“I’m sure that it’s going to fuel them,” Gasol said of the loud skepticism increasingly endured by the American team. “The amount of talent that the U.S. generates every year is unbelievable,’’ he added. “Even with all the guys that dropped out — or if you want to say these guys don’t have experience internationally — they’re still super talented physically and technically. And they’re pretty well-coached as well. So you put it all together and it’s a great team.”
“I understand the reasoning behind it,” Gasol said of those downgrading Spain’s chances. “But if we outwork people and we play as a team, I think we have enough talent to do a lot of damage. “I see a lot of teams in the same pack, so it’s about timing. It’s about timing and peaking at the right time and playing confident. That’s what I tell these guys all the time. Play confident and don’t worry about who we’re playing.”
Marc Stein: Sergio Llull en fuego right off the Spain bench and instantly reminds you he’s the modern-day Bodiroga. The Rockets have his NBA rights and, yes, I’m told they would still love to sign him … but Llull wants to keep playing his club ball in his beloved Madrid. Gotta respect it.
Donovan Mitchell scored 13 points, Khris Middleton added 12 and the U.S. topped Spain 90-81 on Friday night in a warmup exhibition in advance of the FIBA World Cup that starts in China on Aug. 31. The Americans shot 55 percent from the field, 58 percent from 3-point range and held a commanding 42-20 edge in rebounds. “It was a good chance to jump in the fray and see what this is all about,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said after his official debut as Mike Krzyzewski’s replacement with the national team. “It was like a baptism for us. New group, players, coaches, all that sort of thing. It was a real experience.”
Willy Hernangomez scored a game-high 24 points (10/10 2-pointers, 1/2 3-pointers) and grabbed six rebounds for 32 PIR in just 14:54 minutes, as Spain beat Congo 96 – 64 to conclude the “Malaga Tournament” with three wins in three games.
Ricky Rubio dropped 16 points, Xavi Rabadeda posted 12 points and five rebounds, Jaime Fernandez scored 12, while Marc Gasol had a diverse contribution of nine rebounds, six rebounds and five assists.
They were oh-so-close just three summers ago at the Olympics in Rio de Janerio, when they reached the Semi-Finals and looked like the team to beat. But they lost the next two games and finished fourth, leaving a bad taste in Ingles’ mouth. “Losing the (Third Place Game) sucked. But we’ve never been that close, in years. Now it’s about putting it all together,” the 31-year-old said entering another summer with the national team. “It’s going to be exciting. We’ll have a lot of support there, and hopefully we can be the first team to bring a medal back to Australia.”