2019 World Cup

And-Ones: Combine, Coach Challenges, World Cup

Eleven prospects who participated in this week’s G League Elite Camp in Chicago have been invited to stick around to attend the actual draft combine, which will begin today and run through this Sunday.

According to a tweet from the NBA G League, those 11 players are as follows: Oshae Brissett (Syracuse), Tyler Cook (Iowa), Terence Davis (Ole Miss), Tacko Fall (UCF), Jared Harper (Auburn), Dewan Hernandez (Miami), DaQuan Jeffries (Tulsa), Terance Mann (Florida State), Cody Martin (Nevada), Reggie Perry (Mississippi State), and Marial Shayok (Iowa State).

A total of 40 draft-eligible prospects who weren’t initially invited to the draft combine worked out in front of NBA teams at the G League Elite Camp. Teams were then polled on which prospects they’d most like to get a longer look at for this week’s combine. The group of 11 prospects who were chosen will join the 65 players who were initially announced as combine participants last week.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Multiple sources tell ESPN’s Zach Lowe that the “liveliest” topic of discussion at Tuesday’s GM meetings involved the possibility of instituting a system for coaches’ replay challenges, which exist in many other major sports. According to Lowe, not everyone agreed on what should be reviewable, with some GMs arguing that coaches should be able to challenge foul calls, while others disagreed. There was also discussion about whether a challenge should cost a team a timeout, regardless of whether a call is reversed or upheld.
  • Sixers All-Star Ben Simmons announced this week that he intends to play for Australia in the 2019 FIBA World Cup (link via ESPN.com). He’ll be joined on the Australian squad by Jazz sharpshooter Joe Ingles, tweets Tony Jones of The Athletic. However, Roy Ward of The Age Sport (Twitter link) hears that Ingles’ teammate Dante Exum is unlikely to participate in the event due to his knee injury.
  • The NBA and the National Basketball Coaches Association are creating a program intended to better identify and illuminate potential coaches among groups that are underrepresented, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “We are not talking about a quota system,” Mavericks coach and NBCA president Rick Carlisle told ESPN. “Rival leagues have proven that mandates and demands for diverse hiring practices do not work. Our goal is an absolute equal opportunity for all our members to develop their skills on a level playing field.”

And-Ones: Early Entrants, Ball, Pierce, Diaw

After releasing a 233-player list of early entrants for the 2019 NBA draft on Tuesday, the league followed up today by adding a few more names to that list. According to an announcement from the league, “timely letters” were received from three more prospects who declared for the draft. Those players are as follows:

Leading up to the early entry deadline, there were reports that Cham, Lamb, and Sneed all intended to enter the draft, so it was a little surprising not to see them on the NBA’s official list this week. They’re on there now though, and the additions of those three names mean that this year’s early entrant total is up to 236 players, matching a record set in 2018.

As we noted on Tuesday, there were still several players who reportedly intended to declare for the draft as early entrants and aren’t on the NBA’s list, so they either had second thoughts or missed the deadline. The next deadline will arrive on May 29, when NCAA prospects will have to either withdraw from this year’s draft pool or officially forfeit their remaining college eligibility.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Alan Foster, a former associate of Lonzo Ball and the Ball family, is under FBI investigation, according to a report from Tania Ganguli and Richard Winton of The Los Angeles Times. The Bureau is looking into whether Foster defrauded the Ball family out of millions of dollars, according to Ganguli and Winton, who say the investigation has been going on for more than two months. Foster was already facing a lawsuit accusing him of embezzling over $2MM from Big Baller Brand for his personal use.
  • Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce has taken the place of Pacers head coach Nate McMillan as an assistant on Team USA’s coaching staff for 2019/20, according to a press release. McMillan withdrew due to scheduling conflicts, opening the door for Pierce to claim a spot on Gregg Popovich’s staff for the 2019 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics.
  • Longtime NBA forward Boris Diaw is reportedly poised to take over as the president of French team Levallois Metropolitans. The news was reported by Le Parisien, and relayed by Sportando and Eurohoops. Assuming it becomes official, Diaw will become the second notable NBA player to assume the role of team president for a French club, joining former teammate Tony Parker, who runs ASVEL Villeurbanne.

USA Basketball To Gauge Zion’s Interest In World Cup

USA Basketball will gauge Zion Williamson‘s interest in playing at the FIBA World Cup tournament in China this summer, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

The Duke freshman forward has not yet been approached by USA Basketball representatives. He still has to declare for the draft and hire an agent. Talks regarding Williamson’s participation would be held closer to the draft, Stein adds.

USA Basketball will send a 12-man team to the event, which will take place from August 31 to September 15.

Williamson’s college career likely ended with the Blue Devils’ one-point loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight on Sunday. He is considered a lock to be drafted No. 1 overall.

It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a star talent to be added to USA Basketball’s roster before playing an NBA game, Stein notes in another tweet. Anthony Davis was handed a roster spot on the 2012 Olympic team for the London Games after Blake Griffin suffered a left knee injury.

In 33 games with Duke this season, Williamson averaged 22.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.8 BPG and 2.1 SPG in 30 MPG. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks and three steals against the Spartans.

LeBron Won’t Play In 2019 World Cup, Open To 2020 Olympics

LeBron James hasn’t represented Team USA in international play since the 2012 Olympics, and that won’t change this fall. With USA Basketball looking to bring home gold at the 2019 World Cup in China, James confirms to Joe Vardon of The Athletic that he won’t be participating in that event.

“I love everything about Pop (Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich), obviously, but this is not a good summer for me,” James said.

As Vardon notes, despite the fact that James’ summer will be longer than expected now that the Lakers have failed to qualify for the postseason, that won’t change the four-time MVP’s plans. The production schedule of Space Jam 2 is one key factor that will prevent LeBron from being available for this year’s World Cup, which takes place at the start of September.

Still, James hasn’t ruled out the possibility of rejoining Team USA for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Having previously won a pair of gold medals for USA Basketball in Beijing (2008) and London (2012), LeBron is leaving the door open for one more Olympic run.

“Yeah, that’s a possibility,” LeBron told Vardon. “It depends on how I feel. I love the Olympics.”

Here’s more from James, via Vardon:

  • After appearing in eight straight NBA Finals and then missing the postseason this year, James isn’t pretending this summer will just be business as usual. He tells Vardon that he likes the fact that he’s feeling “uncomfortable” heading into this offseason: “I like being counted out. It motivates me.”
  • Having been shut down for the remainder of the season, LeBron tells Vardon that he’d like to still be playing, but he’s willing to defer to the Lakers’ decision-makers and the people around him. “I’ve always listened to the ones I trust, no matter if I always agreed with them or not,” James said. “They’re looking out for my best interest, and that’s the way it is.”
  • While LeBron will be busy with Space Jam 2 and other projects this summer, he’s also considering how a two-month head start to the offseason will impact his workout plans as he looks to stay in shape for 2019/20. “I’ve had basically the same offseason training regimen the last eight years,” he said. “I knew how long I wanted to rest for the season on a short timeline. I’m figuring out now how to get as much as I can out of two months of extra time for training. It requires a totally different strategy. We’re looking at it in an entirely new way.”

Southwest Notes: Harden, Rockets, Dirk, Caboclo

Even after a grueling 2018/19 season, Rockets guard James Harden hopes to suit up for Team USA in the 2019 World Cup this September, as he tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“Of course I want to play,” Harden said. “It’s an opportunity to represent your country, go out there and play basketball. It’s something I love doing. If that opportunity presents itself, I’ll be in. Not everyone gets that opportunity. As a basketball player, that’s one of the highest points you can get for basketball.”

Harden, who previously won gold medals for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup, is one of 35 players who was named to USA Basketball’s player pool for events between 2018-20. Obviously, not all of those players will get the chance to play on USA’s 12-man roster in the fall, but as the league’s reigning MVP, Harden probably has one of those 12 spots if he wants it.

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Ray Allen hasn’t played in an NBA game since 2014, but Rockets GM Daryl Morey hasn’t given up hope that the veteran sharpshooter will decide to make an NBA comeback. Appearing last month on The Rich Eisen Show (video link), Morey referred to Allen as his “white whale,” vowing that he’d sign the 43-year-old to a 10-day contract right now if Allen were interested (hat tip to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype).
  • Longtime Mavericks big man Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning for a 22nd NBA season next year. While Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News thinks retirement is the more likely outcome, he makes the case that playing another season wouldn’t negatively impact Nowitzki’s legacy.
  • In an excellent piece for The Athletic, Blake Murphy takes a deep dive into Bruno Caboclo‘s long, winding road to an NBA rotation role. With Caboclo playing regular minutes for the Grizzlies, Murphy spoke to a handful of his teammates and coaches, as well as draft expert Fran Fraschilla, who famously said that the young forward was “two years away from being two years away” when the Raptors selected him in 2014.

32-Team Field Set For 2019 FIBA World Cup

The qualifiers are now complete for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, and the field of 32 teams has been set. In addition to tournament host China, the list of countries (or regions) participating in the event includes 12 teams from Europe’s qualifiers, seven from Asia’s, seven from the Americas group, and five from Africa.

Here’s the full list of teams set to participate in basketball’s 2019 World Cup:

  1. Angola
  2. Argentina
  3. Australia
  4. Brazil
  5. Canada
  6. China
  7. Cote d’Ivoire
  8. Czech Republic
  9. Dominican Republic
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Greece
  13. Iran
  14. Italy
  15. Japan
  16. Jordan
  17. Korea
  18. Lithuania
  19. Montenegro
  20. New Zealand
  21. Nigeria
  22. Philippines
  23. Poland
  24. Puerto Rico
  25. Russia
  26. Senegal
  27. Serbia
  28. Spain
  29. Tunisia
  30. Turkey
  31. USA
  32. Venezuela

The 2019 FIBA World Cup is scheduled to take place later this year, from August 31 to September 15, in China. While Team USA was coached by Jeff Van Gundy during the qualifiers, Gregg Popovich will take over for the event itself in the fall. As Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press details, Popovich had nothing but praise for Van Gundy for his work with teams made up primarily of G Leaguers during the qualifiers.

“He was remarkable. Spectacular. Off the charts what he did to qualify the USA for the world championships,” Popovich said of JVG. “He put together about five different teams, mostly different players each time in a short amount of time they had to get them ready. If they didn’t do well, U.S. doesn’t go and he deserves a lot of credit for doing that on his own and really grateful to him.”

Team USA will set its roster for the World Cup closer to the event itself, but USA Basketball announced a 35-player pool of potential participants last spring. That list, which is headed by stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry, will be trimmed down for a training camp this summer before being reduced to 12 players for the World Cup.

For his part, Popovich said he isn’t planning on trying to recruit certain players to participate in the event when he sees them during Spurs games during the rest of the 2018/19 season, as Mahoney relays.

“I just think that would be inappropriate for me before games to go up to one or two guys on each team and say, ‘Hey, are you going to play for us this summer? I’d really like to have you,'” Popovich said. “(People would think), ‘He’s there to try to whip. He’s got a different priority that night,’ and I think it would be inappropriate for me try to do that.”

Teodosic Not Expected To Return To NBA This Season

After being waived by the Clippers earlier this month, veteran point guard Milos Teodosic looked like a strong candidate to return to a team in Europe if he didn’t draw immediate NBA interest. Now, it sounds like Teodosic may not play for an NBA team or for a European club for the rest of the season.

According to a report from Nikola Stejkovic of Serbian outlet MozzartSport.com (Twitter links), Teodosic is expected to suit up for Serbia’s national team in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers, then plans to sit out the rest of the season to prepare for the 2019/20 campaign (hat tip to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando).

Serbia, which has a 6-4 record in qualifying matches for the 2019 World Cup so far, has games against Estonia and Israel in the coming days. The squad is in position to secure a spot in this fall’s event, assuming it can hold off Georgia (5-5) and Israel (4-6) in the standings.

As for Teodosic, while his focus is on international play for now, the longtime EuroLeague star is still just 31 years old and presumably has several good years left in him. In a season and a half with the Clippers, he averaged 8.0 PPG and 4.0 APG with a .420/.378/.811 shooting line in 60 games (21.4 MPG). He saw his role dwindle this season due to a crowded backcourt rotation in Los Angeles.

Based on comments he made in the fall, Teodosic sounds prepared to return to the EuroLeague going forward, after having given the NBA a shot. Having played for CSKA Moscow (Russia) and Olympiacos (Greece) in the past, the veteran guard was said to be drawing interest from Anadolu Efes Istanbul (Turkey) earlier this season, though he figures to have multiple suitors in the offseason.

And-Ones: Team USA, Walton, J. Crawford, Draft

USA Basketball has announced its 13-man roster for the upcoming 2019 World Cup qualifiers, with the squad once again made up of NBA G League players. Of the 13 players on the roster, Reggie Hearn, Xavier Munford, Cameron Reynolds, and Travis Trice have suited up for previous World Cup qualifiers.

They’ll be joined by nine newcomers, including players with a little NBA experience like Chinanu Onuaku and Emanuel Terry.

Josh Adams, Kyle Casey, Chris Chiozza, Charles Cooke, Michael Frazier II, D.J. Hogg, and Tanner McGrew round out the roster.

Team USA, having gone 8-2 in previous qualifiers, has already earned its spot in the 2019 World Cup, so there won’t be as much pressure on this group for the games taking place in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 22 (vs. Panama) and February 25 (vs. Argentina).

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former Michigan and Heat point guard Derrick Walton, who recently left his team in Lithuania, has signed with ALBA Berlin in Germany, according to the club (Twitter link; hat tip to Sportando). Walton was on a two-way contract with Miami last season and was in training camp with the Bulls in the fall before heading overseas.
  • Veteran NBA guard Jordan Crawford saw his one-month contract with Israeli club Ironi Nahariya expire and is once again a free agent, as Nicola Lupo of Sportando relays.
  • ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) has released an updated 2019 mock draft at ESPN.com, with Murray State’s Ja Morant moving up to No. 3 to break up a run of Duke prospects at the top of the draft.
  • In an entertaining piece for SI.com, Jake Fischer spoke to a number of role players who have been traded along with stars to find out what it’s like to be an afterthought at an introductory press conference.

Atlantic Notes: Fultz, Irving, Bolden, Scariolo

The Sixers‘ options with Markelle Fultz are limited, Chris Mannix of SI.com writes in the wake of this week’s news that the former No. 1 overall pick is dealing with shoulder and wrist injuries. After a report suggested Fultz would prefer a change of scenery, agent Raymond Brothers quickly denied that he had ever given any indication to the 76ers that his client wants to be dealt. Even if Philadelphia wanted to make a deal, it would be difficult to extract much value for the young point guard at this point.

According to Mannix, one rival executive suggested to him that the Sixers ought to make a call to the Suns – who badly need a point guard – to discuss a swap centered around Fultz and Trevor Ariza. Ariza would be a good fit for a Sixers team that could use another three-and-D wing, but he’s a 33-year-old veteran on a one-year deal — he wouldn’t exactly be a substantial return for a player who was drafted first overall just 17 months ago.

In Mannix’s view, the best path for the Sixers and Fultz, once he’s healthy, might be a G League assignment. A stint with the Delaware Blue Coats would give the 20-year-old an opportunity to run an offense and regain his confidence in a low-pressure environment. It would be a risk – if Fultz struggles in the G League, his value would decline even further – but Mannix contends that it makes more sense than having the second-year guard sit on the bench in Philadelphia.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Celtics guard Kyrie Irving said today that he only wants to play in the NBA until his early-to-mid-30s, tweets Marc D’Amico of Celtics.com. Irving is still only 26 years old, so it’s probably worth checking back in and gauging his stance again a few years from now.
  • Sixers rookie forward Jonah Bolden recently sustained a small cortical crack in the proximal fibula of his right leg during a G League game, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com. Bolden is expected to be sidelined for the time being, and will be re-evaluated next Thursday.
  • Following the Raptors‘ game on Friday against Washington, assistant coach Sergio Scariolo will head over to Europe to coach Spain for a pair of 2019 World Cup qualifying games next week, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star details. It’s a rare opportunity for an NBA assistant like Scariolo, who said the Raptors approved the time off when he initially signed his contract during the offseason. “Without even myself working one hour on the floor, they had already given me this permission and I am really thankful,” Scariolo said.

And-Ones: Team USA, Jefferson, Jennings, Bass

With another round of World Cup qualifiers scheduled to begin next week, USA Basketball has officially announced its latest 12-man roster for games against Argentina (November 29) and Uruguay (December 2). The roster is made up primarily of G League players, though NBA free agents Tyler Zeller, Jarnell Stokes, and Eric Moreland are also on the squad. Other former NBA players on the roster include Chasson Randle, DeAndre Liggins, and John Jenkins.

With one more qualifying window scheduled for February after next week’s set of games, Team USA is in prime position to secure a spot in the 2019 World Cup. Team USA currently has a 7-1 record in qualifying contests, which puts the club in a tie with Argentina for first place in Group E. Puerto Rico and Uruguay are tied for third at 5-3. The top three teams in the group will earn spots in the World Cup, and the fourth-place team will have a chance to qualify as well.

Let’s round up a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world…

  • With some help from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, longtime NBA forward Richard Jefferson published a piece on ESPN.com this week, sharing some of his memories from his NBA career and discussing his move into broadcasting.
  • After becoming a free agent this week, veteran guard Brandon Jennings may take the G League route as he tries to work his way back into the NBA, tweets Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports. However, Smith notes that nothing’s official yet.
  • Smith also checks in a pair of former NBA forward playing in China, reporting (via Twitter) that Brandon Bass is hoping to return to the NBA later in 2018/19, once the Chinese Basketball Association season ends. Jared Sullinger is also putting up huge numbers in China and is in good shape, according to Smith, who tweets that the former Celtic may be ready for another shot in the NBA.
  • Former Trail Blazers guard Tim Quarterman signed this week with Israeli team Ironi Naharyia, per his agency Prostep Sports (Twitter link). Quarterman was waived by the Rockets this past April.