The men’s basketball tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics, with the U.S. winning its second straight gold, Spain taking its second straight silver and a new rising international basketball power in Russia earning a bronze for its first medal since the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. Dozens of players competed hard and well over the course of the two-week tournament, but which performers stood above the rest? Hit the jump for Fourth-Place Medal’s All-Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, plus a few near misses and some dudes I just dug watching.
• Kevin Durant, United States: You’ve got to include London’s leading scorer and the new holder of the record for most points scored by an American during a simple Olympic tournament, right? Durant fell for the FIBA 3-point line (which, at 22 feet, 1.7 inches, is more than a foot closer to the basket than the 23-foot-9-inch NBA line) en route to roasting the competition at the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey, and continued his love affair from long range in London.
Sixty-five of his 101 field-goal attempts in Team USA’s eight games came from beyond the arc … which might make him seem like a selfish and unrepentant gunner if, y’know, he didn’t hit 34 of them, a 52.3 percent mark from 3-pointers, which is a pretty efficient way to score, if you ask me.
• Andrei Kirilenko, Russia: For NBA fans who hadn’t seen Kirilenko since leaving the Utah Jazz following the 2010-11 season to return to Russia and play for Euroleague power CSKA Moscow, the Olympics offered a fantastic refresher course in his jack-of-all-trades game. Kirilenko was a near-constant in London, playing a tournament-high 273 minutes and trailing only Great Britain’s Luol Deng in minutes averaged per game as he paced Russia to bronze, its first medal-stand finish since the fall of the Soviet Union.
During Russia’s 6-2 trip, Kirilenko showcased his defensive acumen, netting 15 steals (second-most in the tournament, behind only U.S. point guard Chris Paul) and 14 blocks (second only to Tunisia center Salah Mejri) in eight games; his instincts on the glass, where he averaged 7.5 rebounds per game (eighth-best in the tourney), and especially on the offensive boards (only Team USA’s Kevin Love and Brazil’s Anderson Varejao grabbed more teammates’ misses); and his ability to score, averaging a team-high 17.5 points per game (sixth-highest in the competition) primarily by working tirelessly off the ball to find daylight along the baseline and seams through which to make smart cuts in coach David Blatt’s Princeton-inspired offense.
• Manu Ginobili, Argentina: Others may have done nearly as much, but no Olympic performer can claim to have done more for his national team than Ginobili. He was Argentina’s high scorer in five of eight games, leading the team with an average of 19.4 points per game — third-most in the tournament, just one point behind Kevin Durant for the overall Olympic scoring title — and serving as the team leader in rebounds (5.4) and steals (1.6) per game. He also finished second in minutes played (242, behind only Carlos Delfino’s 253), assists (33, trailing starting point guard Pablo Prigioni by just six) and 3-point shooting (44.2 percent, just behind Leo Gutierrez’s 44.8 percent among Argentines who took more than two shots from deep).
Whenever Argentina needed … well, anything, it turned to Manu. More often than not, as always, he provided.
• Pau Gasol, Spain: Similarly to Ginobili, Pau was Spain’s home base, the place it would look whenever it needed an answer. And throughout the tournament, he had it, leading a Spanish team without point guard Ricky Rubio to its second consecutive silver medal.
Gasol led Spain in minutes played, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, and rebounds, and tied for the team lead in assist. His 19.4 points per game were good for fourth in the tournament; his 7.6 rebounds per game tied for sixth. his 24-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist gold-medal game against the U.S> — and especially his dominant 15-point third quarter — cemented his status as the best post-up big man in the world and reminded NBA viewers used to watching him play second (or third, or fourth) fiddle that, when used as the focal point of an offense, he’s as destructive an option as there is in the post.
• LeBron James, United States:
The all-court brilliance of James’ performance during Team USA’s run through London, so we’ll stand on those bits of analysis and just remind you of the numbers — 13.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.4 steals in just 25 minutes per game (that’d be just over 19/8/8/2 per-36), a 45-8 assist-to-turnover ratio in eight games, a 60.3 percent mark from the field — and note that they don’t tell the whole tale. Not by a long shot.
|Kobe Bryant on the Olympic 2012 at London during team USA played against Lithuania|