The Stars Come Out: Olympic Basketball


The quadrennial sporting extravaganza that is the Olympic Games is nearly upon us, and as a result later this week the eyes of the world turn to Rio. In preparation for the late nights caused by patriotic attention to sports neglected for all bar 16 days every 4 years, The Sportress will look at a few sports of interest and at some Australian medal chances.

Today we look at a sport that has ticked both boxes since 1996, we’re inspecting the hardwood and previewing Olympic Basketball. 11 men and 11 women teams are all chasing the opportunity to upset the USA for the gold.

Where the magic is happening

For those who are unaware the Olympics tournament is played under FIBA International rules which has a few key differences to keep in mind for those accustomed to watching the NBA.

GAME TIME – Olympic matches are played over 4 x 10 minute quarters as opposed to 12 minute NBA quarters. In the event of a tie, 5 minute over-time periods are played until there is a winner.

TIME OUTS – Each team gets two time outs in the first half, three in the second half and one per overtime period. All time outs must be called by the coach and are one minute in length.

THREE POINT LINE – The 3 point line in Olympic play is an arc 6.25m from the centre of the basket. This is significantly shorter than in the NBA where the arc 6.7m from the basket in the corners and 7m away at the top of the arc.

ZONE DEFENCE – Although the NBA is more relaxed on zone defence than it has been it still restricts players from spending more than 3 seconds on the paint when not guarding a specific player. A restriction not in place in Olympic play.

GOAL TENDING & BASKET INTERFERENCE – In Olympic play as soon as the ball hits the hoop or backboard it is fair game as long as you don’t reach up through the basket.

FOULS – Players are ejected upon committing their fifth foul, one less than in NBA games and a team is in the ‘bonus’ after the fourth foul of a quarter.

Two venues will host basketball play in Rio. Youth Arena a multipurpose, 5000 seat stadium will be the site of the women’s group games before staging the Modern Pentathlon fencing matches. The larger 16,000 seater Carioca Arena will see the men’s group and both tournaments knockout matches.

Both competitions will be contested by 12 teams split between 2 x 6 Team Groups, the top 4 from each will qualify for the quarter finals.

France Argentina France Canada
USA Spain Japan Spain
Venezuala Brazil Brazil USA
Serbia Lithuania Australia Senegal
China Croatia Belarus Serbia
Australia Nigeria Turkey China

The Basketball competition tips off with Turkey and France facing off in the women’s division at the Youth Arena on Sunday August 7 at 1am. We don’t have to wait long from there for the first Aussie involvement, with the Boomers taking on France 2 hours later at Carioca.

Despite missing a veritable All-Steam team after the withdrawals of stars like Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Blake Griffen, Anthony Davis, Kawahi Leonard and LeBron James, the USA are still the team to beat in the men’s division. When players like Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durrant, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving were on the plane to Rio, you can see why.

thumbnail_Missing stars but still imposing
The USA Mens team is packed with all the stars

France, Spain and Lithuania will be hard to beat but the Boomers will feel they are every chance of being there when the medals are decided. With 5 NBA players in the squad including Andrew Bogut, Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova they could lay claim to the title of best ever Boomers squad. This won’t mean much to them however if they come home without a medal.

In the women’s division it appears to again be headed for a USA v Australia showdown for the gold. After losing out to the US in 3 of the last 4 finals and with a strong WNBA contingent including Liz Cambage, Penny Taylor and Erin Phillips, the Opals will be hungry to go one step further in Rio. Spain and France will also fancy their chances so if the Aussies look too far ahead, like in London in 2012, they could find themselves out of the gold medal game.

Both Australian teams are stacked full of stars, here are just a handful to keep an eye out for:

Patty Mills – a stand-out at the London Olympics, leading all point scorers, and now a genuine backup guard in the NBA, with an NBA Championship ring to show for it, Mills will be the man who’s shot the Boomers hopes will rely most upon.

Andrew Bogut – the veteran big man’s defence and rebounding will be a key plank behind any medal push by the boomers. That said, it is probably his tweeting that will provide the most entertainment. If you don’t follow him, do so now, here is a couple of examples of his twitter game.

Whether it is taking pot shots at fellow Olympic basketballers:
thumbnail_Bogut cambage
Sharing odd Olympic Village signage:
thumbnail_Dont pee on the floor
Showing his DIY skills:
thumbnail_Shower curtain
Or taking simultaneous swipes at IOC Officialdom and Olympic Village lodgings:
thumbnail_Ioc accom

think it is fair to say that the Boomers aren’t living is as high on the hog as the US Team are on their luxury yacht off the Rio coast.

Matthew Dellavedova – 2016 has been a year of accolades for Delly, a career best season, a championship and the title of NBA’s ‘Dirtiest’ player as voted by his fellow players. A new minted nearly $13mill a year deal with the Millwaukee Bucks capped off quite a year. Dellavedova is not afraid to get his hands dirty and his aggressive style will be cheered on by most Aussies especially if it can help lead to a first Olympic medal for the Boomers.

Liz Cambage – when she is not entering into twitter feuds with Andrew Bogut, Cambage is one of the hardest players to guard in world basketball due to her unique size and strength. After becoming the first woman to dunk at the Olympics in London she is hoping to make a bigger impact by leading the Opals to new heights in Rio.

Penny Taylor – an Opal Legend, Rio 2016 will be Taylor’s swansong after a career with too many accolades to mention. Her career highlight would have to be the Opals only Gold Medal won at the World Championships in 2006, coincidently in Brazil. If lightning can strike twice it will be the perfect swansong for one of Australia’s greatest basketballers.

The 13 hour difference has made watching the Boomers quite difficult all bar the match up with the US at either 1am or 3am Australian Eastern Time. The Opals however could become the perfect accompaniment to your bowl of Weet-Bix, 3 of their games are at 6.30. Following the US won’t affect your sleep patterns too much, however you might need an excuse ready for your late arrival to the office.

To plan your viewing, find below the schedules for the Boomers, Opals and USA Men’s Team.

Aug 7, 3.15am v France Aug 7, 6.30am v Brazil Aug 7, 8am v China
Aug 9, 3.15am v Serbia Aug 9, 6.30am v Turkey Aug 9, 8am v Venezuala
Aug 11, 8am v USA Aug 10, 1.15am v France Aug 11, 8am v Australia
Aug 13, 3.15am v China Aug 12, 6.30am v Japan Aug 13, 8am v Serbia
Aug 15, 1.15am v Venezuala Aug 14, 1.15am v Belarus Aug 15, 3.15am v France

The women kick off the Quarter Finals on August 17th with the men following on the 18th.

The Semi Finals will take place on the 19th and 20th of August.

The Gold Medal Games will take an early start with both scheduled for 4.30 am on the 21st and 22nd of August with the Bronze Medal playoff to proceed them at 12.30am.

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