Top basketball stories to watch in Rio
USA women’s basketball dynastic run
The United States has won five straight gold medals, three of which have come with players currently on the roster. Will another country step up and challenge the U.S. supremacy, or will Diana Taurasi and Co. roll through another Olympic tournament en route to a sixth consecutive gold medal? Taurasi, Sue Bird and Tamika Catchings have a chance to win their fourth gold medal, while newcomers Elena Delle Donne, Brittney Griner and Breanna Stewart will be eager to make an impact.
New faces on USA Basketball
When the U.S. men’s team takes the floor against China in the opening round, 10 of the 12 players will be making their Olympic debuts. Just Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant have previous Games experience. The last time the United States had that much turnover between Olympics was from 2000 to 2004, where none of the players had previously played in the Games and the 2004 team ended up only nabbing the bronze. If the U.S. hope to avoid the same fate in Rio, they must overcome a steep learning curve. Coach K and the rest of the USA Basketball staff will have to work some magic to get this team gelled before arriving in Brazil.
Coach K’s last hurrah
Mike Krzyzewski will step down as head coach of the United States national team after the Rio Olympics after helping to bring USA Basketball out of their darkest hour. Krzyzewski took over as head coach following Team USA’s third place finish in the Athens Olympics, leading them to back-to-back gold medals in 2008 and 2012. Now he may face his hardest task yet: bringing together a mostly new squad after so many players withdrew from the Games this year. Coach K has his work cut out for him if he hopes to leave his post on a high note.
Argentina's golden age coming to a close
With the careers of Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni winding down, the Rio Games may very well be the swan song for the golden age of Argentine basketball. Ginobili, Scola, Delfino and Nocioni are the last remaining members of the Argentinian team that won gold in the 2004 Olympics – the only non-United States team to win the Olympic tournament since 1992. Delfino is the youngest of the four and will be 37 come 2020, while Scola, Ginobili and Nocioni will all be 40 or older. Can this quartet carry Argentina to one last Olympic medal?
NBA’s foreign youngsters
This year’s Olympic tournament is full of young faces hoping to take the NBA by storm in the coming years. Serbia’s Nikola Jokic was named MVP in July’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade and had a breakout year for the Nuggets in 2016, averaging 10.0 points and 7.0 rebounds while only playing 21.7 minutes per game. Jokic’s Serbian teammate Bogdan Bogdanovic is expected to make the jump to the NBA in 2017. He was originally drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2013, but had his draft rights traded to the Sacramento Kings this summer. Dario Saric, who will suit up for the Philadelphia 76ers this upcoming season, should be a key contributor for an upstart Croatian team. Also expected to make his NBA debut next season, the play of China’s 7-foot-2 center Zhou Qi will give Houston Rockets fans an idea of how he should fare in the NBA