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Rubio wins gold, MVP; Baynes hurt in FIBA World Cup

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New Suns players competed for medals in the FIBA World Championship

Spain v Australia: Semi-finals - FIBA World Cup 2019 Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Phoenix Suns new starting point guard Ricky Rubio led his country to the Gold Medal in the FIBA World Cup, as Spain soundly defeated an Argentina squad that finally turned back into a pumpkin at the hands of Spain’s stifling defense. The final score was 95-75 after Argentina had briefly cut the Spanish lead to 11 in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Rubio was named the FIBA World Cup tournament MVP.

In the bronze medal game, Australia lost to France to kill their medal hopes and ruin their memory of what was shaping up to be a great tournament for the Boomers. But worse news for Suns fans was that new backup center Aron Baynes was playing through a strained groin that hindered his effectiveness.

While Baynes wasn’t truly sidelined, that’s the kind of injury that a player fights through in a playoff situation like FIBA but could potentially force him to sit on the sidelines all through training camp and into the preseason. The Phoenix Suns will want him fully healed before playing full-speed. Could that happen in the two weeks between now and the opening of training camp? Sure. But don’t count on it. Groins don’t heal that easy. This is especially sad news because Baynes was supposed to “toughen up” Ayton in practice, and the most consecutive practices they will have all year will occur in the month of October.

Let’s go back to good news!

Rubio was excellent all tournament, showing off his passing, defense and team leadership skills to lead Spain to an 8-0 record.

Going into the gold medal game, Rubio led Spain with 15.6 points (42% from the field, 38% on threes), 6.4 assists (2:1 TO ratio) and 1.7 steals per game. He also contributed 4.3 rebounds and was third on his team in minutes (26.8).

Rubio led Spain in scoring again in the gold medal game with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, and was key to holding off a spirited Argentina fourth quarter surge fueled by a full-court press with his ball handling and cool head.

Spain’s other best player was center Marc Gasol, who now caps off his 2019 with an NBA Championship with the Raptors AND a FIBA World Cup championship with Spain. What a year for Marc! Other notable players on Spain are the Hernangomez brothers, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Llull and Victor Claver.

Two days ago, Spain had defeated Australia in the semi-final game, leaving another bitter taste in the Boomers’ mouths after another last-second loss to Spain. Current assistant coach and former Suns (short stint) player Luc Longley lamented that the basketball gods keep kissing Spain where the sun usually don’t shine. Kinda sounds like our Phoenix Suns at the hands of the Spurs for so many years doesn’t it?

I can’t wait to ask Rubio and Baynes some questions about FIBA when the annual Media Day comes about on September 30.

Former Suns forward Luis Scola, now 39 years old, had a tough gold medal after carrying his undermanned squad to the gold medal game. Scola had posted 19.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game going into that final, but could not handle Spain’s defense and finished with only 8 points (1/10 from the field) and 8 rebounds.

Final World Cup standings (Suns connections in parenthesis):

  1. Spain (Rubio)
  2. Argentina (Scola)
  3. France (Elie Okobo, who was cut just before tournament play)
  4. Australia (Baynes)
  5. Serbia (Bogdan Bogdanovic)
  6. Czech Republic
  7. USA
  8. Poland