London 2012 is almost upon us. The Canadian women’s team qualified for the tournament, and is in Group B. Unfortunately Steve Nash declined the chance to suit up one last time for the Red & White, so our men didn’t get there. I’m here to propose the vicarious pleasure of cheering for those teams with Raptors on them.
The obvious choice for long distance pom-pom waving is Lithuania, which has two Raps with high hopes: our recently-signed rookie centre, Jonas Valanciunas, and Linas Kleiza. While Lithuania should handle Tunisia and Nigeria, France has five NBA players, including the masterful Tony Parker. I don’t know what to expect of Boris Diaw, who looks great one day and pitiful the next, but if he’s motivated, he can play. Sleeper player: Kevin Seraphim. Argentina boasts three NBA players, plus the veteran Andres Nocioni. It’s hard to know how much Manu Ginobli has in the tank, but if he’s left unguarded I’d wager he’ll fill up the stat sheet.
Rumour has it there are also some guys from the U.S. playing. I watched the U.S. exhibition games against Great Britain and Spain, and the Americans’ speed and ballhawking was simply too much to handle. Guys like Durant, Lebron, Westbrook and Chris Paul don’t need a half-court offence; they will roll over any team that can’t handle the rock extraordinarily well. Young, deep, and talented—and not a Raptor in the bunch.
Let’s pick the Lithuanian Tonguetwisters (“…Valanciunas passes to Delininkaitis, who drops for Jasekevicius…”) to get to the Group semi against the U.S., whose second unit is better than most countries’ first.
In Group B the Spaniards are top rank, and with Jose Calderon at the point, will carry our hopes. Other Spanish NBAers include the Gasol brothers—Pau and Marc—plus the shot-blocking machine that is Serge Ibaka. Brazil has four NBAers, including Nene & Anderson Varejao, so they won’t be pushovers.
Brazilian teams in the past have been noteworthy for their outrageous, and often ill-advised, outside shooting. Should their gunners have hot hands, these guys will be trouble. I’m not qualified to offer an opinion on China’s team, and the other teams (Australia, Great Britain, Russia) probably aren’t deep enough to hang with the big dogs. I’ll call Spain and Brazil to play in this group’s semi-final, with Spain’s experience seeing them through.
So there you have it—an all-European (you didn’t expect me to jump off the bandwagon and call for the U.S. to beat “our” team, did you?) gold medal game, and, in a thriller, it’s the
Raptors Lithuanians beating Spain by a bucket.
And in the women’s championship, Canada defeats the U.S. At which point, I wake up.