2019 World Cup

World Cup Notes: Spain, Rubio, Popovich, Fox

Suns guard Ricky Rubio was named World Cup MVP as Spain captured the gold medal this morning by rolling past Argentina, 95-75. France claimed the bronze by defeating Australia.

The all-World Cup team had a strong NBA flavor as Rubio was joined by Spanish teammate Marc Gasol, Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, France’s Evan Fournier and Argentina’s Luis Scola. Gasol capped a memorable three-month stretch that included an NBA title with the Raptors and the World Cup crown.

“We were not the most talented team,” Rubio said. “We were not the biggest team. But we played with heart. We will be family for life.” (Twitter link from Emiliano Carchia of Sportando)

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Coach Gregg Popovich blasted critics who are taking shots at Team USA after a seventh-place finish, relays Brian Windhorst of ESPN. The Americans won the past two World Cups, but fell far short this time, losing back-to-back games to France and Serbia. “Some people want to play the blame game. There’s no blame to be placed anywhere,” Popovich said. “They want to play the shame game, like we should be ashamed because we didn’t win a gold medal? That’s a ridiculous attitude. It’s immature, it’s arrogant, and it shows that whoever thinks that doesn’t respect all the other teams in the world and doesn’t respect that these guys did the best they could.” Windhorst notes that only four of the 35 players who were on the projected U.S. roster last summer wound up playing in China.
  • There are no hard feelings from USA Basketball toward Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, who left the team shortly before it departed for exhibition games in Australia, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. It was suggested on ESPN’s “The Jump” this week that Fox wouldn’t be considered for future international teams, but USA Basketball communications director Craig Miller said the organization “understands De’Aaron’s decision.”
  • Both of this year’s finalists were successful with players who are considered past their prime, strengthening the argument that continuity provides a huge advantage in international play, writes Tom Ziller of SB Nation. Argentina was led by the 39-year-old Scola, while Spain’s foundation of Rubio, Gasol, Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez and Victor Claver has been together for many years.

Colangelo Won’t Forget World Cup Pullouts

Fresh off a second consecutive loss in the 2019 FIBA World Cup that will ensure USA finishes no better than seventh – the worst finish ever by an American men’s team in a major tournament – Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press reports that USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo won’t forget those who backed out of commitments to play in the World Cup this summer when the time comes to start assembling the 2020 Tokyo Olympics roster.

“I can only say, you can’t help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn’t show up.” Colangelo said. “The players (we have) did everything they can do… But we went in with higher expectations in terms of roster and it didn’t kind of happen the way we were hopeful and anticipating and expecting. That, to me, was a big disappointment.”

As Reynolds notes, of the 35 players originally selected for the U.S. player pool, only four are in China for the World Cup. Many pullouts cited schedule concerns and lingering injuries, but it appears Colangelo isn’t satisfied with some of the players’ excuses.

“Going forward for USA Basketball, we’re going to need the cooperation of teams, agents and then there has to be communication with players 1-on-1 to solidify those commitments,” Colangelo said. “I am going to be anxious to see how many players reach out early to indicate that they wish and want and desire to play (in the 2020 Olympics)… But I’ll make this statement: It’s as much about maybe who we don’t want as much as who we want.”

Poll: Which Team Will Win 2019 World Cup?

Heading into the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Team USA was the odds-on favorite to bring home the gold medal, despite a roster lacking its usual star power. Serbia, led by Nikola Jokic, was considered the challenger with the best chance to knock off the Americans.

When the single-elimination portion of the tournament got underway, the two powerhouses appeared to be on track to meet in the semifinals. Two days later though, both USA and Serbia have been eliminated from medal contention and will instead meet in the loser’s bracket, with both clubs unable to place higher than fifth.

With the presumed top two teams in the tournament now eliminated, the World Cup is wide open, with a handful of programs very much in the mix for the gold. Here are the four remaining contenders:

Australia: The Boomers weren’t exactly dominating the early rounds of this tournament, but they managed to win all five of their round-robin games despite a modest point differential of +42 (the third-best mark in their second-round group of four teams). Led by NBA players like Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, and Joe Ingles, Australia beat the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals and will now face Spain in the semifinals.

Spain: Once considered the top international threat to Team USA, Spain had lost some talent – including longtime center Pau Gasol – entering this year’s event. But Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Juan Hernangomez, and the rest of the Spaniards have had an impressive run in China this month, winning all six games they’ve played, including an upset over Serbia and a fairly comfortable win over Poland in the quarterfinals.

Argentina: They don’t have a single current NBA player on their roster, but the Argentinians have been as dangerous as ever in this year’s World Cup, compiling a 6-0 record that includes an impressive quarterfinal victory over Serbia. Former NBA players like Luis Scola, Patricio Garino, Nicolas Laprovittola have helped lead the way, with EuroLeague point guard Facundo Campazzo dishing out 8.0 assists per game.

France: Of the remaining contenders, France is the only team that has lost a game in the World Cup, having fallen to Australia by a single basket in the second round. However, the French squad is also the only team that knocked off the U.S. in the tournament, and will look to carry that momentum into a semifinal showdown with Argentina. NBA veterans Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier have been France’s anchors, with Nicolas Batum, Frank Ntilikina, and Nando De Colo also playing key roles.

What do you think? Which of the four remaining teams do you think will win two more games and take home World Cup gold?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to make your case!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

Team USA Eliminated From World Cup Medal Contention

Team USA has been eliminated from medal contention in the 2019 World Cup, having been upset by France in today’s quarterfinal matchup. The 89-79 defeat snapped USA Basketball’s 58-game winning streak in international games featuring rosters made up of NBA players. That streak dated back to the 2006 World Championship.

Donovan Mitchell had a big game for the American squad with a team-high 29 points, but a French team led by Rudy Gobert (21 points, 16 rebounds) and Evan Fournier (22 points) pulled out the comeback win to advance to a semifinal showdown vs. Argentina. Team USA will have its much-anticipated matchup with Nikola Jokic and the Serbians after all, but it will happen in the 5-8 classification round instead of in the semifinals.

Frank Ntilikina also played a key role for Team France today, scoring 11 points and essentially taking Kemba Walker out of the game on the other end before also helping to slow Mitchell in the fourth quarter. We noted last week that an impressive World Cup showing could have an impact on Ntilikina’s NBA future, since the Knicks have a big decision due next month on his 2020/21 team option. He has made a strong impression so far.

Since Team USA had already qualified for the 2020 Olympics, today’s result won’t affect the club’s standing for that tournament. Still, it will be interesting to see whether a disappointing World Cup run impacts the sort of turnout the program gets next summer. It’s possible that stars like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, James Harden, and others will now be more willing to play in Tokyo to reclaim Team USA’s spot atop the international basketball world.

With Argentina set to play France in one semifinal, the other matchup will be set after the conclusion of this morning’s Australia/Czech Republic quarterfinal. The winner of that game will face Spain. The last two European teams standing will clinch spots in the 2020 Olympics, so an Australian victory today would ensure that France and Spain secure Olympic berths.

World Cup Notes: Brown, Canada, Rubio

Jaylen Brown has stepped up for Team USA since Jayson Tatum went down with an ankle injury. The Celtics wing has played in the frontcourt for USA Basketball, excelling in an unfamiliar spot.

“I feel like I’m not a position player, I’m a basketball player. 4-3-2, whatever coach needs me to do, I will make the adjustment,” Brown said (via Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com). “Obviously with Jayson out, there’s a little more opportunity and maybe it was a little more visible. But every time I take the floor, I want to be aggressive.”

Here’s more from the FIBA World Cup:

  • Coach Nick Nurse doesn’t see many changes for the Canadian National Team next summer in the Olympics, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet relays. The team has a core of veteran players but could see prospects like RJ Barrett and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander break through next summer.
  • Thunder guard Dennis Schroder has impressed during international play, as Erik Horne of the Oklahoman writes. Germany was eliminated in the first round after losing its first two games by a total of six points, but the point guard helped the country win three consecutive games to close the tournament (the team’s final first-round game and two consolation contests).
  • Cody Cunningham of NBA.com breaks down Ricky Rubio‘s 2019 FIBA World Cup. The point guard has helped Spain reach the semi-finals.

Team USA, Others Secure Spots In 2020 Olympics

The second round of the 2019 FIBA World Cup has come to an end, with several more countries – including the USA – clinching spots in the 2020 Olympics as a result of their records in this year’s event.

Entering World Cup play, only host nation Japan was assured of a spot in the 12-team field for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo. Seven more teams will ultimately qualify via the World Cup — two from the Americas, two from Europe, one from Africa, one from Asia, and one from Oceania.

While the European spots are still up for grabs, the other five have been claimed. USA and Argentina (Americas) will play in the 2020 Olympics, along with Australia (Oceania), Iran (Asia), and Nigeria (Africa).

Once two more spots have been secured by the last two European teams still standing in the World Cup, there will be four final berths available for Tokyo. Those four teams will be determined in a series of pre-Olympic qualifying tournaments next summer.

Here’s more on the 2019 World Cup:

  • The matchups for the World Cup quarterfinals have been set. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN tweets, Tuesday’s games are Argentina vs. Serbia and Spain vs. Poland, with USA vs. France and Australia vs. the Czech Republic to follow on Wednesday. As the single-elimination portion of the tournament gets underway, Team USA’s probable path to gold could feature showdowns against Serbia in the semifinals and Australia or Spain in the final (Twitter link).
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic has created a chart that helpfully breaks down the Olympic qualifying outlook. Lithuania, Italy, Greece, Brazil, Germany, Canada, and Turkey are among the many countries that have earned spots in the qualifying tournaments and will vie for one of the final four Olympic berths next summer.
  • Despite a win today, reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Greeks have been eliminated from World Cup medal contention. Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press has the details on a frustrating tournament for Giannis, who declined to speak to reporters for a second consecutive game.
  • Injured Celtics forward Jayson Tatum returned to practice but was held out of Monday’s game against Brazil. As Brian Windhorst of ESPN details, Tatum – who is recovering from an ankle sprain – hinted that he might be back on the court for Wednesday’s game vs. France.

World Cup Notes: Team USA, Barnes, Serbia, Protest

It’s an unusual situation for a team that usually features the world’s best offensive players, but the Americans are struggling to score during the World Cup, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Without Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and other stars who have played in past international competitions, Team USA has needed to find other ways to win.

Through its first four games, the U.S. is averaging 87 points, which ranks eighth in the 32-team tournament. The Americans are 20th in field goal percentage at 42.6% and 18th from beyond the arc at 32.8%, even with a 3-point line that is much shorter than the NBA’s. Still, they are 4-0 and have a chance to clinch the top spot in their group heading into the quarterfinals.

“When you look at past USA teams, scoring has not been an issue. There’s been a lot of talent,” said Harrison Barnes, who was part of the 2016 Olympic team. “For us, defense is how we’re going to stay in games and compete and that’s what has been carrying us right now.”

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Barnes isn’t interested in apologies from Greece’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo after a hard foul during Saturday’s game, relays James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. Barnes was attempting a dunk late in the contest when Antetokounmpo pushed him in the back. “The game was over; probably a frustration play,” Barnes said. “Apologies only go so far. If I don’t get up and something would’ve happened, apologies aren’t going to help us in the next game. Luckily everything is all good.”
  • Serbia, which had been considered possibly the strongest challenger to Team USA, lost its first game of the tournament to Spain today and saw star center Nikola Jokic get ejected in the third quarter. The loss puts Serbia and the U.S. on the same side of the quarterfinal bracket and ensures that they won’t meet for the title. “I did not like the stupid reaction of Nikola Jokic,” Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic said after the game. “He has to keep self control and be one of our leaders.” (Twitter link from Emiliano Carchia of Sportando)
  • FIBA has denied an appeal from Lithuania after a controversial loss to France, but all three referees who worked the game have been suspended, according to Carchia. Lithuania contends that Rudy Gobert should have been called for goaltending for touching the rim on a free throw attempt by Jonas Valanciunas that could have tied the game with 30.8 seconds left to play.

Anderson Varejao Hasn’t Given Up Hope Of An NBA Comeback

Anderson Varejao has spent two seasons out of the NBA, but he’s hoping a team will give him an opportunity during the upcoming season, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Now 36, Varejao was a valuable reserve big man for 13 NBA seasons, mostly with the Cavaliers. He has been playing in Brazil since being waived by the Warriors in February of 2017. He didn’t see much game action during his time with Golden State, but says the chance to play regularly has reinvigorated him.

“I feel a lot better, 100 percent better than how it felt back then, because I got to play again,” Varejao said. “I got to play and I got to be on the floor for more minutes and all of that. I’ve got more rhythm and that’s why I am feeling the way I’m feeling right now.”

Varejao’s contract in Brazil has expired, so he’s free to sign anywhere. He doesn’t expect an invitation to an NBA training camp, but is hopeful that an opportunity will eventually arise from a team that needs a veteran big man to play a few minutes a night and serve as a mentor to younger players. Although he still owns a home in Cleveland, he doesn’t expect that chance to come from a rebuilding team like the Cavaliers.

“I miss all the good years in Cleveland, the teammates I had during the 13 years I had in the NBA,” Varejao said. “The fans, the country in general. I miss America. I miss being away when I’m in Brazil. I do miss the game as well, but I miss the good times that I had with Cleveland and also with the Warriors.”

Varejao is currently participating in the World Cup, where his Brazilian team is preparing for its greatest challenge tomorrow against Team USA. It’s a crucial game for Brazil, which likely needs a win to advance to the quarterfinals.

“This won’t be my first time playing against USA,” Varejao said. “It is good, it brings memories and stuff like that. We’re just thinking about trying to win the game because if we don’t win, we’re going to be in a tough situation.”

World Cup Notes: Nurse, Team USA, Mills, Scola

Team Canada coach Nick Nurse is frustrated by the lack of commitment from the nation’s top stars, according to a Canadian Press report (link via Sportsnet.ca). The Canadians had a disappointing performance in this year’s World Cup, being relegated to the classification round rather than fighting for a medal or an Olympic berth. Seventeen NBA players were invited to Canada’s training camp, but Cory Joseph and Khem Birch are the only ones representing the country in China.

“I see it as a really interesting unique time in Canada basketball,” Nurse said. “The talent’s really pouring out, the young talent continues to pour out, the Raptors had a pretty good season, the fan base, the people are interested all over the country in basketball, I think it’s an important time for a group of six, eight, 10 guys to stick together for five or six years.”

Eight of the 12 berths for next year’s Olympics will have been decided once the World Cup ends, leaving Canada with an uphill fight to qualify. They will have to win one of four second-chance tournaments next summer, but they’ll likely be given a low seed because they didn’t advance at the World Cup. Former Gonzaga star Kyle Wiltjer agrees that a unified effort is necessary.

“It’s building that cohesion, and even for myself as a player, I didn’t really know what to expect because we brought in a new coach and with that comes a new system,” he said, “and if we have to play next year guys like Cory, Khem, me, we know the system now, we feel comfortable in it.”

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Team USA had its best performance of the tournament in today’s win over Greece, and much of the credit should go to Gregg Popovich and his staff for devising a plan to control Giannis Antetokounmpo, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Even though Antetokounmpo posted 15 points and 13 rebounds, he wasn’t the dominant force that Greece needed and wound up sitting out the entire fourth quarter to rest for Monday’s game. “Everything is always a compilation of experiences. Obviously we’ve seen him play, and he’s a great player,” Popovich said. “It’s a little bit of everything. Overall we did a good job of being active.”
  • Australia’s Patty Mills transforms from sixth man to superstar in international competition, writes Dan Devine of The Ringer. He’s the top scorer among teams that advanced past the first group stage.
  • Luis Scola, the last link to Argentina’s “golden generation,” has remained productive at age 39, Devine observes. Scola averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per game as Argentina cruised through Group B with a 3-0 record.

Thanasis Antetokounmpo Draws Team USA’s Ire

The FIBA World Cup was bound to create some awkward moments among NBA players. One of those occurred at the end of Team USA’s 69-53 victory over Greece on Saturday, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst details.

Bucks forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the older brother of reigning Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo, drew Team USA’s ire when he fouled Harrison Barnes from behind late in the game as Barnes went up for a dunk. Celtics forward Jaylen Brown and Giannis had to be separated afterward after exchanging words as Brown pointed toward Thanasis, according to Windhorst.

Bucks teammates Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are on Team USA’s roster.

The teams didn’t hold a postgame handshake in order to avoid another confrontation. Team USA was upset that Thanasis, who signed a two-year contract with Milwaukee in July, didn’t immediately apologize to Barnes, who was uninjured.

“The [lack of apology] escalated it,” Marcus Smart said to Windhorst and other media members. “At that moment, you’ve got to take it for what it is. Regardless of whether you feel like it was wrong or right, it was wrong.”

Giannis scored 15 points but sat out the fourth quarter. Greek officials said he was rested as the team tries to qualify for the quarterfinals on Monday. He was too upset to talk to the media afterward, according to an Associated Press report.

Team USA advanced to the quarterfinals with the victory.