Rio 2016: 5 basketball players to watch out for at the Olympic Games
Basketball celebrates 80 years at the Rio Olympics 2016 but it’s only the seventh edition that will allow professional players to compete. A ruling in 1989 changed the face of basketball at the quadrennial event and professional players contracted to franchises in the NBA took it to a whole new level.
USA has dominated basketball at the Olympics since 1936 but there have been other teams that have come close and even gone all the way. 2016 is no different and while the USA roster looks the best bet on paper to win the gold medal, there are a few players from the other teams who could make a difference too.
47 NBA players will be at the Olympics spread across 10 teams. Here are five players fans will want to keep an eye on.
5) Ricky Rubio – Spain
Spain suffered a hammer blow last month when Marc Gasol was officially ruled out of the Olympics. The Memphis Grizzlies center had broken his foot back in February and will not be part of the team that won the silver medal in 2008 and 2012.
Without Marc and also Serge Ibaka (who opted not to play this year), Spain will pin their hopes on Ricky Rubio who has the experience of Pau Gasol and Jose Calderon (both in their 30s) on one hand and youngsters such as Nikola Mirotic and Willy Hernangomez on the other to count on. The Point Guard had set a record in 2008 when he became the youngest player to play in a final aged only 17 and he will be looking to do one better this time.
The subject of a possible trade next season, Rubio will have to set aside his NBA woes with the Minnesota Timberwolves and focus on the job at hand when he dons the red-and-yellow jersey of Espana.