This opening match between the China and Spain would have been a lot much better had Yao Ming been healthy still. Unfortunately for China, they’ll have to deal with the Twin Towers of España in Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies and older brother Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers with Yi Jianlian, who is currently a free agent in the National Basketball Association (NBA), and former NBA center Wang Zhizhi who last played with the Miami Heat in the NBA.
During Spain’s exhibition game with Team USA earlier this week, Marc Gasol sat out with a shoulder injury in order for him to prepare his body for the real Olympic games. In that same game, Pau Gasol led the way for the Spanish club with 19 points and 5 rebounds. Point guard and captain Juan Carlos Navarro had 11 points, Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors had 8 assists, and new-Spanish team member, Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder had 16 points.
Unfortunately, Spain lost that game 100-78. But the thought of not having a complete roster and not being an official Olympic game still makes me wonder how well Spain would’ve played. Tomorrow against China, we’ll be able to witness that.
With Marc Gasol back in action, Spain will most likely dominate the boards with their three NBA big men. However, China would definitely not back down. China, even with Yao Ming, was known for their handful of lengthy players before. This year China is still standing tall as they have 2 seven-footers and 2 six foot eleven big men on their roster which include Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhizhi, 22-year old Zhou Peng, and 24-year old Zhang Zhaoxu.
Zhou Peng currently plays for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association. Last season Peng averaged 11 points and 3 rebounds per game but unfortunately lost in the CBA Finals after winning 3 straight CBA championships. Standing at an astounding 7 foot 3 inches, Zhang Zhaoxu played for the University of California at Berkely for three seasons after shifting to professional basketball in China where he would join the Shanghai Sharks of the CBA.
In California, Zhaoxu averaged 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds per game for the Golden Bears. With these two big men alongside a bit well-known Chinese centers with Yi and Zhizhi, China actually has a good shot defensively against Spain in the half court game. However, when Spain gets off an running with Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez, China is obviously out of it.
Spain loves to play with quickness and at times they like to go inside to the Gasol brothers and go on from there as the two Gasols are great passing big men themselves. With that, the slower China would collapse allowing Spain to run around them and score with their shooters and slashing guards. China will still put up a good challenge to Spain on the inside and I could see China still dominating other teams using their length and inside skills, but against a stronger team like Spain. There’s nothing much they can do.
The absence of Yao Ming has definitely burned China and it’s hopes of being the best basketball country in the world. China can still dominate the Asia games but when the Olympics come around, and again without Yao Ming, China is almost reduced to lower ranked team. Spain on the other hand, is also dealing with a loss of Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio, but in this game, that won’t be a big deal.
My prediction: Spain wins