USA Faces Test Against Banged Up Brazil
A week after losing NBA big man Nene for the World Championship due to a leg injury, Brazil officials don't know yet whether they will have another NBA big man available in Anderson Varejao, who suffered a sprained ankle in an Aug. 18 exhibition game. He has missed the first two games of the Worlds.
"I don't know if I'm going to play," Varejao told FanHouse on Sunday. "But I am feeling better, though."
The Cleveland big man could be pivotal to Brazil's chances of pulling an upset in the game that almost certainly will decide Group B. The teams are tied for first at 2-0.
"It is very important," Brazil center Tiago Splitter (above), who recently signed with San Antonio, said of having Varejao in an attempt to defeat the Americans. "I think Anderson is a guy who knows them very well. He is extra energy on the court, and we hope he's OK and he can play."
It sure would help Splitter having Varejao alongside him. But with or without him, Splitter denied he feels any extra pressure due to Spurs fans anxious to see how he looks against Team USA.
"I feel confident in myself," said Splitter, who said he needs to get his visa situation in order but vows to get to San Antonio as soon as he can after the Worlds end Sept. 12, arriving early for the Sept. 28 start of training camp. "(Splitter is) going to show everybody why I'm in the NBA. ... It's going to be a good test."
The Americans believe the Brazilians will be a worthy foe as well.
"We look at it the same way," Team USA big man Kevin Love said of the game almost certainly deciding Group B. "We just want to come out there and really execute our game plan and not have a lapse."
The Brazilians had lapses Sunday as they were perhaps looking ahead to their date with the Americans. They struggled before finally pulling away to beat Tunisia 80-65. Toronto guard Leandro Barbosa led Brazil with 21 points.
"It's going to be a big game," Barbosa said of Monday. "Hopefully, (Varejao) can come back. If he doesn't, we have to prepare ourselves with what we've got."
Asked to give to give a brief scouting report on the Brazilians, Team USA assistant Jim Boeheim lauded Barbosa and said "their big guys are very good around the basket."
But if Varejao can't play, what initially looked to be a trio of very accomplished big men will have been reduced to just Splitter.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson