Twelve years have passed since a young and exciting Argentina team pulled off a stunner in Athens, Greece. They defeated Italy in the gold medal game for the country’s first Olympic medal in men’s basketball in 2004.
The roster featured so much youthful promise. They were led by 27-year-old Manu Ginobili who had already won an NBA championship with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. They also had 24-year-old Luis Scola, who would find his place as a role player for several NBA franchises. At the time, the team’s oldest key contributor was 31-year-old center Fabricio Oberto. He averaged 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds over the eight-game stretch. Overall, the 12-man roster featured just four players over the age of 30.
2016 Olympic Men’s Basketball Preview: Argentina
But after a bronze medal in the 2008 Games in Beijing and a fourth-place finish in the 2012 Games in London, Father Time has finally caught up to the core of FIBA’s fourth-ranked team. They will begin play Sunday as part of what will be a very competitive Group B at the Rio Olympics. The Argentines will face 25th-ranked Nigeria Sunday at 9:30 p.m., EST.
Argentina finished second in the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament with an 8-1 record. However, they will face an uphill climb if they wants to reach the knockout rounds. Among their Group B competition are Spain, Lithuania, Croatia and Brazil, all ranked in FIBA’s top 12. Spain and Lithuania are ranked second and third, respectively. After the winnable Nigeria contest, Argentina will face Croatia, Lithuania, Brazil and Spain in succession over the course of the following week. It will need to win one of those four to keep its hopes of advancing alive.
The roster will be headlined once again by the 36-year-old captain Scola, who signed with the Brooklyn Nets in July. They also have the 39-year-old Ginobili, a surefire Hall of Famer with four rings. He could be entering his final season in San Antonio after signing a one-year deal. Other key players on the aging roster include 36-year-old swingman Andres Nocioni, whose most recent NBA season was 2011-12 with the Philadelphia 76ers, and 33-year-old two-guard Carlos Delfino, who last played for the Houston Rockets during the 2012-13 season. The veteran players, led by Ginobili, will all be capable scorers. Nocioni was a solid defensive player earlier in his career. However, lack of reliable bench play could wind up hurting the team’s chances.
They aren’t without some of that youthful promise that made such a big difference in 2004, however. The team has a pair of up-and-coming point guards in 25-year-old Facundo Campazzo and 26-year-old Nicolas Laprovittola. It’s not yet known who will start and who will come off the bench, but both will contribute positively in either role. Though the team went a disappointing 2-3 in five exhibition games in July, Campazzo scored 16 points and hit a game-winning shot to beat Lithuania 86-85 in double-overtime of its final tune-up. In the same game, Laprovittola scored 15.
Guards: Manu Ginobili (6’6” shooting guard), Facundo Campazzo (5’11” point guard), Nicolas Laprovittola (6’4” point guard), Carlos Delfino (6’7” shooting guard), Patricio Garino (6’5” shooting guard).
Forwards: Luis Scola (6’8” power forward), Nicolas Brussino (6’7” small forward), Andres Nocioni (6’7” small forward), Gabrial Deck (6’6” small forward).
Centers: Marcos Delia (6’10”), Leo Mainoldi (6’8”), Roberto Acuna (6’10”).
Head Coach: Sergio Hernandez.
LOS ANGELES, USA – APRIL 22: Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs in action against Los Angeles Clippers during the first round of the 2015 NBA Western Conference Playoffs game at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA on April 22, 2015. (Photo by Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)