PARIS (George Eddy's International Show) - The Rio 2016 Olympic Games was a pretty well-organized event thanks to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Brazilians and volunteers from around the world who made us feel welcome, confortable and safe.
It's fair to say that the four Semi-Finalists were all satisfied even though Australia missed out on a first-ever men's medal in a heartbreaker against Spain for the bronze.
The Boomers had resounding and convincing wins over France and Lithuania but were totally dominated by the big surprise of the tournament, Serbia, in the Semi-Finals. Coach Sasha Djordjevic continued to build on his 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup success to put Serbia back on top of international basketball. He took a national team that, a few years ago had a hard time finding a coach and star players willing to participate, and made it into a reference by getting the most out of his players' potential which made them want to be there! Their defense and ball movement were "Spurs-like" which was fine with Djordjevic who considers the NBA team to be his model. He woke up Bogdan Bogdanovic when he wasn't aggressive enough and calmed down Nikola Jokic when the young buck got too wild!
Spain had a wild ride losing their first two games on the last possession before winning three cut-throat, back-against-the-wall type games to qualify for the Quarter-Finals. This prepared them well for the knockout round where they dismantled France completely, then lost by only six to the USA before squeezing through for the bronze medal. As usual they got better as they went along. Their smart use of Pau Gasol, their intelligent passing and shot selection as well as their iron-clad defense made France renounce in the third quarter of their Quarter-Final! They were more battle-hardened than the French who played two bizarre games without much at stake against Serbia and the USA in the Group Phase.
In hindsight, France probably would have been better off losing to Serbia but the two teams played to win which was good for the Olympic spirit. Les Bleus probably regret a perturbed preparation period and not selecting Evan Fournier to the team because his offensive production was missed but they disappointed mostly on the defensive end which was a break away from their recent success (four medals in five years prior to Rio). Looking ahead, I hope that coach Vincent Collet will stay on to assure the transition from the glorious Tony Parker era (the best ever for France) into the De Colo-Heurtel-Nicolas Batum-Rudy Gobert-Fournier era. Not an easy task!
The USA had a rockier road then expected in the Group Phase, having to gut out three close wins but this assured they would be ready for the Final Phase and they sure were! Coach Mike Krzyzewski made some great adjustments giving the keys on offense to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson and changing his player rotations to put a more defensive-oriented five on the court to hold the lead KD gave them. Durant was timid and passing too much in the Group Phase, trying to get everyone involved, so coach K showed him some video of the 2010 FIBA Basketball World Cup where KD dominated the elimination phase and told Durant to play that way! Krzyzewski also didn't give up on Thompson who was shooting 20 percent in the first round but showed up when it was "big boys time" as Gregg Popovich, the future USA coach, likes to say. The USA bid farewell to Coach K with pomp and circumstance by stomping Serbia by 30 points and playing their best all-around game in the Gold Medal Game. Carmelo Anthony won his third Olympic gold medal and was a perfect leader, while Paul George, DeAndre Jordan, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry were the unsung heroes on defense. As I said to close our Olympic broadcast, "Bravo gentlemen, you can be proud of yourselves!".
To sum things up, the USA did what was expected of them in a classy way. Serbia, Spain and Australia were satisfactions while France, Lithuania and Brazil were somewhat disappointing. Nigeria represented Africa well by giving Spain some trouble and by beating Croatia handily.
Brazil-Argentina, Serbia-Croatia, USA-Spain and the Bronze Medal Game were the best and most exciting games of the tournament. A lot of the games hinged on one possession, one foul or one shot.
In the end, these Olympics will also be remembered as the last for the golden generations from Argentina, Spain and France which are symbolized by immense champions like Manu Ginobili, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker respectively. It was an honor and a pleasure to watch them play with their national teams over the last 15 years!