With the FIBA World Championship lurking just around the corner, there are several interesting questions to consider:
- Is Argentina worthy of the No. 1 ranking it has been given by FIBA heading into the World Championship in Turkey?
- Is Iran a serious contender after usurping China as the team to beat in Asia?
- Is Greece finally ready to break through after reaching the 2006 final?
- Is Germany really a dangerous wild-card team?
- Is the friendly between the United States and Spain that is slated to take place in Spain in August most definitely a preview of the FIBA World Championship final?
First, let’s consider Argentina. The team has a rich recent history, but the players Argentina has built its success around are getting older. In 2004, Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola led the way as Argentina won the gold medal at the Olympics in Athens, Greece. The team has been among the best ever since. Argentina reached the bronze medal game of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, where it lost to the United States, 96-81. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Argentina once again fell short of the Gold, but won the bronze medal game over Lithuania, 87-75.
But now, heading into the FIBA World Championship, Ginobili is a banged-up, grizzled veteran. When Argentina squeaked out a bronze medal at the FIBA Americas Championship last year to barely even reach the FIBA World Championship, it played without four of its National Basketball Association players, Carlos Delfino, Fabricio Oberto, Andres Nocioni and Ginobili. They are in the FIBA World Championship largely because of the inspired play of Scola.
With aging stars, injuries, and questions surrounding who will even be on the roster in the FIBA World Championship, Argentina might not be the sure thing for a medal it usually is.
Iran might not be a popular pick to capture a medal at the FIBA World Championship, but it certainly has been making waves in Asia recently. Iran has captured the title in the last two FIBA Asia Championships, including last year, when it throttled China, 70-52, in the final. Seven-foot-2 center Hamed Ehadadi (Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA) led the charge for Iran in each of its last two Asia Championship titles, and was named MVP of last year’s FIBA Asia Championship. With Ehadadi in the mix, Iran can be expected to be competitive, but it may be too soon to talk about Iran capturing a medal.
Greece, on the other hand, is much further along, as illustrated by its appearance in the 2006 FIBA World Championship, when it stunned the United States in a semifinal, 101-95, even if it did get throttled by Spain in the final, 70-47.
Greece, ranked fourth in the FIVB World Rankings, only managed to capture the bronze medal at last year’s FIBA Eurobasket, but played without star Panagiotis Vassilopoulos, who was out injured.
But Vassilopoulos is expected back for the FIBA World Championship, so Greece’s chances for a medal look good.
Germany could be the most dangerous of the four wild-card teams if both Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman play as expected. Nowitzki is a perennial NBA all-star with the Dallas Mavericks who has indicated he will play in the FIBA World Championship, and Kaman, who made the NBA all-star team for the first time this season as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, said he’ll play if Nowitzki plays. If the duo can get it together, Germany has a chance to compete for a medal.
Chances are if both the United States and Spain are relatively healthy and willing, they will meet each other in the final in a rematch of the epic 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal game, which the United States won, 118-107.