As the final buzzer sounded on the FIBA Americas match between Brazil and Jamaica on Tuesday evening, one thing became certain: Brazil will be nowhere near the podium.
The Brazilians, who finished fifth in the 2012 London Olympics and perennial Americas contender, are at the bottom of their qualifying group at 0-4, behind Puerto Rico, Canada, Uruguay and Jamaica and will miss the next round of play. To be fair to the three group leaders, all of them brought their A-teams. Puerto Rico has a veteran-team led by J.J. Barea and Ronaldo Balkman; Canada has four NBA players on the roster, and Uruguay is spearheaded by center Esteban Batista.
2013 FIBA Americas Championship
In contrast, Brazil's roster is nowhere near the one that gave the world's best a scare in 2012. Inside operators such as Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Nene are not in the lineup, as well as free agent Fab Melo. Leandro Barbosa, the offensive sparkplug of this team, is also nowhere to be found, and also familiar names like Marcus Vinicius and Marcelo Machado.
Taking their places are players such as Rafael Luz, Rafael Hettsheimeir and J.P. Batista, all of whom were not in the Olympic lineup. While all three are veterans, they are definitely a notch down from the likes of Barbosa and Splitter. The top dog for the Brazilian side should have been Marcelo Huertas, an veteran in the European circuit, but his offense has been nonexistent. So far, the most consistent scorer has been Guilherme Giovannoni, who scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 73-79 loss to Uruguay.
Compounding the Brazilians' woes was the ejection of coach Ruben Magnano, who was disqualified in the 62-91 loss against Canada.
Tuesday's game against Jamaica determined who will go on to the next round of the tournament. Jamaica proved to be a tough customer as rode the broad shoulders of Samardo Samuels, who finished with 21 points.
Does this loss mean that Brazil will skip Spain altogether? For a team ranked ninth in the world, it is highly inconceivable. Fortunately, FIBA has reserved four wildcard spots in next year's World Cup, and Brazil is very likely to get one of those. Of course, that will only happen if they manage to get together their NBA veterans for one more run.
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