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Pau Gasol says he hopes to play for Spain in World Cup next summer

Basketball - Olympics: Day 6

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: Pau Gasol #4 of Spain reacts against Nigeria during the Men’s Basketball - Preliminary Round Group B Nigeria vs Spain on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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Pau Gasol is a legend of the Spanish national team. He led Spain to a World Championship (2006, what is now called the World Cup), has two Olympic silver medals (2008, 2012), and in 2012 he was the flag bearer for Spain at the Olympics.

And he’s not done yet.

Gasol released an autobiography is Spain recently — Bajo El Aro” meaning “Below The Hoop” — and in promoting it he spoke with Spanish news website El Dia saying he wants to play for his country in the 2019 World Cup in China if the 38-year-old is healthy. (Hat tip to NBC News 4 San Antonio for finding and translating this.)

I want to have the best possible regular-season and once I finish I will see how physically I am. I am about to turn 39...

I love playing with the national team and I would like to continue, and qualify for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and help the team with my presence, if I am physically well my belief and my wish is to be in the World Cup.

Spain is 6-0 through the first round of qualifying and seems destined to make it to Tokyo for the World Cup. That’s when, as with the USA, their best players will return from the NBA (and in their case the top Spanish league) to take over the roster and compete for a title. Spain has gotten older at its core, but still are one of the handful of best teams in the world, and like Gasol can still, in flashes, put together some very impressive basketball.

FIBA has now set up the World Cup as the primary qualifier for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. A lot of elite players will be there, but a few are certainly going to beg out of it, from the USA and other nations. My guess is Gasol plays, he takes real pride in representing his nation, but his body will make that call.