For Team USA, FIBA World Cup is about waiting for Spain
Feel the basketball excitement in the air? No?
That's understandable, since FIBA, the governing body of international basketball, decided to wait until the opening of American football season to begin the renamed World Cup of Basketball.
The event begins tomorrow (Saturday), with Team USA battling Finland in Bilbao (2:30 p.m., ESPN). That's the first of five games in six days for the U.S. Here's the full slate:
Saturday vs. Finland, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday vs. Turkey, 2:30 (ESPN)
Tuesday vs. New Zealand, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Wednesday vs. Dominican Republic, 2:30 (ESPN)
Thursday vs. Ukraine, 11:30 (ESPN)
Round of 16: Sept. 6-7
Quarterfinals: Sept. 9-10
Semifinals: Sept. 11-12
Gold Medal game: Sept. 14
This event, formerly known as the FIBA World Championships, is a big deal to the rest of the world, but America has never paid much attention to it. In fact, the U.S. has won just four out of 16 championships in the history of the tournament. Team USA is the defending champ, though, having rolled to the gold medal in Turkey in 2010 behind Kevin Durant.
Looking at the 24-team field, it would probably be correct to say all the travel, exhibitions and broken bones for Team USA is a build-up to one challenging championship game against Spain.
The U.S. should coast through Group C, then is matched up in the playoffs against Group D, which includes Lithuania, Mexico, Australia, Angola, Korea and Slovenia. Group A should be the most difficult, with Spain, France and Brazil, but the U.S. won't see anyone from Groups A or B until the gold medal game. Or the bronze medal game, if something goes horribly wrong.
Derrick Rose is expected to come off the bench in the opener against Finland, while Cleveland's Kyrie Irving starts at point guard. The starting lineup could change at times, since the coaching staff will try to keep everyone both sharp and rested during the easy parts of the schedule.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski ended up keeping more big men than expected. He took Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond and Miles Plumlee to Spain. Davis has been dominant in the exhibitions, but at some point, the U.S. may need some reliable outside shooting, which figures to come from Irving, James Harden, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.
Most every team in the competition has a current or former NBA player, but on paper, no team should really even challenge the U.S., outside of the loaded Spanish squad.
The Bulls connections go beyond Rose. Pau Gasol will play for Spain, second-round draft pick Cameron Bairstow for Australia and ex-Bull Erik Murphy found his way onto the Finland roster.
Here's a list of recognizable names scheduled to compete in the World Cup. A couple of notable Spurs, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, are not playing.
Argentina: Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola, Pablo Prigioni, Walter Herrmann
Australia: Dante Exum, Cameron Bairstow, Matthew Deladova, Aron Baynes, David Andersen
Brazil: Nene, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter, Leandro Barbosa
Croatia: Dario Saric, Bojan Bogdanovic, Roko Ukic, Ante Tomic
Dominican Republic: Francisco Garcia
Finland: Erik Murphy, Hanno Mottola
France: Nicholas Batum, Boris Diaw. Evan Fournier, Rudy Gobert, Mickael Gelabale, Florent Pietrus
Greece: Nick Calathes, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kostas Papanikolaou
Iran: Hamed Haddadi
Lithuania: Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas
Mexico: Gustavo Ayon
New Zealand: Kirk Penney
Phillipines: Andray Blatche
Puerto Rico: Jose Barea, Carlos Arroyo, Renaldo Balkman, Daniel Santiago
Senegal: Gorgui Dieng
Serbia: Nenad Krstic, Miroslav Raduljica, Bogdan Bogdanovic
Slovenia: Goran Dragic
Spain: Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez, Sergio Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Victor Claver
Turkey: Omer Asik