HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — LeBron James was always taking the summer off from competitive basketball. Kevin Love decided to do the same just before the U.S. National Team opened training camp in Las Vegas last month. But there are still reasons for Cavs fans to watch the FIBA World Cup, which begins Saturday in Spain.
The Cavs are one of two teams that will have four players taking part in the World Cup. Kyrie Irving, of course, will start (at least some games) at point guard for the United States. He’ll face new teammate Erik Murphy, playing for Finland, in the USA’s first pool-play game.
Murphy, who was acquired in a trade from Utah last month, may not necessarily be on the Cavs’ opening-night roster. Only $100,000 of his $816,000 contract is guaranteed, the Cavs are already over the 15-man roster limit, and they’ve yet to sign Shawn Marion.
Irving has already faced Brazil’s Anderson Varejao in an exhibition game. And he could go head-to-head with his Cleveland back-up — Australia’s Matthew Dellavedova — in the knockout round.
The Rockets are the other NBA team that will have four players at the World Cup. James Harden, the Dominican Republic’s Francisco Garcia, Lithuania’s Donatas Motiejunas and Greece’s Kostas Papanikolaou will all represent the Rockets in Spain.
Papanikolaou is one of five incoming rookies at the tournament. The others are the Bulls’ Cameron Bairstow (Australia), the Nets’ Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia), the Jazz’s Dante Exum (Australia), and the Pacers’ Damjan Rudez (Croatia).
Croatia’s Bogdanovic is not to be confused with Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was selected in this year’s Draft by the Suns and will play at least two years in Turkey before coming to the NBA. The Serbian Bogdanovic is one of six guys taken in the last two drafts who has yet to come over.
The others are Alex Abrines (OKC, Spain), Arselan Kazemi (PHI, Iran), Joffrey Lauvergne (DEN, France), Raul Neto (UTA, Brazil) and Dario Saric (PHI, Croatia).
Including Abrines, 11 of the 12 players on Spain’s roster will have NBA ties. They have six current NBA players, three former NBA players, and two guys — Abrines and Sergio Llull (Houston) — whose draft rights are held by NBA teams.
There are four free agents who could use the World Cup as an audition for teams looking to make a late addition to their roster. They include Mexico’s Gustavo Ayon and Andray Blatche, who will be playing for the Philippines.
With the four free agents and 46 guys under contract, there will be a total of 50 current NBA players, representing 23 different teams and 18 different countries, at the World Cup, unless there’s an unexpected roster change in the next four days. And there will be more in Group A, representing Brazil (4), France, (5) Serbia (1) and Spain (6), than in the USA’s Group C (12 from the U.S. and one each from the Dominican Republic, Finland and Turkey).
There are also more than 20 former NBA players on World Cup rosters, including international legend Juan Carlos Navarro (Spain), familiar guys like Carlos Arroyo (Puerto Rico), Rudy Fernandez (Spain), Nenad Krstic (Serbia) and Andres Nocioni (Argentina), and more obscure names (for NBA fans, at least) like David Andersen (Australia), Walter Herrmann (Argentina), Nathan Jawai (Australia) and Damir Markota (Croatia).
Here’s the full list, with final World Cup rosters not due until Friday…
Current NBA players on World Cup rosters
|Golden State||Stephen Curry||USA|
|Golden State||Klay Thompson||USA|
|Houston||Francisco Garcia||Dominican Rep.|
|Los Angeles Clippers||Miroslav Raduljica||Serbia|
|Minnesota||JJ Barea||Puerto Rico|
|New Orleans||Omer Asik||Turkey|
|New Orleans||Anthony Davis||USA|
|New York||Jose Calderon||Spain|
|New York||Pablo Prigioni||Argentina|
|Oklahoma City||Serge Ibaka||Spain|
|San Antonio||Boris Diaw||France|
|San Antonio||Tiago Splitter||Brazil|
|Unrestricted free agent||Gustavo Ayon||Mexico|
|Unrestricted free agent||Leandro Barbosa||Brazil|
|Restricted free agent||Aron Baynes||Australia|
|Unrestricted free agent||Andray Blatche||Philippines|