The last time the United States and Spanish Olympic basketball teams met each other, they gave us one of the greatest basketball games that nobody watched. That was the 2008 gold medal game in Beijing, which the USA won 118-107 after being up by only four points with under three minutes to play. It was a hard-fought game, the first that the Americans had experienced during those Olympics, and it confirmed the USA and Spain as the world's two basketball superpowers going forward.
Today (4:30 ET, ESPN2 and WatchESPN), the two teams will meet once again in an exhibition match in Barcelona, a pre-Olympic tune-up. How meaningful this game will be depends entirely on how much firepower the two teams decide to unleash on each other. This could be a grudge match in which Spain, on its home floor, tries desperately to avenge their 2008 loss. or it could be an exercise in withholding, each team experimenting with different lineups and remaining wary of revealing too much strategy.
The Spaniards would have you believe that the game will fall into the latter category, as many of them downplayed the importance of the game to ESPN's Marc Stein. Jose Calderon went so far as to say:
I think everybody understands as well. I think it's going to be fun, everybody's going to be crazy about it, and we're going to try to win for sure. But … you're going to try to send a message? I don't know if it's the best [idea], because it's not going to be 100 percent real.
Still, such talk could be nothing more than gamesmanship, and it's hard to imagine that the Spaniards are going to be able to completely suppress their competitive edge. The game is in Barcelona, and loafing it against their main Olympic rival would not be a good look, especially since the 2008 gold medal game will certainly be on the minds of the fans who will be in attendance.
We'll be yakspinning about the game at 4:30 ET, so feel free to stop by and share your thoughts.