’s Eurobasket competition, the Spanish are in position to knock-off a slumping squad of Americans.
Though the games have yet to begin – if Spain looks as good on the court as they do on paper – you shouldn’t be surprised if they are an early front-runner. With that, here’s a closer look at the 2008 Spanish Olympic team roster.
Gasol, Pau / Los Angeles Lakers*
Coming off his first trip to the NBA’s gold medal games, Gasol should be good and stretched for a similar run in the Olympics.
Fernández, Rudy / Portland Trail Blazers
Drafted by the Suns in 2007 and quickly traded to the Blazers – Fernandez will play in the NBA for the first time after the Olympics. A sharp-shooting guard, Fernandez will be the third Spaniard in team history to play for the Trail Blazers.
López, Raúl / Real Madrid
A one-time Spanish NBA Live cover-boy, Lopez spent three years with the Utah Jazz before heading back overseas in 2006.
Navarro, Juan Carlos / FC Barcelona
Originally drafted by the Wizards in 2002, Navarro didn’t join the NBA until this past season. Even after averaging solid rookie stats of 10 points and 2-plus assists and rebounds, he decided the states weren’t for him and has signed to return to Spain.
Calderón, José / Toronto Raptors*
Considering that he’s been challenging Pau Gasol for the title of Spain’s most popular NBA player of late, Calderon should be set for a solid showing in Beijing. He averaged over 11 points and 8 assists while playing in all 82 games last year. A breakout performance in August might raise his star status going into the NBA season.
Reyes, Felipe / Real Madrid
Reyes, who has never been drafted into the NBA, has long been a part of the Spanish national basketball program. At 6’9, he’ll add some size around the boards. He averaged about 14 points and 7 rebounds last season for Real Madrid.
Jiménez, Carlos / Unicaja Málaga
Another veteran forward, Jimenez should add depth and experience to an already strong team. At 6’8 – Jimenez has a decent shot, rebounds the ball well and should provide some always needed hustle stats.
Rubio, Ricky / Joventut Badalona
One of the most talked-about players in the world right now, Rubio is a promising playmaker and solid floor leader. His YouTube highlight alone could earn him the rookie minimum. He can score and rebound as well. The only catch being – he was born in 1990.
In SLAM #108, Lang Whitaker penned the best magazine story on Rubio anywhere – way back in June 2007.
Rodríguez, Berni / Unicaja Málaga
Another Spanish player off the NBA radar – Rodriguez has had a solid career in Spain. At 6’5 – he’ll provide relief at both the two and three spots.
Gasol, Marc / Memphis Grizzlies
Little brother is yet to show the majority of the world what he’s made of. At just over 7-feet, Young Gasol played high school ball in Memphis and returned to Spain before the Lakers took him in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft. Ironically, he was included in the package that the Lakers sent to Memphis in exchange for his older brother. This summer, he’ll have a chance to make a strong contribution on a strong team.
Mumbrú, Álex / Real Madrid
Mumbru adds another solid vet-forward force to the Spanish national line-up. While his time on the floor will probably be limited, Mumbru has played well enough in the Euroleague and in other tight competitions to be prepared for the Olympics.
Garbajosa, Jorge / Free Agent
Recently released by the Raptors, Garbajosa will look to restart his career with a strong showing in Beijing. He’s rusty after only playing seven games last year, but it might also mean he’s had a ton of time to rest.