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The 2016-17 NBA season is over and although there won’t be many meaningful games involving professionals on this side of the Atlantic for nearly five months, this summer will feature some highly entertaining basketball overseas.
The biggest men’s basketball games don’t start until August, beginning with the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon, but there will be plenty of news and tune up games to keep an eye on in the mean time.
Once the Asia Cup starts, it’s a marathon of a month with AfroBasket, AmeriCup, and the star-studded EuroBasket.
That much basketball should be enough to hold anybody over until NBA training camps start.
We’ll keep tabs on all the notable international basketball happenings in a new summer series called “Around the World.”
In today’s edition of Around the World, we’ll take a look at the Asia Cup, which begins Aug. 8 and concludes with the championship on Aug. 20.
We’ll preview AfroBasket, AmeriCup, and the highly-anticipated EuroBasket in upcoming installments of this series.
Here are a few notable revelations involving roster composition for several of the top teams, via FIBA:
The Boomers are not bringing their NBA stars to Lebanon (frankly, it might not even be fair if they did), but Australia has four Olympians on its 20-man pre-Asia Cup roster, including a former NBA player.
Some names you may recognize include veterans David Andersen (2 NBA seasons from 2009-2011), Chris Goulding and Kevin Lisch – all of whom were key players on Australia’s 2016 Olympic team, which finished fourth place in the Rio Games.
If you’d like to read more about Australia’s early roster news, check out FIBA’s breakdown.
While the Boomers are certainly one of the favorites to bring home the hardware in Asia Cup 2017, the fact that many of their stars (Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, Dante Exum, Andrew Bogut and others) are not participating makes the 2017 Asia Cup a more level playing field than it may have been otherwise.
One thing fans can always expect with Australian basketball is a hard-nosed, physical team that will use their grit and toughness to their advantage.
This is the first time in which Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) has merged into the Asia Cup and Australia will look to make their tournament debut in style, but a rival challenger looks to do the same.
There’s no word if Steven Adams will participate in August, but with or without him, the Tall Blacks have a formidable crew.
Guys like 28-year-old guard Corey Webster (19 ppg in 2015 Oceania Championship), 6-foot-8 forward Isaac Fotu (9 ppg, 9 rpg in 2015 Oceania Championship) and Corey’s 22-year-old brother Tai Webster (averaged 17 ppg as a senior at Nebraska in 2016-17) are going to make the Tall Blacks a force to be reckoned with in this tournament.
Especially considering the lack of NBA presence on Australia’s team, it could be the Kiwis’ time to shine in Beirut.
Iran finished third in the 2015 Asia Cup, led in large part (no pun intended) by 7-foot-2 center Hamed Haddadi, who averaged 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.
While there won’t be many recognizable faces on the court for Team Iran, it would be impossible to miss his presence and the team has a history of playing well in the Asia Cup, placing in the top three in four of the last five tournaments, winning championships in 2007, 2009 and 2013.
Haddadi enjoyed a brief stint in the NBA, but will go down in international history for his play on the Iranian National Team. He was tournament MVP in all three of Iran’s Asia Cup championship years. His three MVPs are tied with Yao Ming for the most in Asia Cup history.
Other Notable Teams
We’re awaiting more roster details on China, South Korea, the Philippines and others, but those three figure to be in the mix of contenders.
China defeated the Phillipines for the 2015 Championship and although their Olympic performance didn’t go as hoped in Rio, they’re the perennial powerhouse in Asia. China is taking a new approach with its men’s national basketball team, creating two new teams that will take turns each year in world events, preparing for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. With Yao Ming, President of the Chinese Basketball Association at the helm, they hope to build the program up in time for 2019 and then of course will aim for a better showing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Defending champion China has never had a problem handling business in the Asia Cup (winning 16 of 21 titles since 1975), but we’ll see if the addition of two Oceania teams can end China’s reign.
If Yi Jianlian plays in this tournament, expect him to be one of the leading scorers, like he was in Rio. His NBA tenure didn’t go as hoped in 2016-17, but he’s still one of the best international players on the planet and enters 2017 as the reigning Asia Cup MVP from 2015, with a chance to add a third.
The Philippines Team awaits the decision of Andray Blatche, a naturalized citizen who could make a big impact, but even if he doesn’t play, they’re not a team to sleep on in this tournament.
While Lebanon enters play as a decided underdog, having home court on its side cannot be underestimated and the host nation is looking to return to prominence, after finishing second place three times between 2001 and 2007.
Jordan also hopes to take advantage of what will likely have the feel of a home court edge over the border in their next door neighbor’s territory. Jordan lost the 2011 championship by one point to China, and finished third in 2009.
THE HISTORY OF THE ASIA CUP
China’s 16 gold medals reflect its dominance in the bi-annual games, but it’s been a relatively balanced tournament for the rest of the pack trying to catch up and at least come away with some hardware.
The Philippines have five gold medals, four silvers and a bronze in a country where basketball continues to grow exponentially.
South Korea’s 24 total medals are more than any other country in the tournament, however, they’ve only won two gold medals with 11 silver and 11 bronze.
Japan has 14 medals, seven of which were bronze, five silver and two gold.
Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Qatar, India, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei all search for their first gold medals in this tournament.
While any of those teams winning the tournament would be a Cinderella story to say the least, part of what makes international basketball so fun to watch is seeing what dark horses will arise out of nowhere to make a run.
There are a few candidates in this group, who could give the more traditional powerhouses a run for their money in Beirut. We’re just under two months away from tip-off, but when more news surfaces, we’ll continue to update you in future editions of Around The World.