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Gasol, Spain to meet Argentina in World Cup final

Sat Sep 14 7:33am ET
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer

Players: LeBron James, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gobert

BEIJING (AP) Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Lamar Odom, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

Those are the only five players to win an NBA title and a gold medal in the same year, whether it was in FIBA or Olympic competition, with Pippen doing it twice.

It is an exclusive club - one that Marc Gasol is on the cusp of joining.

A mere three months after helping the Toronto Raptors win the NBA Finals, Gasol has led Spain to the gold medal game at the World Cup. It'll be Spain against Argentina on Sunday, with both nations looking for their second title. Spain won the world championship in 2006 when Gasol was a 21-year-old backup, and Argentina won the inaugural tournament in 1950.

''I'm so deep in the rabbit hole right now that I don't get to see much light,'' Gasol said. ''You're so focused on your opponent, your next rival, recovering, doing whatever's necessary to win games that you don't look at the big picture. It's been great. I'm very fortunate.

''I knew that committing to the national team this summer would not be easy physically. But it's so worth it, and not just because we're in the final game.''

He simply willed Spain into the final game.

Gasol scored 33 points - his career-high for any of the 18 FIBA-sanctioned or Olympic tournaments he's played over the last 18 years - in Spain's double-overtime win against Australia in the semifinals. He gave up his NBA offseason to be part of this team, a group that failed to medal at the last World Cup in Spain five years ago, and knows he might not have too many more years left on the international stage.

''It's the responsibility of passing along that commitment, that loyalty to the team,'' said Gasol, who still remembers the thrill of getting invitation letters from the Spanish federation to be part of youth teams when he was 11 or 12. ''Those values that we were taught so many years with the older players, now it's our turn to pass on the legacy to the next generation. And that's not talent, that's just commitment.''

Argentina has one of those passing-legacy-on players, too.

Luis Scola, 39 years old, was part of the team that won gold for Argentina at the 2004 Athens Olympics - and he's been the best player for his team at the World Cup. He scored 28 points in the semifinal win over France, and on a team that has flashy guards who aren't afraid to throw behind-the-back passes in any situation Scola has been the steadying force in the biggest moments.

''I'm only 27,'' France center Rudy Gobert said as he lauded Scola after the semifinal matchup. ''Maybe when I'm 39, I'll know the secrets that Scola knows.''

Here's some of what to know going into Sunday's final:

DOUBLING UP

Pippen's double-gold years came in 1992 and 1996 with Chicago. Jordan's was in 1992 with the Bulls, James' was in 2012 with Miami and Irving's was in 2016 with Cleveland - all of those being Olympic years. Odom played on the U.S. world championships team in 2010, after his Los Angeles Lakers won that year's NBA Finals.

OTHER DOUBLES

There have been 14 U.S. women who won a WNBA title along with a World Cup or Olympic gold medal in the same year, led by Sue Bird - who did it three times (2004 Olympics, 2010 world championship, 2018 World Cup).

UNBEATENS

Spain and Argentina are the only unbeaten teams left in the World Cup, each 7-0 so far. This is the fourth time that the gold medal will be decided in a game between unbeaten teams. The others: U.S. over Turkey (both 8-0 entering) in 2010, Spain over Greece (both 8-0) in 2006, and Argentina over the U.S. (both 5-0) at the first world championship in 1950.

BRONZE GAME

France gets a chance to match its best World Cup finish when it plays Australia in the bronze-medal game Sunday afternoon. Australia is looking for its first World Cup or Olympic medal, having gone 0-4 in previous bronze-medal games - all at the Olympics.

UP NEXT

The next World Cup is in 2023, running from Sept. 1 through Sept. 17 in three different nations - the Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia. It'll be the first time the tournament is held in multiple countries.

Player Notes
Dario Saric Oct 13 9:10pm ET

Phoenix Suns forward Dario Saric (quad) is questionable to suit up for Monday's preseason game against the Denver Nuggets. Saric is dealing with a bruised quad, but that shouldn't linger into the regular season. The Suns may have Saric sit out in the meaningless game for rest. Frank Kaminsky would see more minutes coming his way, assuming Saric sits out.

Landry Shamet Oct 13 9:00pm ET

Los Angeles Clippers guard/forward Landry Shamet (wrist) exited early during Sunday's preseason contest. Head coach Doc Rivers downplayed the injury after the game. Rivers said that if it was the playoffs then Shamet would be out there, but there is no reason to push it in the preseason. Shamet should be fine, and is someone worth looking at late in drafts.

Rodney Hood Oct 12 7:10pm ET

Portland Trail Blazers guard/forward Rodney Hood (back) has been ruled out for Saturday's preseason game against the Phoenix Suns. He is dealing with back spasms, so the team is likely just being cautious here. Hood will battle Kent Bazemore for playing time in Portland. He'll be worth a look in deeper leagues, but that's about it for the moment.

Anthony Davis Oct 12 7:00pm ET

Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Anthony Davis (thumb) was injured during the first quarter of Saturday's preseason loss. The team is calling the injury a Grade 1 sprain, but Davis will have an MRI done on Sunday. The Lakers next preseason game is on Monday, but it's safe to assume he's done for the preseason. Davis should be fine for opening night, so fantasy owners shouldn't have to worry.

Nikola Vucevic Oct 12 7:00pm ET

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic (ankle) was able to fully participate in Saturday's practice, according to head coach Steve Clifford. Vucevic is dealing with a mild ankle sprain, but has downplayed the severity. It's unclear whether or not Vucevic will suit up for Sunday's preseason game against the Philadelphia 76ers. He should be fine for the regular season, so fantasy owners don't have anything to worry about.

Jonas Valanciunas Oct 12 6:50pm ET

Memphis Grizzlies center Jonas Valanciunas (foot) will be shut down for the rest of the preseason. Valanciunas is dealing with foot soreness, but the team doesn't appear worried about it. They want to give him as much rest as possible before the regular season. It's unclear whether or not Valanciunas will be ready for the regular season opener. Bruno Caboclo and Brandon Clarke will benefit in the absence of Valanciunas.

Darius Garland Oct 12 6:40pm ET

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (ankle) is listed as doubtful for Sunday's preseason game against the Boston Celtics. He was limited in camp earlier due to a left foot issue. Garland has some decent upside in the middle rounds of drafts, assuming he's healthy. The Cavs are rebuilding, so Garland should see plenty of action over the course of the season.

Kyle Lowry Oct 12 6:40pm ET

Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry (thumb) is listed as questionable for Sunday's preseason game against the Chicago Bulls. Lowry has not played since undergoing thumb surgery in July. It's unclear whether or not Lowry will be ready for opening night. He'll be a steal in fantasy drafts, assuming he's healthy this season.

Marc Gasol Oct 12 6:40pm ET

Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol (rest) will sit out of Sunday's preseason contest against the Chicago Bulls. He made his preseason debut on Thursday, but played just 18 minutes off the bench. The Raptors are going to manage his workload after he played in the FIBA World Cup this summer. Gasol still holds fantasy value, but not anything like he used to.

Alec Burks Oct 12 6:00pm ET

Golden State Warriors guard/forward Alec Burks (ankle) is making solid progress, but still remains out of practice. He sprained his right ankle about a week ago and still has yet to practice. Burks needs to play during camp to earn his spot in the rotation. The Warriors need depth guys like Burks, but it's hard to justify drafting him in most settings right now.

Kevon Looney Oct 12 6:00pm ET

Golden State Warriors center Kevon Looney (hamstring) remains out of practice after suffering an injury over a week ago. He hurt his hamstring 10 days ago, but the Warriors are making sure he's fully healthy for the regular season. Omari Spellman and Marquese Chriss will continue to fill in at center. Looney does have some decent fantasy value, but will have to battle Willie Cauley-Stein (foot) for playing time.

Paul George Oct 12 6:00pm ET

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George (shoulder) could be sidelined the first ten games of the regular season, according to head coach Doc Rivers. The Clippers have not given a definitive timetable, but this sounds about accurate. That would have George returning around the middle of November. He'll still have great fantasy value, despite being sidelined for the first month or so of the season.

Jrue Holiday Oct 12 5:50pm ET

New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday (quad) has been removed from the injury report for Monday's preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs. Holiday did not play in Friday's contest due to a left quad contusion. Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker saw more minutes without Holiday on the court. It appears Holiday is fine, so he'll be a stud for fantasy leagues this year.

Ricky Rubio Oct 12 5:50pm ET

Phoenix Suns point guard Ricky Rubio (rest) will not suit up for Saturday's preseason game against the Portland Trail Blazers. He'll be joined alongside by teammates Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Rubio may lose some of the ball handling to Booker in the regular season, but that won't kill his fantasy value. Rubio should see enough minutes to have middle round value in most formats.

Eric Bledsoe Oct 11 8:30pm ET

Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe (rib) is in danger of missing the beginning of the regular season after suffering a rib injury. Bledsoe fractured the cartilage between two of his ribs and was given a two or three week timetable. However, the team announced it's more of a pain tolerance issue than anything else. Bledsoe will be cleared to play as soon as the pain goes down. This injury shouldn't hurt his fantasy value because it sounds like a minor issue.

Alex Len Oct 11 8:20pm ET

Atlanta Hawks center Alex Len (back) was able to get through Friday's practice without any setbacks. He is hopefully over his back injuries and was able to suit up during the last two preseason games. There is a good chance that Len can earn the starting center job in Atlanta. He'll have decent late round value in most formats because he has a path to reliable minutes in Atlanta.

Kevin Huerter Oct 11 8:10pm ET

Atlanta Hawks guard Kevin Huerter (knee) was able to get through practice on Friday without any issues. He hasn't played in the preseason yet because of knee pain. There is a chance he gets out there for a game against the Heat on Monday. Huerter has some late round appeal in most formats, assuming he's healthy to begin the regular season.

Cory Joseph Oct 11 8:10pm ET

Sacramento Kings guard Cory Joseph (calf) is likely going to miss the rest of the preseason, according to head coach Luke Walton. The Kings have just two games left, so it's not a huge deal to give Joseph a few days off. Joseph is battling and likely beating Yogi Ferrell for backup minutes at the guard position. However, there probably won't be enough minutes left behind De'Aaron Fox to warrant rostering Joseph.

Nicolas Batum Oct 11 8:00pm ET

Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum (Achilles) suffered an injury on Wednesday and could be shut down for most of the preseason. He did some pre-game work on Friday, but continues to deal with the right Achilles issue. However, the Hornets are rebuilding, so a veteran like Batum doesn't have great value on that organization. He could be a risky option to draft even in 12-team standard leagues to begin the season.

Dwight Powell Oct 11 8:00pm ET

Dallas Mavericks forward/center Dwight Powell (hamstring) has been making progress, but won't play in the preseason. He suffered a left hamstring injury last week and the team is going to be cautious with him during camp. They will re-evaluate Powell before the season opener. Powell still should have value in almost all formats despite the injury. Maximilian Kleber would benefit the most, assuming Powell misses time in the regular season. Boban Marjanovic might get a few extra minutes as well.