Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lakers star tips Team GB to shine

By Rob Dugdale

Pau Gasol
Gasol (left) helped the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA finals

Spain's LA Lakers star Pau Gasol believes NBA duo Ben Gordon and Luol Deng will make Great Britain a team to watch at next year's EuroBasket finals.

Team GB, who qualified again this summer, anticipate Detroit's Gordon will join Deng in the team for 2011.

"It'll be interesting, if they have Gordon and Deng, how good the team can be," Gasol told BBC Sport.

"Hopefully the players will continue to commit to the GB team so basketball can grow in the country."

Gasol, voted Most Valuable Player when Spain won last year's EuroBasket in Poland, was his country's saviour when GB - minus injured Chicago forward Deng and the absent Gordon - threatened to shock Spain in the teams' encounter in the group stages in Warsaw before winning 84-76.

"That was a close game - closer than we expected because they made a lot of big plays and started hitting three-pointers," added Gasol, during a visit to London to play for the Lakers in a NBA pre-season game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Felipe Reyes

GB threaten Spain upset at EuroBasket

Gasol will face his old side on Thursday when the Lakers are in Spain to face Barcelona.

But the 7ft 1in Spain centre also said he has not decided whether to play at next year's EuroBasket finals in Lithuania.

"Maybe - I'm not sure exactly," he added. "It depends how I feel physically after this season.

"I'll be 31 next summer - having long seasons with the Lakers is a great thing, but I have to be conscientious about my future and looking after my body."

Team GB, who are not guaranteed a place in 2012, will find out in February or March next year if world governing body Fiba have been persuaded to give them a host's spot in London.

Being at the 2012 Olympics is one of my goals - it's something I haven't won yet

Pau Gasol

The final placings in Lithuania will determine which European teams qualify for the London Olympics, so Gasol's absence could put Spain in danger of missing out on 2012.

"Being at the 2012 Olympics is one of my goals - it's something I haven't won yet," said Gasol, who has European and World Championship gold medals in his collection from 2009 and 2006.

The former Barcelona centre opted to miss this summer's World Championships in Turkey in order to rest after a season in which he helped the Lakers to their second successive NBA title.

Without him, Spain failed to make the quarter-finals and to make matters worse, Gasol was at courtside as television co-commentator when his team were struggling without him.

"It was tough for me to not see my team do as well as I would like them to do - obviously because I wasn't there to help," he said.

"Hopefully our country will qualify next year through the EuroBasket."

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