The FIBA 2014 Basketball World Cup is just over a week away, with 24 of the best teams and players in the world converging on Spain (who last hosted the Championship/World Cup in 1986). Reigning champs the USA will again enter the tournament as favourites, followed closely by host nation Spain.
Being Wolves and Bulls guys, we will be keeping a close eye on the countries with players from our respective rosters. Firstly though, a few honourable mentions:
Mickaël Gelabale – The 31 year old Gelabale played with the Timberwolves during the 2012-13 season, playing 37 games and averaging 5.0 points. Part of last year’s French EuroBasket championship team, Gelabale will bring some veteran leadership to LeBlue.
Erik Murphy – Recently drafted and even more recently cut from the Bulls, it turns out big Erik Murphy is eligible in a ‘Kaman-esque’ kind of way for Finland. Who knew?!
It should also be noted that the likes of Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic and Mr Wiggins, could all have been playing in the World Cup had their respective teams of Russia, Montenegro and Canada qualified. You could probably throw newly signed Nikola Mirotic into this group too, had he been selected for the star studded Spanish side.
Instead to the guys who are playing, firstly the 3 bulls players.
Rose is making his comeback from two debilitating knee injuries in the past two years. Early signs are promising for Rose and Bulls supporters alike, as he shows glimpses of the effortless explosiveness he had pre-injury. It appears Coach K and Coach Thibs have a mutual understanding of Rose’s workload throughout camp, as he rests the surgically repaired knee prior to up coming warm up games. Rose is projected as a Team USA starter for World Cup, and has said he is “really, really happy with where (he is) right now as far as health-wise.”
The newest member of the Bulls, the older of the Gasol brothers, Pau will again lace them up for Spain, seeking his second World Cup title (he was MVP during Spain’s 2006 victory). Pau will form part of fearsome trio of bigs which includes brother Marc and Oklahoma City star Serge Ibaka. Warm up form seems to have Pau in scorching form, and bulls fans will be keeping a keen eye on the Spanish team as they hope Gasol can be the missing piece that return the bulls to the glory days of the 90’s.
2014 second round signing, and Aussie big man, Cameron Bairstow, won’t see big minutes for the Boomers at this year’s World Cup, as he slides in behind the NBA champ Aaron Baynes. However, the experience gained from suiting up against some of the best players the world has to see will be invaluable (and might be the most court time he sees all year if Thibs sticks with his no rookie policy in 2014-15).
Pretty tricky Ricky will be running the show for the Spanish team, after the disappointment of missing the 2012 Olympic campaign with a torn ACL. With dinner bets laid with teammate Gorgui Dieng (Senegal), Rubio will be looking to be Spain’s on floor general, and claim a title in front of home crowds. Wolves fans will be looking for the stronger, more muscular Rubio to finish at the rim, and hopefully show signs of an improved outside shot.
The wolves rookie surprise packet from last season, will look to continue some of his impressive form with national team Senegal. If early form counts (Dieng had 12-11 in a practice match against Spain last week), “The Old One” is looking good for a massive campaign for Senegal, and may emerge as a legitimate two-way big man.
The Puerto Rican rocket has represented his country since 2006, and this world cup might very well be his last. Playing alongside ex-NBAers Carlos Arroyo and Rolando Blackman, Peurto Rico will be a darkhorse in Group B. It’s still unclear if Barea will be on the wolves come the start of the season, but watching him play in international competition is always unpredictable and exciting.
Who?! Yep that was what my thinking was too (and credit should go to twolvesblog.com for highlighting the fact that the wolves still hold the draft rights. I know nothing more than what you can google and youtube, but at 26 this might be his last chance to really impress NBA scouts on an international stage. Standing 6’10” and listed as a small forward who can handle the ball and shoot from the outside, he could be a name to keep an eye on during this tournament.
So while we wait for the NBA season to begin, sit back and enjoy some Wolves and Bulls players take the court in Spain, as we get a mini preview of what’s to come in 2014-15.