Argentina getting healthy as FIBA Americas approaches

Aug 14, 2007 - 2:19 PM By Matias Greco Special to PA SportsTicker

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Ticker) -- Argentina has endured a difficult build-up to the FIBA Americas Championship.

With veteran superstar Manu Ginobili choosing to rest and not play this summer and injuries knocking others, like Andres Nocioni, out of contention, Argentina enters the tournament with a relatively thin roster.

Therefore, national team coach Sergio Hernandez is breathing a sigh of relief that forwards Leonardo Gutierrez and Carlos Matias Sandes have both been declared healthy for the Olympic qualifying event.

Hernandez on Tuesday included both Gutierrez and Sandes in his 12-man squad for the FIBA Americas Championship, which tips off on August 22 in Las Vegas.

New Houston Rockets signing Luis Scola and recent Toronto Raptors acquisition Carlos Delfino are the biggest names in the group.

But Hernandez will definitely be relieved that two other experienced players will be with the team when they attempt to qualify for the Olympics.

Gutierrez suffered a leg injury last week and was doubtful while Sandes sustained a muscular injury during the Pan American Games earlier this summer.

After Sandes got hurt, the Argentinian Basketball Confederation announced he would not be healthy in time for the Las Vegas competition.

However, doctors have advised Hernandez the two are fit enough to play. Gutierrez, 29, is confident he will be ready for Argentina's opener against Uruguay on August 23.

"We are doing some special things to cure the injury and there is lots of physiotherapy with doctors," he said. "When you suffer an injury, it's better to withdraw. But I want to be with the team and have the chance to play."

Gutierrez is currently with the team in Puerto Rico as they prepare to take part in the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup warmup competition alongside Brazil, Canada and the host nation.

"In Puerto Rico, we will do a different job, and I hope I can be in good form," Gutierrez said.

"I have already done complete training sessions without any problems," the 23-year-old Sandes added. "I am ready to play."

Argentina has been drawn in Group A for the FIBA Americas Championship, alongside Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Panama and Mexico.

The top two teams qualify automatically for the Olympics, and the nations that end up in positions 3-6 will take part in an additional qualifying tournament for the Beijing Games next year.

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