Navarro injury a concern for Spain

Publish date:

LONDON -- Spain suffered a setback when shooting guard and team captain Juan Carlos Navarro missed Tuesday's 82-70 victory against Australia.

The Spanish are the biggest threat to the United States in the Olympic men's basketball tournament, but their chances of scoring an upset in the medal round will decrease if Navarro is unable to play.

Navarro, 32, has been dealing with plantar fasciitis for a number of years. Coach Sergio Scariolo said Navarro sustained another foot injury near the end of Spain's tournament-opening win over China on Sunday.

"It was very strong and all of a sudden,'' Scariolo said. "It is nothing related with his former problems. It is a probably a new injury. It is plantar fasciitis, but it is probably in a different place [within the foot].

"He couldn't play. I don't know how many games he will miss.''

The 6-4 shooting guard is a team leader who has made a habit of scoring 20 points or more against the U.S. over the years. Apart from his 2007-08 season in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies, Navarro has been a star for Barcelona in the Spanish ACB.

"He's not obviously too happy right now because he's injured and he couldn't play today and we don't know exactly when he's going to be able to play,'' said teammate and longtime friend Pau Gasol. "It's not the easiest situation for an athlete to go through during an Olympics.''

Gasol did not sound optimistic about Navarro's potential to make a dramatic return. Should Spain (2-0) go on to win Group B while the Americans finish first in Group A, the teams would be lined up to meet in the Aug. 12 final.

"We'll see if we can get him healthy first and then close to his 100 percent,'' Gasol said. "He's been carrying a lot of injuries throughout the year and he hasn't been 100 percent all year long. So hopefully we'll get him healthy and able to play and contribute as much as he can.''

The good news for Spain was the return to health of 6-6 swingman Rudy Fernandez, who underwent back surgery at the end of his NBA season with the Denver Nuggets. Fernandez scored 17 points (6-of-7 from the field, including four three-pointers) with six rebounds and three assists against Australia.

"We need Rudy to be in good shape -- and even more without Juan Carlos, of course,'' Scariolo said. "He hasn't been playing for almost five months and it's extremely important for him to play this game for his confidence.''