Luis Scola set to lead Argentina’s Golden Generation squad into third Olympics

Luis Scola (right) cannot wait for the Olympics to start.

Luis Scola (right) cannot wait for the Olympics to start.

Before we debate whether the 2012 US Olympic basketball team could defeat the 1992 Dream Team, it would probably behoove the Americans to prove they are the best basketball team in 2012.

Unlike 20 years ago when the Dream Team slaughtered every opponent in its path, this year the US team will face stiff competition from teams like Spain, Brazil, France and Argentina, the team that new Sun Luis Scola plays for.

Scola will be playing in his third Olympics as part of the country’s famed “Golden Generation” team that includes NBA players such as Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni. Eight of its players are at least 32, which means this could be the final run for this special core.

The Argentinians have enjoyed great success in this time, starting with their gold medal in the 2004 Games after sending the Americans home in the semis to deny Team USA gold for the first and still only time since we started sending the professionals.

Argentina later won the 2008 FIBA Diamond Ball and then earned a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, finishing behind the US and Spain. They finished fifth at the 2010 World Championship without Ginobili when Scola led the tournament in scoring by a good margin by averaging 27.1 a game on 56.9 percent shooting and then earned gold in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship played in Argentina to qualify for the London Olympics.

As Argentina gets set to tip off what could be its final Olympics with the core of the Golden Generation, nobody is more excited than Scola.

“I really like to play for the national team,” he said on a conference call after being acquired by Phoenix. “We were blessed winning the gold and then the bronze a couple years later. I enjoy being part of the national team. It’s a great honor for me to represent my country, and it’s also a great honor to play in the Olympics. It’s a great experience.

“A lot of people are thrilled to have a chance to go watch the Olympics as tourists. I’ve got a chance to play in my third one as an athlete and be there and compete and also be respectful of playing and getting the medal. I think it’s a great experience, and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I’m happy to come back and play in the Olympics again, and I think we have a good chance.”

Argentina enters the Games ranked third in FIBA’s world rankings behind only the US and Spain, the two favorites in the tournament.

Scola’s team has been placed in Group A for qualifying play and will face FIBA’s No. 5 Lithuania Sunday at 2:15 p.m. Arizona time, No. 12 France at noon on Tuesday, No. 32 Tunisia at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, No. 21 Nigeria at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday and top-ranked Team USA on Monday at 2:15 p.m.

The way the Olympics work is that the top four teams in each group will advance to an eight-team single elimination tournament. With Tunisia and Nigeria in their group, Argentina should have no issue advancing at least that far. Team USA figures to win the group and then Argentina should battle it out with France and Lithuania for the Nos. 2-4 spots. No. 2 Spain figures to be the class of Group B.

“US of course is the main team for everybody,” Scola said. “Spain is right behind them. I think those two teams are one step ahead of everybody else. I think US is one step above Spain, but they’re close, and then after Spain there’s a group of four or five teams, and I think any of those could be fighting for a medal.

“There’s always somebody that you don’t believe is going to be in that group and they end up being in there, and there’s always somebody you thought was going to be in that group that is not playing that well and is out of that group. I don’t know for sure, but I think we are in that group of four or five teams that are going to be fighting for a medal, but those teams are one step or two steps behind US and Spain right now.”

The Argentinians gave Team USA its toughest test of the exhibition schedule last Sunday in an 86-80 loss that came down to the wire despite the Americans running out to a 19-3 lead to start the contest. Argentina never let talented Team USA run away with the game and had it down to four with less than three minutes left.

Like Scola said, Team USA must be considered the heavy favorite for the gold and Spain the favorite for the silver, but after that it’s anybody’s guess. Team Argentina most certainly belongs in that discussion for the third-best team, and if everything breaks right perhaps these wily vets can pull off one more upset in the medal round.

“We’re looking better, and we’ve got some talent, and we have a lot of experience,” Scola said. “I think it’s going to be a good tournament for us. I’m not sure, but I think we’re going on the right path.”

Argentina fourth in Stein’s Power Rankings

ESPN’s Marc Stein ranked Argentina fourth in his Olympic power rankings behind the US, Spain and Brazil.

Stein wrote of Argentina:

Too old to cope with an every-other-day schedule? Best days are behind ‘em? Swan song for a golden generation? Something tells me Manu Ginobili has heard it all before.

Eight years removed from the gold medal in Athens that shook USA Basketball to its core and prompted the Yanks to revamp their whole program, Argentina has been subjected to a lot of the dismissive “they’re done” talk that greets Ginobili’s Spurs most years. The truth is that Ginobili & Co. are indeed old by tournament standards, with an average age of 33 in the starting lineup, but don’t forget that no team played the Americans closer in their five warm-up games.

Although depth and size are issues, I’m not going to be the guy who writes off a group that, when you see the names (Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, Carlos Delfino and soon-to-be New York Knick Pablo Prigioni) next to Ginobili’s, demands respect at this level.

Tags: Luis Scola

  • Scott

    I hope they get a medal. They play hard.

  • JT’s Hoops Blog

    Argentina may be old but they are a veteran team that matches the USA the best in terms of size and ability.

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    Hey guys,

    I am from Poland (Europe), but I am following this website since Marcin joined the Suns and I think this page is awesome!

    With that being said there is a question I would like you to ask. It may sound weird to you, but sports work in a total different way over here in Europe.
    There was a lot of thinking who could/should plat the 2/3 on the Suns. First, you were talking about Gordon, afterwards Mayo, well you know the story.
    What I was wondering about is, why didn’t you or the FO think about players from Europe? There are some very strong teams in Greece, Spain or France, same goes for many players. Is this somehow forbidden? But then again, many NBA players are from Europe. So all in all, I don’t understand this…

  • sun also rises

    @simi – it isn’t forbidden but you don’t see a lot of NBA teams gambling on bringing in foreign talent (especially as starters). I think the reason is just that the euro game is a lot different than the US game in these guys’s minds. I still remember what a huge deal it was when Arvydas and Kukoc were brought over and how many critics those guys had even before they had played a single game… and that was FIFTEEN years ago!

    But it has changed a lot. Guys like Dragic prove that. The kid was good but not a world beater before the Suns made a project out of him and now he’s a legit starter while the guy who was supposed to be everything he was but better (Sasha V.) isn’t even in the NBA anymore. But just look at how stacked the Olympics are these days for proof of how much the Euro game has changed and how much the FOs of the NBA have taken notice.

  • sun also rises

    Whoops that should have been @sillmi. Had to make that name fit somehow. lol.

  • Ty-Sun

    @Sillmarillion – I’m not positive but I think at least part of the reason more interest isn’t given to European players is because many of the best are already under contract to European teams which makes it very difficult to sign them to NBA contracts. I also think that the language barrier sometimes plays a part. If a European player has the potential to be a star, then teams will find a way around that but many other good, solid players might be overlooked because of that.

  • Ty-Sun

    Everything sun also rises applies too. Good points SAR.

  • Matias

    I take it that you don’t read much Tolkien then :-)

  • http://none Sillmarillion

    Okay, thanks for your answers then. But even in the NBA there are many gifted European players (Nowitzki, Parker, Gortat, both Gasols etc.), so it amazes me how FOs don’t explore the player market here.
    Besides, European contracts aren’t that strict as American contracts. The system is just totally different. In the USA once you signed for a certain amount of years the only option to leave earlier is via trade (right?). In Europe players sign for a certain period of time as well, but the contract states a sum of cash that it requires to buy out. So if there comes another team and pays xxxxxx Euros the player may leave and the contract automatically expires.
    And I don’t think that the language would be a problem. The guys I mentioned speak English fluently and Europeans begin to learn it at the age of 7 or 8.

    P.S. US Team rocks the Olympics!

  • ??????

    ?????????? ?????? — ??????????? ?????? ? ??????.