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Steinmetz: A dream start to Olympics for Team USA

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We’re into the medal round in Olympic men’s basketball, and by the time you’re reading this, Team USA will likely be in the final four, if you will.

Some quick impressions of the hoops:

So far, so good in the “representing your country well” department. Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the rest of the U.S. team have been model citizens and solid ambassadors thus far. Besides, the poor sportsmanship award is already locked up by that Swedish wrestler who tossed his bronze aside during the medal ceremony.

Argentina seems certain to give the U.S. its best game of the Olympics, a game scheduled for Friday if everything goes according to plan. Manu Ginobili and Andres Nocioni are big-time competitors who aren’t going to be intimidated. It’s just bothersome that on the one hand Ginobili and Nocioni are so tough on the court, and on the other they are so soft when it comes to be being among the league’s biggest floppers. Bad combo.

Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki is catching heat for making it clear this will be his last Olympics, which plays into his reputation of not exactly being the greatest competitor in the world. But think about it … the poor guy gets double- and triple-teamed every time he touches the ball for Germany and his teammates aren’t good enough to give him any help. How frustrating is that? Come to think of it, that sounds like the 2007 playoffs against the Warriors.

Ricky Rubio, Spain’s 17-year-old point guard phenom, has done OK so far. It’s pretty obvious the kid’s got talent and flair, but the two biggest things he’s got going for him are his size and mentality. At 6-foot-4, Rubio is an excellent rebounder for a guard, and his length allows him to constantly heckle and badger in the backcourt. He’s like a 6-4 version of a Muggsy Bogues or Earl Boykins on defense.

He didn’t have the greatest rookie year in the NBA and he’s been mediocre in these Olympics, but don’t give up on China’s Yi Jianlian. He’s a very skilled player for his size and it shouldn’t be long before he finds some kind of professional niche.

You might see that Team USA turned over Spain 28 times during Saturday’s game and assume that Spain’s guards — Jose Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro — didn’t do a good job of handling pressure. Not the case. Calderon and Navarro combined for just three turnovers in the 119-82 loss. It was Spain’s big men mostly, including Pau Gasol, who struggled with Team USA’s quickness.

It already has been written a bunch in the past few weeks, but it doesn’t hurt to emphasize: Dwyane Wade looks like he’s fully back from injury.

Matt Steinmetz is the NBA insider for Warriors telecasts on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. E-mail him at msteinmetz@sfexaminer.com.

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