NEW YORK, Aug. 13 -- Seven NBA players, including three members of the Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia 76ers, will be suiting up for their native countries when the Tournament of the Americas tips off Aug. 16 in Neuquen, Argentina. Surprisingly, none of them will be playing for the United States.
Nash led Canada to a seventh-place finish at the Sydney Olympics.
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While a prequalified Team USA -- host of the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis -- enters the tournament with an impressive cast of junior college standouts, nine other teams will bring their top players to Neuquen in hopes of joining the U.S. in Indianapolis. Only the top five teams will qualify. Sixers guard Juan "Pepe" Sanchez and Seattle SuperSonics forward Ruben Wolkowyski, both NBA free agents this summer, are part of a strong Argentine home squad that is considered one of the favorites to win the tournament. Perennial regional power Puerto Rico will count on Daniel Santiago and former Utah Jazz center Jose "Piculin" Ortiz (1988-90) to muscle its way past weaker opponents. "It can be difficult [being an NBA player] because other players hit you a little harder," Santiago, a free agent who played for the Phoenix Suns last year, said in a recent interview. "I really can't retaliate because everyone is watching me. So I take a few hits, but I let them know that I'm not going to take them all night." Canada will be lead by Dallas Mavericks point guard Steve Nash and New Jersey Nets center Todd MacCulloch, who was Sanchez's teammate in Philadelphia last season. Another Sixer, guard Raja Bell, is expected to play for the Virgin Islands, along with David Vanterpool, who played for the Washington Wizards in 2000-01. Venezuela's roster includes forward Carl Herrera, who played in the NBA for eight seasons (1991-99) and was member of Houston's championship teams in 1994 and '95, and former Mavericks guard Harold Keeling (1985-86). Puerto Rico's Jerome Mincy and Argentina's Emanuel Ginobili were both drafted by NBA teams but never played in the league. New York selected Mincy in the fifth round of the 1996 Draft, while San Antonio selected Ginobili in the second round in 1999. Avid NBA fans might even recognize some foreign players form this year's NBA summer leagues. Panamanian swingman Michael Hicks lined up for New York in Boston, Puerto Rican forward Sharif Fajardo played for Cleveland in Salt Lake City, and Venezuelan forward Oscar Torres shined for Houston in Los Angeles. Qualified for 2002 World Championship
1.) United States (host)
2.) China (Asian champion)
3.) Lebanon (Asian runner-up)
4.) Angola (African champion)
5.) Algeria (African runner-up) Remaining berths
6.) Americas
7.) Americas
8.) Americas
9.) Americas
10.) Americas
11.) European
12.) European
13.) European
14.) European
15.) European
16.) Oceania/Pacific Rim