By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno
MANILA – A total of 55 current players from 23 teams playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) will play in the FIBA World Cup in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
Three Atlanta Hawks have been called up to their respective national teams for the FIBA World Cup.
The most high-profile Hawk in the World Cup is Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was named team captain of Serbia.
On the other hand, Patty Mills established his legacy with Australia as he led them to a bronze medal in the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Bruno Fernando, meanwhile, will be the main man for Angola as they look to silence the pro-Philippine crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City when they face off on Aug. 27.
The Brooklyn Nets currently have two representatives in the FIBA World Cup, which could actually become three depending on how Patrick Gardner fares in their upcoming training camp.
Gardner, who was signed to a preseason deal with Brooklyn, is part of Egypt’s FIBA World Cup team, and his performance there could factor in, too, if they extend him to the regular season.
Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson, both with Team USA, are the current Brooklyn holdovers in the World Cup.
Nikola Vucevic is the most high-profile Chicago Bull in the World Cup as he represents Montenegro.
Vucevic showed why he is Montenegro’s main man in a recent friendly against the Philippines, leading the former Yugoslavian state with 18 points in a 102-87 win at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig.
Another Chicago player to watch out for is Carlik Jones, who plays for South Sudan.
The Dallas Mavericks has four players in the World Cup, Slovenia’s Luka Doncic who needs no further introduction, Canada’s Dwight Powell, and Australia’s Dante Exum and Josh Green.
Lester Quinones is the lone Golden State Warrior in the FIBA World Cup, representing the Dominican Republic in international play.
Quinones, however, could become part of FIBA Basketball World Cup history as the Dominican Republic plays the Philippines on opening night on Aug. 25 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue.
The said game is projected to draw the largest crowd for a FIBA Basketball World Cup match with more than 28,000 tickets already sold as of Aug. 8. The magic number to beat is 32,616 set in 1994.
Meanwhile, Canadian Dillon Brooks recently signed with the Houston Rockets, making him H-Town’s lone representative in the FIBA World Cup.
Tyrese Haliburton had a breakout year with the Indiana Pacers last season, making him an easy choice to be called up to Team USA’s FIBA Basketball World Cup team.
Haliburton made an impression in Team USA’s last tune-up game against Germany in Abu Dhabi, hitting three straight 3-pointers that helped Team USA complete a comeback from 16 points down to beat Germany.
Hollywood has some reasons to watch the FIBA Basketball World Cup as well, the LA Clippers’ Nic Batum for France, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Austin Reaves for the USA.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ two main big men are in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, Jaren Jackson, the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year who plays with Team USA, and Spain’s power forward Santi Aldama, who caught the attention of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio when both USA and Spain locked horns in a recent friendly match.
“I actually don’t know some players there [in Spain] like Aldama, and suddenly, when you see them, ‘Wow! [They’re] impressive players,'” Panlilio said during the Aug. 8 edition of the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum at the Meralco Gym in Pasig.
Serbia’s Nikola Jovic represents the Miami Heat, while Greece’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo, the older brother of Milwaukee superstar Giannis, and USA’s Bobby Portis represent the Bucks.
The Minnesota Timberwolves probably has the most stacked participation in the FIBA World Cup.
They have three NBA All-Stars in the tournament, namely the Dominican Republic’s Karl-Anthony Towns, France’s Rudy Gobert, and Team USA’s Anthony Edwards.
Not to be overlooked, though, are Canada’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and China’s naturalized shooter Kyle Anderson.
Brandon Ingram is obviously the biggest name from the New Orleans Pelicans playing in the FIBA World Cup, being their all-star.
However, New Orleans will be represented as well by Lithuania’s veteran Jonas Valanciunas and Australia’s Dyson Daniels.
The New York Knicks have four players in the FIBA World Cup, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart of the USA, Canada’s RJ Barrett, and France’s Evan Fournier.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are said to be the “team of the future” with their current young core, plus a stockpile of future draft picks.
Leading the way for them now is All-NBA First Team member Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who will also lead Canada in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in the absence of Jamal Murray and Andrew Wiggins.
Lu Dort joins Gilgeous-Alexander in representing both Canada and Oklahoma City.
Also representing the Thunder in the World Cup are Australia’s Josh Giddey and Jack White, who was part of the Denver Nuggets’ championship team last season.
Also part of Oklahoma City’s World Cup representation is Latvia’s David Bertans.
Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero headlines the Orlando Magic players joining the FIBA World Cup.
After what seemed like a tug-of-war with Italy, Team USA secured the services of Banchero after committing to them.
Joining him in representing Orlando are Australia’s veteran sniper Joe Ingles, Germany’s Mo and Franz Wagner, and Georgia’s Goga Bitadze.
The Philadelphia 76ers have one representative in the World Cup, Serbia’s power forward Filip Petrusev, while Yuta Watanabe of co-host Japan represents the Phoenix Suns in the tournament as well.
Australia’s Matisse Thybulle is the player to watch out for the Portland Trail Blazers fans.
In a recent friendly match against South Sudan, Thybulle showed he can be an efficient two-way player, blocking a shot, hitting the three in the next play, and forcing a turnover right after.
Germany’s Dennis Schroder represents the Toronto Raptors, while the Utah Jazz have five players in the FIBA World Cup in Gilas Pilipinas’ Jordan Clarkson, Finland’s Lauri Markkanen, USA’s Walker Kessler, Canada’s Kelly Olynyk, and Italy’s Simone Fontecchio.
Clarkson’s Gilas squad and Fontecchio’s Italy team collide on Aug. 29 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
“I can’t wait to see him on the court. I can’t wait to see how the people are gonna cheer for him. I know the Philippines is a very huge fan of him, so it’s going to be fun,” Fontecchio said after Italy’s practice on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Finally, Australia’s Xavier Cooks will be the only player representing the Washington Wizards in the FIBA World Cup. (PNA)