2008 Olympic Basketball Preview: Argentina

This is the fourth in a series of team previews for the 2008 Olympics done by the SBNation sites Green Bandwagon and At the Hive. Already profiled: Greece, China, and Russia.You can refer to the right-hand sidebar either here or at Green Bandwagon for quick access to the profiles.

Population: 40,667,348

Size in Comparison to a U.S. State: About 7 times the size of California.

Suffrage: 18, universal and compulsory.

Interesting Fact: More than 90% of the country's population is of European descent.

Fun! Fact: Argentinians are known for consuming their dinners at very late hours in the day (ie, 10 p.m.)

Recommended Reading: Unthinkable Tenderness, a book of poetry by Juan Gelman, considered Argentina's finest poet and a recipient of the Cervantes award (the most prestigious award in Spanish literature).

World Rank (Courtesy of FIBA): 2

Qualified: By finishing 2nd at the FIBA Americas Championship in 2007

Dream Match Up in Beijing: USA. What better way to follow up an Olympic gold medal than to beat the number one ranked team in the world?

Dream Match Up That Did Not Qualify: Britain. The two countries currently have a dispute over approximately one million square kilometers of land in various locations and fought one another in the 1982 Falklands War.

Recent News: The defending Olympic Gold Medalists have been slumping at the wrong time. They lost 2 warm up games to Spain and one to Lithuania last week, so it's understandable that nobody's getting too excited over their victory against Iran

Argentinian Roster

Luis Scola - One of a handful of current/former NBA players on this squad. Scola took a lot of American fans by surprise with his 2007/2008 campaign, and if there's one attribute that describes him best, it's "quiet efficiency." I think this Rudy Tomjanovich assessment of Scola is perfect: "He's the kind of guy who doesn't do anything great but does everything well." At 6'10", he can bang inside. He has surprising range and can knock down the face up jumper. Despite a 250 pound frame, he moves up and down the court well. Despite suspect defense at times, Scola has shown nice footwork. Slow and steady wins the race, and the two-time Spanish league MVP understands that better than most.

Manu Ginobili - GINOBILI!!!! There's a reason Charles Barkley yells that every time he sees a Manu highlight- dude's fantastic. With a PER higher than MVP Kobe Bryant for the '07-'08 campaign, Ginobili is perhaps the most under-appreciated NBA player in the league. But on the international level, he's made his mark and then some. He was the centerpiece of Argentina's 2004 run to the gold, and since then, he's sharpened his three point stroke from 35.9% to a deadly 40.1%. Ginobili's go-to move is the lefty drive and subsequent "Euro Step," which is a combination of the traditional hop step and side step. He performs that move perhaps better than any player in the world, and it allows him to make up for the step or two he's lost over his 13 year professional career. Ginobili was MVP of the Athens Olympics and figures to play a big role once more.

Roman Gonzalez - A 30 year old, 6'11", 270 pound center. Before I say any more, I have to quote his Wikipedia description: "He is a slurpy center who is left handed. This dude attracts attention for his height and ability." Hahahaha. Slurpy? Slurpy? Hahahahaha. Okay, moving on. As far as I can tell, he wasn't a member of the 2004 Olympic team despite having joined the National Team in 2003. Finally, he is not the same person as the boxer Roman Gonzalez.

Fabricio Oberto - Ginobili's teammate with the Spurs, Oberto is known as one of the best players in the world, under international rules. 6'10", 250, and 33 years old, 2008 marks his 13th year with the Argentinian national team. Interestingly enough, he had a one year stint with Josh Childress' new team- Olympiacos BC. People often describe a player as "intelligent," "in possession of a high basketball IQ," and "savvy" when said player sucks. Oberto is the rare exceptions to that rule, in that all those adjectives apply to him, but those are the qualities that make him good at the international level.

Pablo Prigioni - One of two newcomers to the National team following Argentina's 2004 gold medal. Like many of the Argentinians, Prigioni is also on the wrong side of 30 (31 in March), but he's been known to employ creativity to offset deteriorating quickness and athleticism. A 6'4" point guard, Priginoi led the Euroleague in assists for the season ending in 2007 and has led his former Spanish league in steals as well. His ball-handling ability and height is sure to present matchup problems for the U.S.

Antonio Porta - From one 6'4" point guard to the next. Porta is a relatively young guy on this squad (25). He offers a bit of a weight advantage over Priginoi and is a much needed weapon for Argentina, with the retirement of Pepe Sanchez. Judging by some pictures I've found of him, I'd guess he has an aversion to shaving and/or cutting his hair. On a related note, I'd really really like to see an American player grow an Olympics beard. Deron Williams is on the right track.

Carlos Delfino - Another player you've probably heard of. Delfino honed his craft for four years in the NBA, literally getting better every year. This upcoming season, he'll play for Russian club Khimki BC as part of a 30 million dollar deal in total. The 6'7", 230 lb. swingman is known for his fiery temperament, clashing with Toronto coach Sam Mitchell on occasion. He's Argentina's best bet to stop world class scorers from, um, scoring, and he's played terrific man defense on both Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade in the past. Add to that a 38% three point stroke (last year with Toronto), and you have a fine basketball player.

Paolo Quinteros - Quinteros is the third point guard on the Argentinian team and offers a change of pace from Antonio Porta and Pablo Prigioni. Giving up three inches to both of those players, Quinteros figures to draw the primary defensive assignment on the United States' Chris Paul. Paolo Quinteros tras el partido en La Palma. No, I have no idea what that means.

Leonardo Gutierrez - Gutierrez is your typical, international undersized power forward. Numerous teams prefer to run a shorter, but more solid player at the 4, and Argentina is no exception. At just 6'6", Leonardo tips the scales at 250 pounds, giving his team some muscle inside. He was part of Argentina's gold medal team, and also a member of the 2002 Argentina squad that made history by defeating the United States for the first time.

Juan Gutierrez – Not sure if he’s related to Leonardo, but his game is quite similar. At 6’8” and 250 pounds, Juan is listed as a power forward/center. He made his National team debut in 2004 in Athens, and at 24, is the youngest player on the squad. He currently plays in Spain for CB Granada.

Federico Kammerichs – Make that three undersized big men. 6’8”, 250 sound familiar? I’m not sure why Argentina intends to carry three very similar players into the Olympics, but Kammerichs is quite a talent. He debuted professionally in 1998 in an Argentinean basketball league before moving overseas to the Spanish ACB League. The Portland Trail Blazers took him with the 51st selection of the 2002 NBA Draft (actually two picks ahead of current Hornet Rasual Butler). His last name suggests some German ancestry, and Federico actually owns a German passport.

Andres Nocioni – If Carlos Delfino is “fiery,” then Noce is on a whole ‘nother level of insane. He’s been suspended for an altercation with Tayshaun Prince, given a flagrant one call for a hard foul on Dwyane Wade, and has had a fan throw a drink at him (luckily, even though he’s crazy, he’s not Ron Artest crazy). He’s the virtual definition of a “garbage” player, and I mean that in the best way possible. Nocioni excels in turning broken plays into points and wreaking havoc on the defensive end. He hustles on every possession and is a great defender as well. Better than a 36% three point shooter for his career, he gives Argentina a great offensive threat, some scrappy defensive ability, but perhaps most importantly, a legitimate enforcer. LBJ showboating after a throw down? Don’t be surprised to see Andres lay down the law.

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