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August 05, 2016

Hey, the Sixers actually have a couple of Olympians

Despite a litany of problems, the 2016 Olympics will get underway as scheduled Friday night in Rio with the Opening Ceremony. And just like four years ago in London, when Andre Iguodala latched on with Coach K and Team USA, the Sixers will be represented in the basketball competition.

This time around, the Sixers will be providing some international flavor with Dario Saric (Croatia) and Sergio Rodriguez (Spain) in the field. First off, here’s the viewing schedule for each team in the preliminary round:


8/7, 6:00 p.m
 Brazil8/9, 1:15 p.m.
 Nigeria8/11, 6:00 p.m.
8/13, 6:00 p.m.
8/15, 6:00 p.m.


8/7, 6:00 p.m.
8/9, 9:30 p.m.
8/11, 1:15 p.m.
8/13, 9:30 p.m.
 8/15, 9:30 p.m.

With Spain and Croatia both in Group B, Saric and Rodriguez will go head to head on Sunday night on NBC Sports Network.

To begin this preview, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Neither of these teams are likely winning the gold medal, because there is one team that is an overwhelming favorite to capture gold. Even with Team USA missing the likes of LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, and Anthony Davis (just to name a few), the rest of the field simply doesn’t stack up. This is our sport, and ever since Coach K and Jerry Colangelo got USA Basketball organized a decade ago, nobody has been able to touch us.

Rodriguez and the Spanish team came close a couple of times, pushing the U.S. in the gold medal game both in Beijing and London. Spain is still a favorite to medal, but they’re missing their best player (Marc Gasol) and many of their core players are now well into their 30s.

A gifted playmaker, Rodriguez figures to be part of the Spanish point guard rotation along with Ricky Rubio and Jose Calderon. Here’s a pretty impressive highlight reel of the bearded guard’s performance in a tune-up against Lithuania:

Saric and Croatia aren’t expected to medal, but with a younger core that also includes legit NBA players in Bojan Bogdanovic and Mario Hezonja (not to mention Dragan Bender, who isn’t playing this time), the guess here is that they will be a stronger team than the Spanish in 2020.

The good news for Sixers fans is that along with Bogdanovic, Saric is the focal point of this Croatian team. As you’ll recall, he was the MVP of the qualifying tournament in Italy:

Making the Final 8 would be an acceptable result for Croatia. Saric and Rodriguez should provide Philly fans with some fun passing sequences this season, but first, they’ll be matched up against each other.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann