Pacers Trio Set To Play in FIBA World Cup
By Greg Rappaport
In the wake of Paul George’s injury, Larry Bird was asked by a reporter if his opinion on players competing for national teams had changed. But Bird, whose own career included a gold medal playing for Team USA, remained a staunch supporter, saying, “I think it’s good for these young men … They get an opportunity to showcase their talents all over the world.”
For Bird and the Pacers, this mentality is evident, as three players on the roster will be competing in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, which will take place in Spain from Aug. 30-Sept. 14.
Related: 2014 FIBA World Cup Schedule »
These players – Luis Scola of Argentina, Ian Mahinmi of France, and Damjan Rudez of Croatia – will all be filling different roles for their respective national teams. Here at Pacers.com, we took a closer look at what to expect from each player on the court as they showcase their skills in front of an international audience.
Luis Scola – Argentina
Playing for the Argentine national team, Scola has amassed enough hardware to open a Home Depot. The 6-foot-9 power forward owns 15 medals in all, including seven golds, and has consistently been one of the best international competitors in the world.
Scola, 34, has played for Argentine national teams for nearly 20 years. And while he has always been a leader on his teams, Scola will be looked up to even more with the absence of offensive catalyst Manu Ginobli, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his right leg.
As a captain of his team, Scola will be expected to do just about everything for third-ranked Argentina. While his rebounding and passing panache will be appreciated, his scoring is where his team will need him the most. Scola rewrote the Argentine record books in 2010 by scoring 37 points in one game and becoming the tournament’s top scorer.
Damjan Rudez – Croatia
Rudez is typically labeled as a “stretch-4,” a power forward capable of leaking out into the corners and burying 3-pointers at a hearty clip. One look at Rudez’s highlight reel as a forward for CAI Zaragoza, a team in Spain’s premier basketball league, shows both an aptitude for long range shooting, as well as an ability to drive the baseline and get to the rim.
At 6-foot-10, there isn’t much room between Rudez and the hoop, which increases the value of his long range shooting even more. With a nice array of back-to-the-basket post moves and a penchant for finding an open space on the floor beyond the arc, look for the 28-year-old Rudez to provide Croatia with a high volume of 3-pointers and a healthy amount of rebounding.
Ian Mahinmi – France
UPDATE: Ian Mahinmi left Team France just before the start of the FIBA World Cup. The news first was reported by French website BeBasket.fr on Thursday, Aug. 28:
— Eurohoops.net (@Eurohoopsnet) August 28, 2014
Mahinmi then seemingly confirmed the news with the following Tweet in France, which translated says in part: "So close to the beginning of the competition, this is really difficult..."
Si près du début de la compétition, cest vraiment dur... Je suis de tout coeur avc mes potes, j'espère qu'ils iront loin.
— Ian Mahinmi (@ianmahinmi) August 28, 2014
Mahinmi is no longer listed on France's roster on FIBA's website.
If it wasn’t for Mahinmi’s participation in international play, he might not have gotten his chance in the NBA. As a member of France’s U-18 team in 2004, Mahinmi impressed NBA scouts, which eventually led to him being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 2005. Six years later, he was an NBA Champion with the Dallas Mavericks.
As a member of France’s national team – which is headlined by Spurs point guard Tony Parker – Mahinmi is the starting center. The last time Mahinmi played for France’s national team, he averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. However, with other French big men like Kevin Seraphin (denied permission to play by Washington), and Alexis Ajinça (pregnant wife) skipping the tournament, Mahinmi will likely be getting more playing time that he has in the past. So expect those averages to inflate quite a bit, especially since the 6-foot-11 center has improved his game while playing on the Pacers over the past two seasons.