If you have been suffering NBA withdrawals, World Cup withdrawals, Giannis withdrawals, or have experienced any related symptoms this August… we have a temporary solution.
It is called the FIBA World Cup. Team USA starts its exhibition schedule in Chicago against Brazil this Saturday, Aug. 16.
Here are some things to know.
When does the tournament start and end?
The tournament begins on Aug. 30 and runs until the Final on Sept. 14.
Who is the host?
Spain is the host. Games will be played at six different stadiums across the country. The Final takes place in Madrid.
How many countries are participating?
A total of 24 countries qualified for the FIBA World Cup.
The teams are split into four groups (A, B, C, D) of six teams. Each team plays five first round games, one against each team in its group. The top four teams in each group advance to a 16-team, single elimination tournament. Based on performance in the group stage, teams are re-ranked, so that the winner of Group A plays the fourth place team in Group B, and so on.
Here are the four groups, along with their FIBA world rank in parenthesis. Note: Rankings were last updated in September 2013, so this is more of a general reference point.
Check out the full game schedule here.
Who is the favorite to win this year?
Team USA is the favorite, despite having just two returning players (James Harden and Anthony Davis) from the 2012 Olympic gold-medal-winning version that outscored opponents by more than 32 points per game on average.
They also enter the tournament on a 50-game winning streak. Basketball is fast improving all over the world, but Team USA is still clearly the best team, as 50-game winning streaks tend to indicate. Every great once in a while, they lose a game or two, and they will lose at some point again, because that is how basketball works. But no NBA team has ever won 50 games in a row, or anything even close.
Who has the best chance of knocking off Team USA?
Spain is the pick. They are the second-most talented team in the world. And they are at home.
In 2012, Team USA cruised past seven straight opponents before a narrow 108-100 win over the Spaniards in the Olympic Final.
The heart of that team remains (Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka), and this will be that generation’s best opportunity to dethrone Team USA in a major competition, particularly with the late, unexpected losses of Kevin Durant (withdrew), Kevin Love (withdrew), and Paul George (horrible injury too sad to talk about).
Are there any Bucks playing?
Giannis Antetokounmpo is the youngest player by nearly four years on Greece, but he is expected to feature in the rotation. Just last weekend, he started against France and went for 11 points and seven rebounds along with this enjoyable dunk. Nick Calathes, who plays point guard for the Grizzlies, is the only other NBA player on the national team, but the roster is filled with strong talent playing on major teams in Europe. Greece should be co-favorites in Group B with Argentina.
Unfortunately, Georgia did not qualify, so Zaza Pachulia shall not play.
Meanwhile, Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey) will not be participating, as he prepares for the NBA regular season.
Is Drew Gooden really playing for Finland?
Sad Update: Gooden wanted to play, but paperwork reportedly will prevent him from doing so.
What time are the games? Will you please do the time zone conversions?
Here are the first round games for Team USA and Greece. ESPN will be carrying the tournament. Every game will be available via the Watch ESPN app or online at WatchESPN.com.
Is the FIBA World Cup as important as the Olympics?
This seems to depend on where you are from. Most stateside viewers and players tend to emphasize the Olympics above all other international competitions. However, many others outside the United States actually place equal if not greater value on the FIBA World Cup. So this is important. It will be competitive.
Is it possible for Giannis to play against Team USA in the Final?
Yes. It is.