By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
You can’t but respect the French federation and the French national team. Despite having already advanced to the second round of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, they presented a team full of stars that destroyed Bosnia on the road by 50 points (102-52).
Their roster included the NBA defensive player of the year, Rudy Gobert, Nicolas Batum of the Hornets, Evan Fournier of the Magic and also EuroLeague stars Thomas Heurtel, Nando De Colo, Vincent Poirier and Fabien Causeur. On top of that, captain Boris Diaw was present as usual.
However, this is the most notable exception.
Most EuroLeague players decided to rest and NBA players did the same. This was the first FIBA window in which NBA players had the chance to compete for their national teams. From the 56 Europeans that played last year in the NBA, only 17 made themselves available for their national teams.
Those are Timofey Mozgov in Russia – the best player in the country, Alexey Shved, is missing from the national team roster – the duo of Dennis Schroder and Max Kleber in Germany, Jakob Poeltl in Austria, Lauri Markkanen in Finland, Boban Marjanovic in Serbia, the trio of Dario Saric, Bojan Bogdanovic and Ivica Zubac in Croatia, Juan Hernangomez in Spain, Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas in Lithuania and also Cedi Osman and Furkan Korkmaz in Turkey.
You can argue that Turkey, Lithuania, Germany, and Croatia – which still hasn’t qualified for the second round and needed to bring the “big guns” – have also presented their best possible roster or something close to it.
On the other hand, you can’t but notice that players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Gasols, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic and many, many more are absent, not only in Europe but all around the world.
The idea behind the FIBA windows is tested by FIFA. It can help basketball grow mainly in countries where there is no high-level basketball club scene. Especially outside Europe, they seem to work.
Things remain different in the old continent. It’s obvious that the top players are not eager to report for duty during the FIBA Windows and this time around, there’s no EuroLeague games or conflicting schedules, not even with the NBA.
Without the best players onboard, the national team games are bound to attract small audiences and have little chances to become mainstream events in Europe and also in the States, two of the three major basketball markets with the third being China.
The most alarming fact for FIBA comes from the other side of the Atlantic. The USA was beaten by Mexico and the game didn’t even make the news in major US media.
So the point is simple. The idea of qualifying games for the FIBA World Cup is not bad at all. The formula, however, needs tweaking.
Photo credit: FIBA