The biggest of all this year’s international basketball friendly matches goes down in Madrid tonight at 7pm GMT (9pm CET, 1pm EST) as prospective 2010 FIBA World Championship favorites Spain and USA meet in the first truly serious test for either team.
It’s also a rematch of the 2008 Beijing Olympics gold match of sorts; while Team Spain returns the majority of their surely revenge-seeking squad, Team USA has famously rolled over its entire roster to create a smaller, quicker team contrary stylistically to recent American national teams.
Those of you in countries wherein the game won’t be broadcast (and here BallinEurope basically means nearly every nation in Europe, basically) can watch Spain vs. USA — and Wednesday’s Greece vs. USA game — online for free at FIBA TV. On his part, BiE will be watching for the following items first.
• Andre Iguodala vs. Felipe Reyes. Coach Krzyzewski is sending out his best track-and-field team against Spain today featuring three guards in Chauncey Billups, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo, plus Iguodala, a guy who could play the two spot in the NBA. That means when Team USA’s not running and gunning, Reyes’ll be getting Iggy with it while Tyson Chandler’s hands are full with Marc Gasol. Here’s to thinking we’ll be seeing early…
• …the USA bench, especially Kevin Love. Whether Rajon Rondo, Danny Granger or Russell Westbrook, Team USA has often had its best performer coming off the bench. With mismatches in the frontcourt, BiE’s thinking Lamar Odom sees quality minutes today after leading the Red-White-and-Blues with seven boards against Lithuania. Meanwhile, Love may still be battling Stephen Curry for that 12th spot and number of minutes alone for the former may be the indication of whether he’s staying or not.
• Ricky Rubio. Ah, but you don’t need BiE to remind you that the, perhaps the NBA’s most eagerly anticipated European player since Toni Kukoc, is going today. Anyone in the ‘States who doesn’t recall his performance against the ‘States in that 2008 gold-medal game (six points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in under 29 minutes of play) will get a reminder while the Human YouTube Clip gets to test his skills against three of the best young PGs in the NBA (and thus the world). Do yourselves a favor proactively, Minnesota Timberwolves fans, and stock up on the Kleenex now.
• No-shows for Spain. Though Espana has won eight friendlies in a row, they’ve yet to pay with their full complement left. It appears as though the full roster will be there, but if not it will pay the U.S. to pay attention to what Team Spain *doesn’t* bring.
• Team USA’s chemistry. It’s a bit abstract to watch per se and, as an American, BiE must say that the complete lack of ego-related problems is utterly refreshing (who’d’ve thought Puerto Rico would be the squad producing walk-offs?), Coach K is convinced this is underdeveloped as yet and key to the US’ chances: “We have to keep improving in every area as a team, including getting to know one another. There’s not that continuity or chemistry – there’s the attitude, a great attitude to get to know each other, which is why games like [Saturday’s against Lithuania] are so important and the game [against Spain] is so important.”