Spain's 'big' edge on Team USA

It doesn't happen often, but Spain has a clear matchup advantage

Updated: July 26, 2012, 2:55 PM ET
By Chris Palmer | ESPN the Magazine
Tyson Chandler, Pau GasolLluis Gene/AFP/GettyImagesPau Gasol and the Spanish frontcourt have a decided advantage over Team USA's bigs.

As Team USA heads into the London Games, their one glaring weakness is still an issue that will dog them throughout the Olympic tournament. Lack of size and depth up front hasn't made life easy for the talented USA squad despite a handful of blowout wins over lesser competition. Even before their weeklong Las Vegas mini-camp, several big men including Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum and Chris Bosh had already bowed out because of health reasons. Then they lost Blake Griffin due to a knee injury. But do they still have enough low-post firepower to capture gold?

In a matchup of the two best teams in the tournament, Team USA met the Spanish national team Tuesday in a friendly matching them against the toughest frontcourt challenge of the summer. It served as a perfect opportunity for Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love and the inexperienced Anthony Davis to gauge themselves against fellow NBA players Pau Gasol, his brother Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Marc Gasol said Monday that the 1992 Dream Team would easily dominate the 2012 Team USA, but what about Spain? Are he and his frontcourt teammates better than their U.S. counterparts?

Though Team USA won Tuesday, it wasn't exactly the "bigs" matchup that had been anticipated. Marc Gasol sat out with a shoulder injury, while Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James dominated the game, leaving the USA bigs with sparse scoring chances. Ibaka and Pau Gasol scored in double digits, while Chandler got into foul trouble and Davis barely played. Love did grab nine rebounds, but overall it showed Team USA's weakness on the low blocks and in the paint. And if that weakness is properly exploited, the team might end up relying on James and other ball handlers more and more as the tournament goes on.


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Chris Palmer

ESPN the Magazine