World Cup Notes: Doncic, Brunson, Ntilikina, Kerr

Luka Doncic isn’t playing for the Slovenian national team when they take on the United States in tonight’s showcase game, the club announced (Twitter link). Doncic isn’t playing for precautionary reasons after suffering a blow to his left knee in the second quarter of a game against Spain on Friday.

Doncic’s injury likely isn’t serious, given that he completed the second half of the game in which he suffered the injury, finishing with 17 points in about 25 minutes. Still, it’s a disappointing result for Doncic, his team and even USA Basketball. Jalen Brunson, who is on the USA’s World Cup roster and played with Doncic from 2018 to 2022 on the Mavericks, was looking forward to squaring off against his former teammate.

That’s my brother,” Brunson said of Doncic, per The Athletic’s Joe Vardon. “We got drafted together. I’ve been watching him grow since meeting him for the first time, seeing the player he is now. He’s gotten better and better each year to the point where he’s a top-five player, an MVP candidate, year in and year out, so whenever I get a chance to share the court with him, either with him or against him, it’s always been special. I’ve got nothing but love for him.

The exhibition game between Slovenia and the United States tips off today at 3:30 p.m. EST. Former NBA players Zoran Dragic and Mike Tobey are among the Slovenian players who will take the floor against the United States.

There are other notes from the World Cup:

  • New Hornets guard Frank Ntilikina will miss the 2023 FIBA World Cup after suffering an injury in a friendly between France and Lithuania, Eurohoops reports. Ntilikina injured his hamstring and no timetable was given for his return to play. Ntilikina signed a one-year contract with the Hornets earlier this month.
  • Thirty-seven years ago, Steve Kerr was a player for the 1986 USA Basketball World Championship Team, the precursor to the modern World Cup. Kerr’s team played in Malaga, Spain, where the USA is scheduled to play over the coming days. In another piece from Vardon, Kerr reminisces over the time he spent as a player in Malaga and said he wants the Team USA players he’s now coaching to take this experience all in. “Part of this experience has to be the cultural part of it,” Kerr said. “We’re getting to travel the world and see places we may never see again. So, you know, we are going to encourage our guys to get out. A lot of them have family in. Most of them went out to dinner with their families and friends last night. Yeah. We encourage that. It’s a great time to see the city of Malaga, but also prepare for a couple of important games.
  • In case you missed it, Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t be playing in this year’s World Cup because he’s still recovering from a minor knee surgery.
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