I thought these exhibition matches between national teams getting ready to compete in major tournaments were called "friendlies." Apparently, nobody told France forward Mickael Gelabale and Spain swingman Rudy Fernandez, who kicked up some dust during a Sunday tune-up in Paris.
With Spain holding a five-point lead midway through the second quarter, Fernandez — formerly of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, and now a member of Spanish power Real Madrid — dribbled right around a high screen from teammate Felipe Reyes. Cut off by the defensive tandem of Gelabale (whom NBA fans may remember from his relatively undistinguished two-season stint with the Seattle SuperSonics from 2006 to 2008) and San Antonio Spurs big man Boris Diaw, Fernandez went back to his left and found himself trapped. Diaw reached in as Fernandez raised up to pass, deflecting the ball to Gelabale and leaking out on the break. (Yes, NBA fans, you read that right: Boris Diaw exerted effort above the foul line on defense and then sprinted out in transition.)
With Diaw already a few steps clear and Gelabale beginning to push the ball, Fernandez stepped up to impede the French forward's progress and disrupt his attempt to hit a streaking Diaw. Rudy was successful on the first score but not the second, as a leaping Gelabale was able to get the pass away, hit Diaw on the run-out and turn the steal into a fast-break basket. When Gelabale came down, he brought down both arms hard with a shove to Fernandez's head; after Rudy gathered himself and came back to have a word with his opponent, Gelabale delivered another, which sent players from both squads sprinting toward midcourt to prevent the aggression from escalating even further.
Both Gelabale and Fernandez were ejected, which seemed to bother Fernandez (who spent quite a bit of time arguing that he was merely a victim) much more than Gelabale (who pretty much immediately said, "Yeah, I just clocked that dude in the face twice," and exited stage left).
Spain ultimately prevailed, earning a 75-70 victory over France behind double-doubles from star big men Pau Gasol (22 points on 9-of-19 shooting and 10 rebounds) and Serge Ibaka (16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 10 rebounds). The third member of Spain's NBA frontcourt troika, Pau's brother Marc Gasol, missed the game with a shoulder injury.
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Speaking of missing games, that's got to be a concern for Gelabale and Fernandez, who could find themselves in hot water with FIBA. An ejection, even in an international friendly, necessitates "a report to FIBA by the [game's] official — a report which could in turn become suspension for one Olympic match or more," according to BallInEurope. One would suspect that a FIBA review of Fernandez's involvement in the altercation would result in an admission that he caught the short end of the stick in this situation — even if he mouthed off to Gelabale in a major way, he appeared to basically just get decked twice and receive an ejection for his trouble, which seems like enough of a punishment as it stands.
As the aggressor and the one who got (and stayed) physical, though, Gelabale could very well find himself grabbing some pine when France hits London. That's the last thing the French side wants to hear, especially since they're already going to be without defensive linchpin Joakim Noah and star point guard Tony Parker is still working his way back from an eye injury that once had both club and country fearing for his future.
If FIBA elects to sit Gelabale down for one or more games, France will likely feel his absence immediately, as the team opens play in Group A on July 29 against the United States. While Nicolas Batum (who played just five minutes against Spain on Sunday) will likely see the lion's share of the minutes at the three against the U.S., spelled by Yakhouba Diawara and Florent Pietrus, when facing top-flight wing talents like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, you can never have too many rangy, athletic, 6-foot-7-inch defensive options, and France could find itself without one of its best.
Video via nbainfos.
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- Rudy Fernandez
- Boris Diaw