World Cup Notes: Towns, Team USA, Barrett, Doncic

Karl-Anthony Towns‘ decision to represent the Dominican Republic in the FIBA World Cup is a way to honor his late mother, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, a Dominican native, died from COVID during the early stages of the pandemic. She helped to inspire the commitment from Towns, who hasn’t played in an international tournament for more than a decade.

“There was a lot that went into the decision,” the Timberwolves‘ forward/center said. “The timing is right. I didn’t put as much stress on my body this last season because of the (calf) injury. I’m feeling great now, I’m 100% and feeling like myself again. It’s a perfect time to work on some things in my game. And with my mom’s passing, I felt an urgency to do it.”

The Dominican team won’t have Al Horford or Chris Duarte, but Towns’ presence will give them a chance of advancing. They’ll start out in pool play with Italy, Angola and the Philippines, which will host the Americas region when the tournament begins August 26.

Towns is also hoping to use the World Cup as a springboard to a better season with Minnesota. He missed 51 straight games with the calf issue, and his late-season return wasn’t enough to help the team get past the first round of the playoffs.

“The (Wolves were) very supportive when I came to them to talk about playing,” Towns said. “There’s a lot of commitment to get better this season, and for all of us this will be a head start.”

There’s more on the World Cup:

  • Team USA got its first taste of adversity in Sunday’s game against the top-ranked Spanish team in Malaga, notes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The Americans faced a rabid crowd as Spain erased a 10-point halftime deficit to take the lead in the third quarter. “Atmosphere is contagious,” Mikal Bridges said. “And that’s funny. I was talking to my teammates about playing in the national championship, playing in the finals is just a different type of atmosphere. And this is like one thing that you dream of, and we aren’t even in the stadium in the Philippines (for the World Cup). But even coming here and being in Spain, this is ridiculous, man. I’m happy I’m a part of this, happy I’m going through this.”
  • While Jalen Brunson made all nine of his shots from the field as the U.S. pulled out a victory, Knicks teammate RJ Barrett scored 31 points in Canada’s overtime win over Germany in the finals of the DBB SuperCup tournament, per Christian Arnold of The New York Post. “(Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), (Kelly Olynyk) and the guys are out there making it easy for me to do my thing, but it’s been a lot of fun,” Barrett said.
  • Luka Doncic told reporters, including Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops, that he feels he has something to prove after Slovenia’s early exit in last year’s EuroBasket. “I disappointed my team. I let my whole country down. It was my fault,” Doncic said. “I’ll be back. I will always play for Slovenia if I am not injured.”
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