ALICANTE (Liga Endesa/Olympics) – A long time without minutes on the court can catch up with a 33-year-old player.
That’s true even for the great ones.
The timing, reflexes, motivation and mental approach can be affected by the absence of competition.
But there is always the exception to the rule, and the exception for Baskonia and Argentina is Andres Nocioni.
“Chapu”, who wasn’t getting an opportunity to compete with the Philadelphia 76ers, recently returned to former club Baskonia – an outfit in Vitoria, Spain.
He had been in the NBA for eight seasons but was used sparingly the past couple of years.
Nocioni was in the Baskonia line-up at Lucentum Alicante over the weekend in a Liga Endesa game.
The home side won 72-71 with a three-ball in the last split second but that didn’t spoil the return of the Argentinian forward.
Nocioni couldn’t hide his joy of returning to competition, and especially for a team that gave him so much before he left for the NBA after the 2004 Olympics.
"I am delighted to be back playing for not that long ago, I wasn’t playing," Nocioni said to FIBA.com
"I always said I wanted to return to Baskonia.
"I'm at a good age to return."
Argentina fans will have been heartened.
Nocioni is older than he was when he left Baskonia eight years ago, but remains youthful in attitude.
He possesses great concentration and still has plenty of enthusiasm.
Coach Dusko Ivanovic included him in the starting lineup and you wouldn’t have known by watching Chapu that he’d rarely played in Philadelphia.
He stayed on the floor for the entire first quarter and then reappeared later.
With his first touch of the ball, he scored the game’s opening points, drilling a mid-range jumper.
There was no doubt - “Chapu” is back.
All 10 of his points were in the first quarter.
He was four of five from the floor, burying jump shot after jump shot.
A coach like Ivanovic is not impressed easily but he had to be with the 2.03 forward.
Nocioni didn’t play much for the rest of the game.
While he looked good at the beginning, there is an adjustment period.
"In the game, which I played, I felt quite comfortable and I felt good," Nocioni said.
"I was highly concentrated at first but after I spent a while on the bench, I did not play very often and it affected me a bit.
"Dusko will be the one that provides me the minutes, according to his judgment."
National team and Olympic dream
The winner of an Olympic gold in Athens in 2004, Nocioni needed minutes to be at his best at his third Olympic Games in London.
He has time to get into his rhythm.
"I have high expectations of playing the Olympics with Argentina," he said.
"But I have to go step by step.
“I’m coming from a long time without competing."
Argentina won a ticket to London thanks to first place finish at the FIBA Americas Championship last summer they hosted in Mar del Plata.
They beat Brazil in that Gold Medal Game.
The Brazilians also qualified for London by reaching the Final.
The Americas will be well represented at this summer's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT)in Caracas, Venezuela with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the hosts.
Argentina are led by Julio Lamas and former head coach Sergio Hernandez has returned to the technical team as an assistant.
The Argentinians are a side that can challenge for a spot on the podium.
They clinched bronze in 2008.
"The team is well," Nocioni said.
"We have plenty of chances. We need to get well physically and work as well as possible.
"I think we can be in the Semi-Finals.
"We can have a good year."