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The Olympics are under way, Olimpia will be represented bySergio Rodriguez and three members of the Italian team

23/07/2021
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One year later than the original schedule, the Tokyo Olympics start on Friday 23, July. Olimpia, which in its history has had two gold medalists among its alumni, Bill Bradley and Luis Scola, has got four representatives, three with the Italian National Team (Nicolò Melli, the Captain, Riccardo Moraschini and Giampaolo Ricci) and one with the Spanish National Team (Sergio Rodriguez). It is a weird edition of the Games, for the delay and because the games will be played behind largely closed doors. Finally, speaking only about basketball, there is a surprising field of participants given that all the host teams of the pre-Olympic tournaments have been eliminated. So there is no Serbia, who won the silver medal in Rio four years ago, there is no Canada that would have had half a team made up of NBA players, some of the highest profile, but there are also no Croatia, no Lithuania, no Greece and Turkey. The United States have won the last three editions and have always been on the podium when they participated, but they have lost two players during the preparation and three will rejoin the team directly in Tokyo after the NBA Finals (Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Devin Booker, son of Melvin Booker, who spent two seasons with Olimpia). Italy returns to the Games after 17 years since the historic medal conquered in Athens, in 2004.

THE FORMAT – Three groups of four teams, with the first two teams getting to the quarter-finals along the two best third placed teams. Starting with the quarter-finals there will only know-out games. So the key game for everyone will be the one to be played on August 3. It will separate the medal zone from being eliminated. Luck will also be a factor, because the pairings of the quarter-finals will be decided by drawing, the only discriminating factor is that the group winners and the best runner-up will not be face each other.

THE GROUPS – Italy debuts on Sunday 25 against Germany, then it will be the turn of Australia and finally Nigeria, who beat the USA in a friendly and could be the strongest African team ever, coached by Mike Brown (formerly the head coach of the Cleveland Cavs and the Lakers, where he worked with Coach Messina) and with some high caliber NBA players such as Jahlil Okafor, Josh Okogie, Precious Achiuwa. Australia will not have Ben Simmons, but will have at least six NBA players, including Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs and Joe Ingles of the Utah Jazz and is a medal-contending team at the worst. Germany has six EuroLeague players. In Group A there are the USA, France, the Czech Republic and Iran. In Group C there are Argentina, Japan, Spain and Slovenia (the first game for Sergio Rodriguez will be against Japan, led by the Washington Wizards forward, Rui Hachimura).

NICOLO’ MELLI – Like all the Italians, he has never played an Olympics, but his mother, Julie did it, winning the silver medal in volleyball at Los Angeles 1984. Melli, however, played three editions of the European Championships and won a European Under 20 silver medal, collected 85 appearances and faces this competition as captain of the National Team.

RICCARDO MORASCHINI – He has played on all the youth national teams, including the Under 20 who won the European silver in Bilbao in 2011, along Melli. He has 40 appearances, but has never participated in the final phase of a major competition. The Pre-Olympic was a first time for him.

GIAMPAOLO RICCI – He has only 21 appearances, he has never being on the youth national teams. He was part of the 2019 World Cup team, but he was a late cut, the last one before leaving for China. In fact, he is a rookie in a major competition that has reached its final stage.

SERGIO RODRIGUEZ – Spain, with both Gasol brothers available, play in a place that means a lot to its history, the Saitama Arena, where the team won the 2006 World Cup when Chacho was a 20-year-old rookie. Rodriguez will play the third Olympics after winning the silver in 2012 in London and the bronze in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

OLIMPIA CONNECTION – Luis Scola plays for Argentina, in his fifth Olympics, after the gold medal  in 2004 in Athens. He spent the 2019/20 season in Milan. Zoran Dragic, who spent last season in Vitoria and played in Milan during the 2016/17 season, winning a Super Cup and an Italian Cup, will play for Slovenia. Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the USA Team, was also the head coach of Ettore Messina during his five-year stay with the San Antonio Spurs, where, among their players, there was Patty Mills, the Australian national team point-guard, who will also be flag-bearer of the entire delegation at the Opening Ceremony. On the Italian national team there are former Olimpia players Danilo Gallinari (who is obviously also the son of Vittorio Gallinari) and Simone Fontecchio, as well as coaches Piero Bucchi and Paolo Galbiati. The other assistant, Lele Molin, worked at different times under Coach Ettore Messina. Speaking of Olympic connections: Gianmarco Pozzecco, a new member of the Olimpia coaching staff, won the silver as a player in Athens 2004.

 

RICCARDO MORASCHINI
NICOLO' MELLI
PIPPO RICCI