The Road to London

by Ben Taylor

This is the first of what, if you guys like it, will be a semi-regular update on all of the pre-Olympic hype—everything from the roster speculation and announcements to players that you could see in London who are lighting it up around the world, as well as latest news on Olympic kicks and unis, and anything else that catches my eye. Like I said, if you like it, I’ll do it again, so hit me up in the comments with feedback and thoughts.

USA vs Spain: Let the hype begin

There’s no denying the two most talked about teams come July 29 will be Spain and the loaded USA squad. According to Yahoo Sports, we’ll get an early preview of what many are predicting to be the gold medal match up, with the two teams rumoured to be lining up an exhibition game in Spain on July 24.

Kobe Bryant is a man who doesn’t shy away from talking trash, and it certainly seems like he is getting excited about stoking the fire when it comes to this rivalry.

First he makes a bet with Rookie of the Year Elect 2012 and new master of the no-look dime, Ricky Rubio—USA bring home gold and Kobe takes the keys to Barcelona, Spain wins and Rubio gets…nothing (the lesson here is clear: don’t make a bet with Kobe Bryant. He never loses).

His latest target is fellow Laker, Pau Gasol. When asked if he was still motivated by playing in the Olympics, Bean told he’s excited about getting to London, “if anything else just not to let Pau win a gold medal.”

“I’m not letting Pau get a free run at getting a gold medal,” he said, before letting out a laugh fit for an evil genius supervillain, I’d imagine.

Obligatory Jeremy Lin speculation

On current form, would Jeremy Lin be worthy of a spot on the Team USA Olympic roster? I’m saying no, don’t be ridiculous. The internet says the entire population of China wants him on their team. What do you say, SLAM fam? Will Linsanity reach London this summer?

Weird Olympic Merchandise #1

The Olympic Games are nothing without weird souvenirs, and London will be no exception. The official Olympic postage stamps have been revealed. I’m no expert on stamps or art, but the basketball version looks pretty much like Microsoft Paint drawing of a fat guy chasing an orange. See it for yourself, here.

Latest on the Rosters

The big announcement of the last couple of weeks was the 20 man shortlist for the US team, covered at length on SLAMOnline and everywhere else with an internet connection. The Daily Telegraph here in the UK even went as far as to describe the team as being the “centrepiece of the London Olympics”. Try telling that to the Great Britain Handball Team.

Elsewhere, Argentina have confirmed eight of their final 12 man squad, with NBAers Manu Ginobli, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, and Carlos Delfino making the cut along with Spanish based Hernan Jasen, and Leonardo Gutierrez, Juan Pedro Gutierrez and Pablo Prigioni of the Argentine league.

Hosts Great Britain will be hoping they are through the worst of their injury worries. Luol Deng has returned for the Bulls after a wrist problem in time to get a spot on the All Star team, but centre Eric Boateng and veteran guard Nate Reinking both face spells on sidelines. One positive is the return to action of Portland draft pick and ACB star Joel Freeland, who just bagged a Euroleague Play of the Week nomination with this nice move.

Australia are sweating over two key pieces in their team—Bucks’ big man Andrew Bogut is struggling with an injury, and Rookie of the Year candidate Kyrie Irving is considering a move to commit his international allegiance to the Aussies.

Best of the rest

—The draw for the Qualifying tournament has been made. With only three more spots in the Olympics, the qualifiers feature some big teams—notably an Andrei Kirilenko led Russia and Lithuania. Check the full draw here.

—On the subject of Lithuania, Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas picked up the FIBA European Young Player of the Year award.

—Bleacher Report has started a campaign (of sorts) to get Brian Scalabrine on the USA roster. The best bit? Some people in the comments think they are serious.

—Images of some of the Nike Olympic releases are starting to come out of the woodwork. If you haven’t seen them yet, the Pippen’s are pretty special. Looking forward to seeing what they have lined up for Lebron and co.

— say Duke’s Austin Rivers would have been an Olympic star back in the day.

—London doesn’t have a dedicated basketball arena, so we built one. Now it looks like we’re selling it to Rio for the 2016 Games.

—Puerto Rico’s Carlos Arroyo and Great Britain big Pops Mensah-Bonsu guided Deron Williams’ lockout buddies Besiktas to victory in the Turkish Cup. Pops helped himself to another double-double, finishing with 11 points and 12 boards.

—The USA team will hold camp at former Magic/Jazz/Knicks big man John Amaechi’s gym in Manchester when they arrive in the UK, while Great Britain will head the other way, working out in Houston with head coach Chris Finch (via Hoopsfix)