While the Chinese mens basketball team wonders why they really needed to waste two warm ups and a qualifier getting doubled up by the USA Mens team, there are many other countries all vying for a chance to get blown out by USA too.
Two of those teams face off today, one of them headlined by the Suns’ ‘Meep Meep’ himself. Leandro Barbosa, the Brazilian Blur and former Sixth Man of the Year, leads Brazil against Lithuania in each team’s opening game in Group B.
- Who: Brazil vs. Lithuania
- Time: 10:15AM AZ Time
- TV: NBCSN (NBC Sports Network)
LB gets the special honor of playing for the host country of these 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Let the Games begin!! #Brazuca pic.twitter.com/HAbVTeC9AA— Leandro Barbosa (@TheBlurBarbosa) August 6, 2016
Brotherhood! @rio2016 @olympics #BeepBeep #JustDoIt #Irmandade #Brazuca #VamoQVamo #Basketball pic.twitter.com/r9oceTOQbu— Leandro Barbosa (@TheBlurBarbosa) August 5, 2016
To give you an idea where Brazil, who made the 12-team bracket by default as the host country, ranks among the qualified Olympic teams, Marc Stein of ESPN recently ranked Brazil at 7th of the 12 teams.
The hosts qualified automatically for the 12-team field, as all hosts do, but aren't exactly swimming in advantages as tournament tipoff draws near.
Much like Spain and Argentina, Brazil's most dependable players are largely in their twilight years: Nene, Leandro Barbosa, Marcelo Huertas and Alex Garcia. Worse yet: Two more ol' reliables -- Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao -- are unavailable because of injury.
Throw in the undeniable pressure Brazil will be facing to produce some sort of medal, which isn't quite soccer-level pressure but still a real thing for the national team because it'll be playing on Brazilian soil, and you can't call yourself a responsible committee if you don't ask this question: Is this really a top-6 team?
We weren't convinced.
Brazil did manage to eliminate hated Argentina in the Round of 16 of the 2014 FIBA World Cup, avenging painful losses to its most bitter rival in the two previous major tournaments, but the depth of Group B -- compared to what surrounds Team USA in Group A -- means that the hosts getting to the knockout phase is not assured. Sacrilegious as it sounds.
Lithuania, today’s opponent for Brazil, ranks 4th on Stein’s rankings. They have always played Coach K’s teams tough in international play but otherwise are not a real international powerhouse.
Lithuania is led by Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas as well as NBA rookies Domantas Sabonis and the might-not-be-muggle-born Mindaugas Kuzminskas.
Barbosa recently signed a two-year contract with the Suns (just the first year fully guaranteed) after playing for two years with the Golden State Warriors.
My boys in my country!!! #Parceria pic.twitter.com/3QRRjmfB6c— Leandro Barbosa (@TheBlurBarbosa) August 7, 2016
Root for Brazil to have a good basketball showing this summer! It’s always good when the host country does well.