Kobe & Pau: Lakers teammates, Olympic opponents

February, 8, 2012
2/08/12
4:44
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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In what's considered one of the greatest basketball games of the history of the sport, the United States beat Spain in the gold medal game at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The storylines attached to the game are endless. From the significance of the "Redeem Team" putting USA Basketball back in the gold medal winners' circle for the first time since 2000; to the sneak preview aspect of USA's roster putting LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together long before "The Decision"; to a teenage Ricky Rubio showing off his skills on the world's stage.

The biggest story for Lakers fans, however, was the fact that before Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol had won a championship together for the purple and gold, they competed for a championship against one another for their countries.

The 2012 London games are still six months away, but the trash talk has already started between the two.

"[We’ve talked about it] here and there," Gasol said after the Lakers practiced in Boston on Wednesday. "Obviously, he likes to talk trash a little bit about it. The bottom line is the Olympics is always a special tournament for any athlete. The USA team has a very strong team and they’re going to go for nothing less but the gold. We have a pretty good team too. We’re an ambitious team with a lot of talent. So, we’ll give it a shot."

(Bryant and Rubio engaged in some trash talk of their own after the Lakers played the Timberwolves recently.)

While Bryant need only utter "scoreboard" to Gasol to win the back-and-forth (USA won 118-107), Gasol actually outscored Bryant 21-20 in the game.

Maybe that one point is fueling Bryant this time around.

"I’m looking forward to it," Bryant said. "If anything else, just not to let Pau win a gold medal."

What about the torn ligament in Bryant's wrist, not to mention his wobbly knee?

"I’m definitely going to play," Bryant said. "I’m not letting Pau getting a free run at winning a gold medal."

Gasol would like a rematch.

"It was a really good game [in 2008]," Gasol said. "It was close. Unfortunately we couldn’t finish it. A couple of shots that we missed, a couple of shots that they made, and they took the game. They took the gold medal. But, it was a fun game, fun to be a part of that game and we’ll see what happens next time."

Team USA still has to cut down its player pool from 20 down to 12 before the games begin, no easy task considering it is drawing from eight members of the '08 team, 10 members of the 2010 team, as well as Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and the L.A. Clippers' Blake Griffin. Bryant credited Gasol's squad for finding the right mix of players.

"It’s not about star power, it’s really not," Bryant said. "It’s about putting a group together that plays well together. Spain, they play extremely well together. Argentina plays extremely well together. So forth and so on. That’s going to be our challenge."

Time will tell if USA's ultimate challenge will come from Spain once again.

"We’re the European champions, they’re the Olympic champions and the World Champions from 2010 in Turkey, so I guess it’s fair to say [we’re the favorites to meet in the gold medal game again]," Gasol said.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
25.0 2.5 1.5 28.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 10.5
AssistsR. Price 4.0
StealsR. Price 2.0
BlocksE. Davis 2.0