It all comes down to one game. Well, two games, actually.
Brazil vs. the Dominican Republic. Argentina vs. Puerto Rico.
Those are your two semi-finals of the FIBA Americas tournament on Saturday. But if your goal is a spot in the 2012 London Olympics, these are the big games. Win Saturday and you are in, lose and you head to a pre-Olympics qualifying tournament next July to slug it out for a second-chance berth against other teams that just missed out. Sunday the two winners will play for the Americas championship.
Brazil — playing without Nene, Anderson Varejao or Leandro Barbosa — are the top seed and have lost only one game all tournament. That was their previous meeting with the Dominican Republic. The D.R. is coached by John Calipari and has Al Horford, who has been very good all tournament. But how the D.R. does in this game swings on Francisco Garcia and Charlie Villanueva — when those two are on this a very hard team to beat, but those two have been wildly inconsistent. Shocking with them, I know. Brazil has been playing better the last week, but if it’s an on day for the Dominican Republic’s swing guys, they can win this.
Argentina came into this as the favorite and with the most stacked roster — Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andreas Nocioni. Argentina’s only loss is to Brazil, and they beat Puerto Rico 81-74 when they met in the group stage. Puerto Rico features J.J. Barea, Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman — all good players who need exceptional games if the island nation is to pull the upset here.
Check back with PBT on Saturday and we will recap these games. And if Puerto Rico wins we will run a photo of Barea’s girlfriend.
The final four for the FIBA Americas is set — Argentina, Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic will play Saturday for berths in the 2012 London Olympics. If you haven’t been watching (what, you don’t stream international hoops games at your desk in the morning?) just know that this is fitting — they’ve been the four best teams in the tournament (and all of them are stocked with NBA players such as Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola for Argentina, Al Horford for the Domincan and more).
The seedings (who will play whom Saturday) is the only question that remains and will be determined by games later Thursday. But we know two of those four teams are moving on — winners of the knockout games Saturday are in. Those two teams get to travel to London, march in the opening ceremonies, live in the Olympic Village and hit on Czech pole vaulters. They get the full Olympic experience.
The losers head to the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament. That is where the teams from around the globe that just missed out on getting bids this summer will battle each other for one of the final spots in the games. Not an easy road but these are teams that will be a threat in that tournament.
Venezuela finished fifth and also gets invited to the pre-Olympics tournament. Venezuela secured the spot by beating Uruguay 92-80 on Thursday. Grizzlies guard Greivis Vasquez had 18 points to lead Venezuela.
Canada had an outside shot at this if they had won on Thursday, but they fell to Panama 91-89. This was a disappointment for a Canadian team that may not have been ready for the Olympics but expected to at least make the Qualifying Tournament next season.
In case you missed it Kentucky coach John Calipari is the coach of the Dominican Republic’s national basketball team this summer as it tries to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
They’re a long shot (despite having NBA players Francisco Garcia, Al Horford and Charlie Villanueva), but Calipari wants to help out of the goodness of his heart. Don’t think it’s for future recruiting inroads, nope, not about that at all. Calipari is just very altruistic.
The Dominicans need some tune-up games for the Americas Tournament that starts at the end of August, and Calipari has come up with one, reports Hoopsworld.
On August 15, Calipari’s two teams will collide at Rupp Arena, according to tweets from the head coach. Team Dominican Republic will face Team Kentucky, which will be made up of eight of the program’s former stars. Calipari will coach the national team while Sam Bowie and Joe B. Hall will lead the Kentucky alum….
Team Kentucky will include John Wall, Rajon Rondo, Tayshaun Prince, DeMarcus Cousins, Jodie Meeks, Nazr Mohammed, Eric Bledsoe and Keith Bogans.
What are the odds Cousins gets in foul trouble and has to sit most of the exhibition game? I’d say 50-50.
Tickets go on sale Friday and there is talk of a television broadcast, but details have yet to emerge.
Jorge Sierra of Hoopshype.com has the story:
Like many other NBA players before, Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva says he will also contemplate the possibility of playing abroad. But with him, it will not be China or Europe.
“I’m actually leaning towards likely playing in Dominican Republic, my home country,” Villanueva texted when asked about overseas options. “If I play there in Dominican Republic, it won’t be for the pay, but it will be for my people. They are passionate about the game of basketball.
“One hundred percent, basketball is my passion. If the lockout continues, it won’t stop me from doing what I love to do. Overseas is a possibility for sure.”
As Sierra notes, Villanueva led the Dominican national team in scoring in both 2009 and 2010. Villanueva averaged 11.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last year. If the lockout does come to an end soon, the Pistons owe Villanueva approximately $8 million a year through the 2013/14 season.
Former NBA and current Louisville coach Rick Pitino agreed recently to spend three months this summer coaching the Puerto Rican national basketball team for free as they try to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.
Now, according to multiple reports (via Sports by Brooks), Kentucky coach John Calipari may do the same thing for the Dominican. Both would be doing this for free (and by free we mean a shoe company is likely working out some kind of compensation, but the countries are not paying).
Why? These noble men just love the game and want to give back to some poor nations and players who might not otherwise be exposed to this level of the game? Because they care?
No, really it’s about recruiting. Pushing the limits without breaking the rules. Both of those countries have some big time up and coming players, and now these coaches get to work with them as part of their new jobs.
Still, it will make this summer’s Olympic qualification tournament interesting when the teams all meet in Argentina to play it out on the court.
By the way, the USA has already qualified for an Olympics berth by virtue of winning the World Championships last summer. Thank you Kevin Durant.