And-Ones: World Cup, Kuzminskas, Trade Deadline

FIBA’s new process for qualifying for the Basketball World Cup may look familiar to fans who follow soccer’s World Cup qualifying process, but it has left many professional players confused and disappointed, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. As Stein details, the timing of the qualifiers will prevent the top players from participating.

Unlike top soccer leagues, which take breaks during their respective seasons to allow the best international players to represent their countries in qualifiers, there are no such windows for NBA and Euroleague players. As such, Team USA is attempting to qualify for the 2019 World Cup with a squad made up of little-known G League players.

“They will qualify, because they will be very well prepared and play hard,” Spurs assistant Ettore Messina said of Team USA. “But then you have to tell them: ‘Thank you. Now the real players are coming in to go to China.’ How unfair is that?”

For his part, Messina had to give up his role as head coach of the Italian national team because of the new qualifying format — he has been one of the loudest critics of the changes, Stein writes. “Stupid,” Messina said. “That’s the most common word I hear when I talk with people about this — stupid.”

As Team USA prepares for its first qualifying game against Puerto Rico, scheduled for tonight, here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press relays a few more perspectives on the 2019 World Cup qualifiers, speaking to several internationally-born NBA players who don’t love the changes.
  • According to Donatas Urbonas (Twitter links), Lithuanian team Zalgiris Kaunas would love to sign free agent Mindaugas Kuzminskas, the Lithuanian forward recently waived by the Knicks. However, while the team says the door is always open for a player like Kuzminskas, it recognizes that its odds of landing him are low.
  • The NBA moved up the trade deadline for 2018 by two weeks to February 8. Danny Leroux of The Sporting News examines how the earlier deadline might affect teams’ plans this season.
  • With a number of NBA draft prospects – including Marvin Bagley III and Miles Bridges – set to participate in the PK80 Invitational in Portland this weekend, Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) lay out the players and the matchups worth watching.

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