Unsurprisingly, most of the focus leading into the London Olympics has been on Team USA's veritable treasure trove of superstars. However as the Games go on, invariably stars from other countries begin to come to the fore.
One such seemingly forgotten star who made his mark on Day One of the Mens tournament was Andrei Kirilenko of Russia. The NBA veteran, who spent last season playing in his home country, a partial result of the NBA Lockout, reminded basketball observers what type of dynamic force he can be.
AK47, typically known in recent years as a predominately defensive force, showed off his offensive repetoire against the host nation, Great Britain. Kirilenko put up an internationally impressive 35 points against Team GB, in what was their return to Olympic competition after a very long lay-off. The 1948 London Olympics was their last appearance.
The lanky Russian was efficient in scoring his points off 14 of 17 shots, helping his team to a 95-75 victory. He added four rebounds, three blocks and two steals in a familar AK47 line of old. Russian teammate Alexy Shved, who like Kirilenko has signed on with the Minnesota Timberwolves for next season, added an impressive 16 points, 13 assists and six rebounds.
Russian head coach David Blatt said of the new T-Wolves:
If I'm Minnesota, I've got a big, big smile on my face right now.
Great Britain will see a positive, looking to future pool games, in the performances of their NBA stars. Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls), Pops Mensah Bonsu (formerly of five NBA clubs) and Joel Freeland (2012/13 Portland Trail Blazers) combined for 61 points and 26 rebounds.
Russia faces China next, in a game they will be expecting to win. Meanwhile, Team GB faces a Brazil team fresh off a tight victory over Australia.
|Follow us on Twitter|