31 August, 2017
17 September
4 Pau Gasol (ESP)
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Pau to sink teeth into Transylvania planning once time is right

SAN ANTONIO (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - Pau Gasol has pretty much done it all in his basketball career, from winning FIBA Basketball World Cups and NBA titles to appearing in CSI Miami.

He's also heard it all, like the inevitable question about the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 draw that put his Spanish national team in Romania.

"Any concerns with vampires?" he was asked.

"No, zero," he answered, with a bemused look.

"Are you sure about that?" the FIBA.com writer asked again after reminding Gasol that Cluj-Napoca, the city where the Group Phase games will be played, is in Transylvania, the area that became famous for its connection to vampires because of the 1897 Bram Stoker novel Dracula.

That made Gasol laugh. "As sure as I can be," he said.

One big reason why fans will be eager to get their hands on tickets to watch Group C games in Romania is because of the presence of Spain, the No. 2 team in the FIBA World Ranking.

Spain have Gasol - the MVP of the 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup, EuroBasket 2009 and EuroBasket 2015.

Spain will be the favorites to finish first ahead of Croatia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Hungary and Romania. The opponents can cause Spain problems, though it's not something that concerns Gasol - at least not yet.

"For me, I don't know if I'm going to play or not like always because of this point in my career," the 36-year-old said, "but I think our team isn't concerned about playing anyone. We've won three out of the past four European Championships.

"That doesn't guarantee anything, but we're a team that is confident with quality players. So to be worried about playing a team in the first round, you've got problems.

"You play who you got. I don't think any player is thinking about the opponent at this point."

One team that has had some success against Spain is Croatia. They beat them on the opening day of Group B play at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Dario Saric and Croatia beat Spain at the Rio de Janeiro Games

Croatia's 72-70 victory was assured when Dario Saric blocked Gasol's potential game-winner at the death.

"Croatia - it's always fun," Gasol said.

"I enjoy playing against anyone."