The basketball world is halfway through the preliminary round of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and with the exception of a scare for the United States versus Australia, it's been about what one would expect. The USA has been fairly dominant, the field has been fairly competitive versus one another, and Carmelo Anthony is still the best player in international competition ever.
Of course, Bulls fans are most interested in the performance of their team's own players: Jimmy Butler representing the USA, Nikola Mirotic representing Spain, and Cristiano Felicio representing host country Brazil. Let's take a look at how the three of them have played on the court now that the preliminary round is halfway over:
As predicted, poor Butler hasn't had much room to operate on a team full of NBA stars. In the first game versus China, Butler only scored eight points in 15 minutes, though he also pulled down six rebounds, dished out four assists, and played some pretty stellar perimeter defense in the early parts of the game. Against Australia, Butler registered only six minutes and posted a goose egg in the scoring column as Mike Krzyzewski opted for more offensive firepower over the course of the contest.
Butler's best offensive game unquestionably came versus Venezuela, during which he dropped 17 points on only seven shots and was second on the team in scoring only to Paul George. He led the USA in freethrow makes and attempts with eight each, canned an end-of-quarter three pointer, and had a very strong and-1 on a fastbreak:
Butler also blessed Tom Thibodeau fans with this great photo:
He also seems to have a budding friendship with DeAndre Jordan:
Butler and the rest of the USA squad will play Serbia on Friday and France on Sunday before advancing to the medal round.
Of the three Bulls in Rio, Mirotic has by far the greatest role on his team. He had a stellar olympic debut against Croatia, scoring 19 points on 4/8 shooting from beyond the arc to go along with six rebounds and four assists. However, he was somewhat limited most recently against Nigeria as he failed to score in the second half and finished the game with only seven points on three shots and five rebounds.
Unfortunately, Mirotic's most notable moment at the Olympics so far cost his team a victory. In a game against Brazil in which he rebounded well but scored a mere six points despite playing 32 minutes, Mirotic failed to box out Marcus Marquinhos on the final play of the contest. Marquinhos subsequently won the game for Brazil on a tip-in (you can watch it here, NBC disabled embeds for some reason).
It's been a pretty disappointing Olympics thus far for Spain. They are 1-2 in their first three games in prelims, with their only win coming against a Nigeria squad that played them close for nearly the length of the contest. Their two remaining games will come against Lithuania on Saturday and Argentina on Monday, arguably two of the best teams in the world right now. Mirotic will have to make his presence felt in these final two games if Spain is to avoid a massive disappointment in Rio.
Felicio was a late add to Brazil's olympic roster following an injury to Anderson Varejao, so there was an assumption in place that he would have a bench role for the host nation's squad heading into the Olympics. However, Felicio's role has been perhaps even more reduced than that, as he has yet to play greater than 15 minutes in any of his contests.
Felicio had a good showing against Spain, scoring seven points in 12 minutes, and he managed to haul in four rebounds in each of his other performances, but he hasn't been able to continue his positive momentum he picked up from his solid summer league play. Part of the reason it's been hard for him to get on the court has been because of his defensive lapses, which were on full display during his first half against Croatia.
Barring an injury to Nene, it's hard to imagine Felicio's role increasing over these next to games, and Brazil has a lot of work to do if they want to make the next round. They fell to Croatia thanks to Bojan Bogdanovic dropping an olympic-high 33 points on them, and now must beat Argentina on Saturday and Nigeria on Monday to have any shot at earning a medal on their home court.
Finally, I'll leave you one of the plays of the Olympics thus far: Pau Gasol getting swatted by Dario Saric on a game-winning attempt out of the post. Enjoy the rest of the Olympics!