MADRID, Spain - From the looks of the place, it's going to be loud Sunday night when Team USA plays Spain in an exhibition game.
Reporters were let inside Team USA's practice Wednesday (Tuesday night's session was closed), and one of the first things that struck a first-time visitor to the new Caja Magica Deportes Centro (a.k.a. MagicBox) was how low the ceiling was in comparison to what is common at arenas in the United States.
Also, the ceiling at the stadium (which is usually used for tennis tournaments) is constructed of corrugated metal, and coach Mike Krzyzewski took note of how the seats closest to the court also had waist-high metal enclosures separating them from the other pricey lower-level seats closest to the court. (Think box seats, then think box seats enclosed by low metal walls).
"In my country they'd kick those things," Krzyzewski said. "This place looks like it'll be loud."
Krzyzewski also said he would stick with the starting lineup he used against France last weekend -- Tyson Chandler, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, Chauncey Billups and Rajon Rondo -- in Saturday night's game against Lithuania. But he added that Derrick Rose, Rudy Gay, Lamar Odom and Danny Granger also should be considered potential starters as the team moves forward.
"The youth of our team is the biggest concern," Krzyzewski said, pointing out to the Spanish media that Team USA has five 21-year-olds, "and then there's rebounding. But we have good quickness, and we're going to have to use that strength to overcome our weaknesses. This is not a veteran team like we had in Beijing."
The big news Wednesday was Stephen Curry's ankle injury, and everyone on the team, from coaches to players to support staff, was still trying to get their body clocks on European time after the long airplane trip -- 15 1-2 hours from jetway to hotel entrance, with refueling stops in Newfoundland and Iceland -- from the United States.
Billups was asked for his thoughts on the talents of Ricky Rubio, and he replied that he had never seen him play. I asked him: "What about the 2008 Olympic gold medal game (in which Rubio started for Spain against the Redeem Team)?" To which Billups replied: "I didn't see it."
I also spoke with Derrick Rose about some of the particulars of that gold medal game, when Spain lost Rubio and backup Raul Lopez to foul trouble (three apiece) early in the second quarter and was without Jose Calderon because of an injury. I told Rose how Juan Carlos Navarro had filled in admirably despite playing out of position, and Chandler gave Rose a scouting report on Navarro's signature shot, the floater, or teardrop, with Chandler pointing out that Navarro's release on his shot is so quick coming off a screen, it makes it almost undefendable.
The Spanish team, which defeated Brazil 84-68 in a friendly Tuesday night in Lograno, Spain, in a game in which Anderson Varejao sprained his ankle, is playing without Pau Gasol this summer and did not have Marc Gasol (back injury) Tuesday.
"Any team with Pau is better. any team without him does not mean you're bad, but he's one of the best players in the world," Krzyzewski said, noting that Spain easily won the gold medal game against Greece at the World Championship four years ago in Japan despite Gasol sitting out with a broken foot. (Gasol won MVP honors in that tournament despite missing the final game). "To watch the Spanish basketball team play, with the way they pass the ball, is to watch beautiful basketball."
On a side note, FIBA announced the referees for the World Championship, which begins Aug. 28 in four Turkish cities.
NBA referees Bill Kennedy and Anthony Jordan are the two American officials. Kennedy will work the preliminary games in Kayseri (Serbia, Argentina, Australia, Germany, Jordan and Angola), while Jordan hit the geographical lottery and will bring his whistle to the seaside city of Izmir (Spain, Lithuania, France, Canada, New Zealand, Lebanon).