HoopsHype Dominican Republic rumors

July 14, 2014 Updates

The team reports to Las Vegas on July 27 under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and is scheduled to play a showcase game Aug. 1 at the Thomas and Mack Center. From there, the players venture to Chicago for more training, Aug. 14-16, with a game at the United Center against Brazil at 8 p.m. Aug. 16. Drummond and crew then head to New York where they are scheduled to play games at Madison Square Garden against the Dominican Republic on Aug. 20 and Puerto Rico on Aug. 22. Then, Aug. 24-26, the hectic schedule shifts to Gran Canaria, Spain, with a game against Slovenia. Detroit Free Press

May 21, 2014 Updates
April 11, 2014 Updates

It's been a long, rewarding ride for Francisco Garcia with the Dominican Republic national team. The NBA guard-forward, however, is saying it will end after this summer's FIBA Basketball World Cup. A lynchpin in the side since 2005 when he averaged more than 18 points per game at the FIBA Americas Championship on home soil, Garcia will realize a dream when he competes in a major international tournament for the first time this summer in Spain. At 32 years of age, he thinks the time will be right to call time on his career with the Dominicans. "I always want to be there, but this will be my last one because it's time to pass the baton to the youngsters that are growing up because they, too, deserve the opportunity," Garcia said. FIBA.com

March 30, 2014 Updates

Relationships remain Lopez’s greatest currency and inspiration. In his apartment, there is a poster of former Knicks guard John Starks’ famous lefthanded dunk over Jordan and Horace Grant in the 1993 playoffs. Lopez sees Starks at community events for the Knicks. There is also a photo of Drazen Petrovic, the Croatian scorer, because his girlfriend, Kero, is Croatian. Lopez loved Petrovic’s spirit as a player, and tries to channel it on and off the court. He keeps a photo of himself with David Stern, the former NBA commissioner, on a table in his living room. It is not from draft night; rather it is from a community center with children. “I blew through a lot of money, but, for me, I knew money was never going to bring happiness,” Lopez says. “I spent on me and my family. At the end of the day, they are who is around me. I’m back where I started with more than when I began.” New York Daily News

Lopez, 39, can be difficult to place in New York, the city he once soared above. He likes to keep basketball on the “low burner,” living modestly with his girlfriend across from Riverdale’s Van Cortlandt Park, and running through its back hills. Hailed as the best player in the country 20 years ago at Rice High, Lopez inspired “Felipe Mania,” sending fans into raptures. The cheers and camera crews trailed him to St. John’s, but lost interest as time went on, and Lopez, despite scoring at a prodigious pace, could not resurrect the Johnnies. Thereafter, he reached unimaginable heights as a Dominican immigrant, sitting on the same stage as President Clinton during a forum on race, and experienced unexpected lows, punching a teammate in the face during his last professional game on American soil in the CBA. Ten years after his NBA career ended with a torn ACL, Lopez has returned to the South Bronx, volunteering at his mother’s church as he attempts to break a cycle of lost prospects in his old neighborhood. “To this day, the No. 1 question I get, no matter where I am, is, ‘Where’s Felipe?’ ” says Zendon Hamilton, Lopez’s teammate at St. John’s. “It’s almost like he’s a folk hero. His legend grew by word of mouth: ‘This kid in the Bronx from the Dominican Republic has a 60-inch vertical, can dunk with his left hand, threw down over somebody. He’d do some salsa after a play.’ All true. If you didn’t watch him, you might lose him.” New York Daily News

“I try to make sure the kids know they’re young,” Lopez says. “They grow so fast because they have to create a wall of protection. If you’re weak, you get bullied so you have to act. You have to understand there is another way.” Blades and bullets are regularly seen in the church’s neighborhood. Homeless people pushing carts line the sidewalk by the wrought iron fence, waiting their turn to collect fruits and vegetables from the food pantry. A child in a Spider-Man hat urinates on the sidewalk. A security guard chides him; the boy and his parents smile back. An adult in a black coat threatens another with a knife. Lopez’s acolytes, meanwhile, assemble inside for six hours every Saturday, wearing yellow hats he hands out as a display of solidarity. They carry Bibles in book bags and leave their report cards for Lopez to review. He issues math assignments for them to complete by the next session and his girlfriend, Marija Kero, to teach upstairs. He scolds the boys who hand in reports on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that are incomplete. New York Daily News

Maybe it was the American M-16 assault rifle Lopez saw a man pull from a duffel bag and used to shoot bullets into an open crowd on Brook Ave. in 1989. Maybe it was the lines of cocaine addicts he saw stretch around an abandoned building on his block, as if waiting for a government handout. It’s hard to figure what left the greatest impact on his young mind, Lopez says with a sigh. For some reason, he felt at home in the forgotten, forbidding borough, building an immigrant’s dream from a nightmare setting. “If I was in the Olympics I would have broke a record running from gunshots,” Lopez says. Born in Santiago, the Dominican Republic’s second-largest city, surrounded by mountains in the country’s northern region, Lopez learned basketball in a baseball nation. New York Daily News

Lopez was eventually the one lying on the ground. It was October 2002, and the Timberwolves took on the Boston Celtics in a preseason game at an obscure arena in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Lopez charged into swingman Paul Pierce and twisted awkwardly. He tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee, and writhed on the floor, fearing the worst. It was over. Lopez, who was entering his fifth season, rehabilitated, but never played another regular-season game in the NBA. Living in Miami, he transitioned to television, working for Telemundo as an analyst, but wanted back on court after a while. He had a daughter named Anuhea Alexa, and left the States to play in Europe, suiting up for a team in Oldenburg, Germany. The new country piqued his interest, and he drove for hours on off days, stopping at the Berlin Wall, touring Munich and drinking in Oktoberfest. He was enchanted by the journey. “They walk 10 miles to the woods and suddenly there’s a castle,” Lopez says. “When you get there they just have beer after beer after beer.” He followed the bouncing ball to Spain, back stateside and through South America. International competition always thrilled him, but sometimes the unexpected clipped Lopez. New York Daily News

February 3, 2014 Updates
August 30, 2013 Updates

Among the NBA personnel helping national teams this summer: Houston Rockets assistant coach Kelvin Sampson is an assistant with Canada. Golden State Warriors advanced scout Chris Thomas is an assistant coach with Slovenia. Minnesota Timberwolves advanced scout Pat Zipfel is the Dominican Republic's scout. Cleveland Cavaliers assistant coach Igor Kokoskov is Georgia's coach, and Houston Rockets advanced scout Jason Staudt is a scout for Georgia. USA Today Sports

August 10, 2013 Updates

Dominican Al Horford won’t be playing for the national team at the FIBA Americas being held this summer, the Dominican Republic Basketball Federation finally confirmed. According to a press release, Horford will be participating in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program later this month, while also preparing for the next NBA season. Dominican Today

July 26, 2013 Updates

It's not a surprise, yet the announcement by the Dominican Republic Basketball Federation that Al Horford won't play for the national team this summer is nevertheless painful. When one of the best big men in the NBA, a player who has been outstanding for the Dominicans the past few years, decides he's not going to play at the FIBA Americas Championship, it's never good news. TalkBasket

July 9, 2013 Updates

The power forward for the Detroit Pistons, Charlie Villanueva, announced yesterday via his Twitter account that he will not be a part of the National Team of the Dominican Republic that will participate in the FIBA Americas Championship in Caracas, Venezuela. Villanueva posted three photos, including one of his tattoo of the Dominican flag and added a message. "I will talk about the issue of the DR (Dominican Republic) now, so they do ‘not lie to me, as they did last year. Thanks, and I love my country so much," he wrote. "I will concentrate my game in the United States because this is an important year for me. Love my country but I'm just focused on my family and career," said Villanueva. FIBA Americas

December 7, 2012 Updates

Horford, who is from the Dominican Republic, prefers to read books in Spanish and said that Garcia Marquez is much better in Spanish. (John Jenkins, Georgia's 358-pound nose tackle, just sacked McCarron for a 15-yard loss!) He listed Garcia Marquez books I hadn't heard of, and warned me not to bother with Memories of My Melancholy Whores. I wrote that down and then lowered the discourse: What did he think of Houston Rockets guard James Harden's 1970s beard? (Crazy catch by Amari Cooper ... then Lacy runs it up the middle. 'Bama closing in on its first score.) He told me that he didn't approve. Nor did his wife, which was why he keeps his facial hair close to his face. Creative Loafing Atlanta

October 4, 2012 Updates

Francisco Garcia spent his offseason with fellow countrymen of the Dominican Republic, competing for a spot in the 2012 London Olympics. The Sacramento Kings swingman and his team fell just short of qualifying, losing to Nigeria 88-73 in the final game of the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Though they didn’t reach their goal, Garcia still attended the festivities in London and appreciates the experience spent with his Dominican teammates this summer. “We grew together as a team, as a country,” said Garcia. “Next year we’re gonna do it again, try to qualify for the world games. That was a great experience for me myself, individually. (It was) a different type of game, a little more physical. And it was great representing my country. It was a great experience.” Cowbell Kingdom

September 27, 2012 Updates

In the midst of those workouts, his year went from bad to worse upon hearing he was cut from the Dominican Republic National Team. Upon hearing the name of Kentucky and national team coach John Calipari, Villanueva grunted. "The DR thing definitely stung," he said. "That's your country you're representing. They never gave me an opportunity to work out in the first place. I never worked out for these guys, it caught me off guard. I'm reading up on this and I'm like, 'Wow.'" Detroit News

July 13, 2012 Updates

New role, same old result for Kevin Durant. And even with another loss from its roster, the U.S. Olympic basketball team just keeps on rolling along. Durant picked up where he left off in international competition, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the Americans to a 113-59 victory over the Dominican Republic on Thursday night in an exhibition game. The MVP of the world basketball championship two years ago, Durant came off the bench to shoot 9 of 11 from the field, making 5 of 6 3-pointers in 22 minutes. He said coach Mike Krzyzewski told him shortly before the game that Carmelo Anthony would start alongside LeBron James at forward, and he adjusted just fine. "It felt good to me," Durant said. "It was cool to come off the bench for the first time. Wherever they need that spark, I'm going to try to come out and give them that spark. So I was looking forward to having different roles playing with USA, so it was kind of fun for me, actually." Minneapolis Star-Tribune

July 9, 2012 Updates

The Dominican Republic should have had the best player on the floor with the Hawks Al Horford, but he had just 12 points as foul trouble kept him in check. So the field for London is set. The 12-team tournament starts July 29 with play in the two six-team groups (four from each advance to the knockout tournament). The groups are: Group A: United States, France, Argentina, Tunisia, Lithuania, Nigeria. Group B: Great Britain, Spain, Brazil, Australia, China, Russia. NBCSports.com

July 8, 2012 Updates

Any rumor missing? E-mail us at   hoopshype@hoopshype.com.