The 2013 FIBA Americas Championship tournament begins in beautiful Caracas, Venezuela, on Friday morning. This is actually the fourth FIBA tournament of the year — following Asia (where Hamed Haddadi was MVP), Oceania (which was just Australia vs. New Zealand a couple of times) and Africa (where Nigeria was just upset despite featuring four players with NBA experience) — but also the one most relevant to the interests of the American basketball fan.
The first few days of the tournament will feature round-robin play in the two groups of five with the top four teams from each advancing into a second round-robin tournament to whittle the field down further to four teams. Those four teams will advance to next year’s FIBA World Cup, but they’ll also play a quick tournament to determine the FIBA Americas champion.
Friday’s action will actually feature a game matching the top two teams in the tournament when Puerto Rico and Brazil face off in Group A action. Puerto Rico’s backcourt includes Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea and its frontcourt includes Renaldo Balkman and Ricky Sanchez, among others, so they’re a team worth watching if one’s clamoring to watch NBA-type players play meaningful basketball. Brazil isn’t nearly as loaded as they could be with Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa all out of action this summer, but they’re still a team that is very fun to watch with a lot of solid players currently playing professionally in Europe — and recent Utah Jazz draftee Raul Neto plays for them, too.
The three other games on Friday feature Jamaica and Canada where Samardo Samuels vs. Tristan Thompson will likely be a featured matchup; Luis Scola’s Argentinean team taking on an overmatched squad from Paraguay and Venezuela vs. Mexico. The last one would typically be a good game, but new Venezuelan Donta Smith — formerly of the Atlanta Hawks — isn’t going to make up for the loss of Greivis Vasquez, Gregory Echenique and Oscar Torres. Mexico does feature some fun players in Gustavo Ayon, Lorenzo Mata-Real, Orlando Mendez-Valdez and Jorge Gutierrez, however.
The games begin at 10:30 Eastern Time and can be streamed on ESPN3 for those so inclined.