Birch sees the positives in taking part in the FIBA Wor…

Birch sees the positives in taking part in the FIBA World Cup. And unlike most other NBA types he has no one offering up advice, wanted or not. ““I don’t have an agent as of right now, so no,” he said when asked if anyone tried to dissuade him from coming. “Like I said Khem Birch decides Khem Birch’s career. If I get hurt it’s because Khem Birch got hurt and if Khem Birch wants to do something Khem Birch is going to do it.”

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Tommy Beer: Through Serbia's first three games in the FIBA World Cup, Nikola Jokic is shooting 83.3% from the field, and is a perfect 4-for-4 from 3-point territory. Oh and he leads his team in assists & rebounds. Serbia is undefeated. Their average margin of victory is 40 points per game
“As you can see I’m doing things I have never done in the NBA that I’m getting to do right now,” he said referring to handling the ball and stepping outside to shoot. “That’s what a lot of guys don’t understand. Coach Nurse gives you the confidence and freedom to do whatever you want. Basically everything you want in the system you have here so I’m lucky.”
Mike Ganter: Khem Birch on his decision to play for Canada: “I don’t let anyone dictate my career or anything. I let Khem Birch dictate what he wants to do and Khem Birch decided to play for his country because I want to go to the Olympics.”
SLAM: Can you talk about your role as ambassador and why you wanted to be involved in the World Cup? Dirk Nowitzki: Well, you know, I’m of course sad that my competing days are done. But I still want to help grow the game internationally. I’ve had great success in FIBA competitions and it’s always been fun competing at the highest level, so when they approached me to see if I wanted to do this, of course I was on board. Growing the game internationally, growing the game here in China—there are some amazing fans here—and we have some of the best athletes [here right now for the World Cup], so it should be a fun few weeks. Hopefully we can grow the sport even more.

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Coach Aleksandar Petrovic was very proud of his guys including the 39-year-old Alex Garcia who played terrific defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo: “Why this sport is wonderful? On the other side, you have a guy who won the MVP, he’s 23 years old and who stops him tonight?! The guy who is 40 years old and kicks his a** on the court! That’s basketball!”, the coach said while slapping his hand on the table euphorically.
Petrovic also mentioned that he wasn’t worried at all about Giannis, he was afraid of Kostas Sloukas and Georgios Printezis might do: “We showed that we have several players who can stop Antetokounmpo. But yesterday I was more occupied with Sloukas and Printezis and that’s what happened today. When I was preparing this game, a lot of people talked and joked about how to stop Antetokounmpo. I had for six months in my head, since the semifinals between Toronto and Milwaukee, how to stop Antetokounmpo.”
Brian Windhorst: Official update on Jayson Tatum: sprained left ankle, will be re-evaluated tomorrow.
It was expected Team USA was going to face some real tests in the FIBA World Cup, but it wasn't expected they'd have so much trouble passing their first one. A confident and high-energy Turkey, the No. 17-ranked team in the world, gave the Americans a series of heart palpitations before they yanked away a 93-92 victory in overtime.
Khris Middleton gets credit as the hero as he made two free throws with 2.1 seconds left to provide the winning points, the last of his team-high 15 points. It wasn't possible until Turkey missed four consecutive free throws (two by Cedi Osman and two by Dogus Balbay) with nine seconds left that could won the game.
The short term is that the Americans advance to the second round of the World Cup, which will start this weekend in Shenzhen. Their 44-game winning streak in World Cup and Olympic play continues.
Tim Bontemps: Jayson Tatum hurt his left ankle in the final seconds of Team USA's win, after making a really nice play to drop the ball off to Khris Middleton on a break for what wound up being a game-winning play. Hopefully it looked worse than it winds up being.

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Marc J. Spears: USA Basketball holds on to beat Turkey 93–92 in overtime preliminary action at the @FIBAWC. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum leaves with injury. Respect to Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman and Turkey, who missed some costly free throws late.
Canada's hopes of advancing at the FIBA World Cup died with a 92-69 loss to Lithuania on Tuesday in Dongguan, China. Kyle Wiltjer had 24 points, while Cory Joseph had 15, but the seventh-ranked Lithuanians — who'd routed Senegal by 54 points two nights earlier — were too much for the undermanned Canadians, who are missing all but two of their NBA players in Joseph and Khem Birch.
Former longtime Toronto Raptors forward Jonas Valanciunas had 13 points and eight rebounds, while Edgaras Ulanovas led Lithuania with 15 points.
Donatas Urbonas: Jonas Valanciunas on surviving in the group of death: "It's a delicious victory. We feel a relief, but we came here not only to advance. We have to keep this focus and fight for the game vs Australia."
The Dominican Republic came in with quite an upset for the Germans and with their 70-68 victory, they can rest on top of Group G (2-0) and with a ticket to the second round of FIBA World Cup in their hands.
Rui Hachimura scored 21 points with 8/11 two-pointers, but was not enough. Yuta Watanabe had 11 at halftime and ended up with 15, Nick Fazekas notched a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Let’s entertain a conspiracy theory, an old one that usually surfaces at least once a summer during international competition when American NBA players are involved. If Team USA has an off night shooting or gets into a bit of a shooting slump, it’s because of the ball, or so the theory goes. Literally, the ball used in the FIBA World Cup looks and feels different than the one used nightly in the NBA. Joining us to discuss this is the highly qualified Team USA sharpshooter Joe Harris, the reigning NBA 3-point champion who not only led the league with a .473 3-point shooting percentage last season but also won the annual shooting competition over All-Star weekend.
Like a quarterback who fusses over the air pressure of a football, to the point where he might ask the equipment manager to artificially deflate one or two before a game, or a pitcher who balks at a baseball with seams that aren’t raised enough to throw a good curveball, surely Harris will say that, yes, it’s harder to make 3s with one kind of ball for a few weeks after shooting with something totally different all season? “Uh, no. I wouldn’t put anything on the ball,” Harris said.
So when Harris walked into the room, I handed him the two balls. “It looks like it, but it doesn’t feel like an NBA ball,” Harris said about the ball I bought, further deflating me. “This one feels closer to a FIBA ball. … If you’re going to put these basketballs out and guys are going to grab one and shoot around, I would say more people are going to gravitate toward how this one (the FIBA ball) feels.”
“I always try to get my fingers on the seams, if you can or if you have time,” Harris said. “But, for (the FIBA ball), you catch it, even though there are more seams to it, I’m not getting lost on the ball trying to find it.” There are some differences that matter, Harris added. “An NBA ball, when it gets a little bit wet, it gets a little stickier in your hands,” he said. “Whereas this one is more like the ball you might play with in college, where they’re spongier.”
Serbia advanced to the Second Round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 on Monday after trouncing Philippines 126-67 in Foshan. Nemanja Bjelica led seven Serbian players who scored 10 points or more, while the Philippines' most important player Andray Blatche had a night to forget, finishing with 5 points, 5 rebounds before fouling out.
Spain put Saturday’s triumph over Tunisia behind when they stepped foot on the floor on Monday against Puerto Rico, as they sealed a 73-63 victory, their second in Group C of the tournament that helps them qualify to the second round. Marc Gasol’s experience and dominance helped Sergio Scariolo’s squad get over the tough moments of the game, and the big man finished the game with 19 points, seven rebounds, and two assists.
The Philippines provided no serious challenge to red-hot Serbia. Sasha Djordjevic’s side strolled to the 126-67 win in 2019 FIBA World Cup Group D action at Foshan on Monday to secure a spot in the second round. Nemanja Bjelica saw action after missing the first game and made 7/7 from the field for 20 points. Bogdan Bogdanovic put up 17 points to include himself among seven players scoring in double digits. Nikola Jokic tallied 11 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in just 18:45.
Luis Scola moved up to the second spot on the FIBA Basketball World Cup all-time scoring list, overtaking Australia's great Andrew Gaze and trailing only the legendary Brazilian Oscar Schmidt.
Donatas Urbonas: Nick Nurse on Jonas Valanciunas: “More Jonas stories... I obviously love Jonas. But I’m gonna try to kick his ass tomorrow (laughs). I don’t know if there was a guy that I spent as much time with and had a strong long relationship like him.”
When asked after the game about a potential second-round matchup against Team USA since he is the NBA MVP, Giannis gave the following answer: “We don’t think about the USA team today. We have focused on the great win that we had, what can we do better. Our next opponent is Brazil. We got to focus on that game. Team USA is really far away. We got to take it game by game.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo: “And yeah, for the MVP? As I said I don’t want to be called that way, that’s in the past now. Just respect the guys who go out there and play as hard as they can and do what I do since day one. That’s helping my teammates get wins. Do whatever it takes. If that’s playing defense, or rebound the ball, or do whatever the coach asks me to do… dive for the ball? That’s what I do. That’s why I was named the MVP”.
Tim Reynolds: 18 FIBA world championship/World Cup tournaments. 18 appearances by the US. 18 consecutive 1-0 starts by the US.
John Schuhmann: USA starters: Walker, Mitchell, Tatum, Barnes & Turner. Same as the last exhibition game vs. Canada.
Lithuania kicked off its FIBA World Cup journey with lots of energy and speed, grabbing their biggest win ever in the tournament with 101-47 against Senegal, in the second game of the game for Group H in the city of Dongguan. Jonas Valanciunas dominated the paint, pacing Lithuania with 13 points and 11 rebounds
Two nations that know each other very well after their multiple games in the preparation period clashed in the city of Dongguan, as Australia beat Canada with a 108-92 victory in the FIBA World Cup Group H opener. Despite a shaky start in the second half, Boomers had an incredible Matthew Dellavedova taking charge, with 24 points (with 6/10 from the three-point line), five assists and three rebounds, as Australia made an impressive run (35-12) in the final period.
Turkey made an early statement in Group E with a convincing 86-67 victory over Japan in their opening test of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. Playing without the injured Scottie Wilbekin, Turkey stormed out to an early double-digit lead and were never seriously threatened. It was a balanced effort with Ersan Ilyasova leading the charge with 17 points and 9 rebounds.
Many who made the team weren't prominent or in many cases, even included on USA Basketball's wishlist of players when the roster-building process started last year. Walker tried to say none of that matters. And then he explained why it probably should matter. "I think a lot of us have grown up with doubt coming into our careers," Walker said. "It's nothing new to us. That's unnecessary at this point. Nobody really cares what people think. At the end of the day, we want to win. We have one goal: We want to win the gold medal. And we want to be here."
"This is do-or-die now," Harris said. "There are no more exhibitions, no more mulligans at it. We've talked about how important every single possession is in the FIBA game. You have 40 minutes of 'can't turn the ball over, can't make mental mistakes'. Now it is 40 minutes of being locked in and we have enough depth on this team, on the roster, to play maximum effort whenever you're on the court."
"We obviously hear the noise," said Harrison Barnes, the only member of that Olympic team who is on this World Cup roster. "But at the end of the day, we're the ones that are putting in the time, we're the ones that have to live with the results and we're the ones who have to come together as a team. I think that's what's most important."
Tommy Sheppard is in Shanghai for the group stage of the FIBA World Cup to watch Rui Hachimura and Team Japan take on a tough Group E, a field that includes the Czech Republic, Turkey and the United States. It’s an unusual move, one that certainly isn’t expected out of someone running the entire basketball operations for an NBA team.
Here the old master is working, it's the 22-year-old Mitchell who he's entrusting to guide this important enterprise. Popovich seems to see the leadership qualities in Mitchell that Jazz leadership and his Utah teammates have talked about for the last two years. "There's a lot of learning going on here," Mitchell said. "This last month has helped me in tremendous ways."
While Mitchell knows how important a big three weeks would be for his brand, this isn't about marketing. Popovich wouldn't tolerate such motivations anyway. Mitchell is serious about this. He's impressed his Team USA teammates with his intensity in practice and his film study in the run-up to Sunday's opener. "You wouldn't think he's the age he is, he's ahead of his years," Walker said. "He a natural-born leader. His skill set is unbelievable. He's a great player but he knows he has so much room for improvement. He wants to work."
For Team USA's Harrison Barnes, the opportunity to represent the United States at the 2019 FIBA World Cup is something he appreciates. He also is welcoming the chance to play for San Antonio Spurs and USA head coach Gregg Popovich. "Opportunity to come play for your country, compete with these guys, get better," said Barnes to reporters. "And the opportunity to be coached by a guy like coach Pop, who’s one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, and maybe in all sports history."
Nurse is having a blast doing the two things he loves more than anything outside his nearest and dearest: He’s coaching basketball and he’s experiencing a part of the world he has never seen before. “Are you kidding me?,” Nurse replied when asked about his time coaching Team Canada this summer. “I’ve never been to Australia, I’ve never been to China. Every day is fascinating to me. It’s such an adventure … You get to coach basketball, you get to play in an incredible tournament in incredible venues. I don’t know. I just come outside every day and look around and say ‘What an adventure? How could this not be fun?’”
“I’m excited about the competition on top of that,” Nurse said. “As a basketball coach, that is what you do. You live for the competition and try to figure out how to get a group of guys to beat another group of guys.”
Melvin Ejim, one of the few returning veterans on this team has been impressed. “He’s a good guy, man,” Ejim said following Canada’s first practice in Dongguan. “He’s fun, a great coaching mind, I think everything so far … there’s a reason why we’ve been growing step by step, every time we’ve been playing better, we’ve been improving things, and I think that he’s done a great job so far and hopefully, we can continue throughout the whole tournament.”
With Ricky Rubio coming from a great game and him being one of the most prominent NBA stars in the FIBA World Cup, the Spanish guard was asked during the press conference after the game between Spain and Tunisia to comment on the absences of NBA players. Rubio was cautious on his answer and also asked for everyone to focus on the players who are present in China: “It’s a tough question because I don’t know every case. Everyone has a different reason. You can’t judge them all the same way. That been said, of course, you want to compete, to give everything for your country, but at the same time you have to take care of yourself too. It’s either yourself or your family some times. Life is bigger than basketball, and we can’t forget that. Still, we can’t focus on the players who are not here. We have to focus on the players who are here in this tournament. The ones who are not, I bet they have a good reason for not being here”.
The 2019 FIBA World Cup will be special for every player, but Luis Scola has one additional reason to enjoy the tournament. At China, the 39-year-old forward will represent Argentina for the record-equaling fifth time in a World Cup. “I love the game and representing my country so much, that is more than just a game for me” he points out, FIBA relays. “I always feel an intense passion and love for playing the game at international level, to be here, with my teammates, wearing the blue and white jersey” adds Scola. “I know that a lot of the guys from my generation retired, but I feel like playing a bit more, so I am still here, older, but still here to be on the court, traveling and cheering for my teammates.”
Italy last played at the flagship event back in 2006, during the last World Cup held in Asia. One of the players who saw action for the Azzurri back then is San Antonio Spurs three-point specialist Marco Belinelli, who remembers his previous World Cup experience well. "Being back in the World Cup is a very big achievement," he said. "It's a great competition, and I was on that 2006 team. We had a young team then, but we've always seen this as a great and important competition."
From the first day this team got together in Las Vegas four weeks ago, Popovich has been trying to foster chemistry with the mashed together group. Indeed, he's held a few of his marathon dinners where he's tried to lay the groundwork. But them going out as a group on their own made him smile. "They've become close in a short period of time," Popovich said. "The camaraderie has blossomed, and I think that will bode well for us."
The loss last week in Australia wasn't a picnic and the players had to go from answering questions about all the stars who aren't with them to explaining how they ended their 78-game win streak. The cheer, for now, remains. "You have to enjoy being with people in order to feel responsible for them," Popovich said. "To be accountable to each other, you have to have some sort of empathetic bond. You have to love each other to a degree."
"We have great chemistry I think. We're getting along really well," Kemba Walker said after practice Friday at an international school in the Pudong section of the sprawling city. "We want to play for each other and that's the biggest thing."
What about the Jazz aspect of this? This is a huge year for you guys. How do you see the ripple effect here in terms of the positives vs. the negatives and how it all measures out? Quin Snyder: Well, I think on the whole it’s extremely beneficial. I go back to individual players and where they are. And in Donovan’s case, I keep hearing about just reinforcing the importance of defending. That’s something he believes in, but formulating those habits in a competitive environment where there’s something on the line? Those are situations that are hard to replicate, so the leadership opportunities that he’s had, I see those things as being (positive) — the responsibility of making decisions at crucial times in games — I think all those things really help. I think in Joe’s case, there’s a passion for the game that I think this summer Joe is finding. Not that it was lost, but there’s an enthusiasm that I think he has about the upcoming season that this experience will serve to kind of stoke it even more.
Quin Snyder: Well, I think with Donovan, I’ve been in touch with him frequently, just trying to provide him whatever feedback you can after seeing him play, after talking to someone on their (Team USA) staff. The feedback you get, if you can relay that to him and try to help him, that’s something you want to do. As much as anything, it’s reinforcing what he is committed to and giving him feedback on that. Same thing, really, with Rudy and Joe as far as just being in communication with them. It’s less trying to (talk to them too much). You don’t want to try to coach them, because you’re not the coach (at the moment).
Olgun Uluc: Cory Joseph is here in Dongguan. Conor Morgan was also added to the team. Canada lost Oshae Brissett (leg injury), then cut Aaron Best and Duane Notice.
As Gregg Popovich and his esteemed assistant coaches for Team USA sit each day to discuss just what they have to work with and who they can count on in the upcoming FIBA World Cup, the conversation keeps coming back to Harrison Barnes. It may sound harsh, but Barnes is the only player for Team USA who “knows how to win,” if for no other reason than Barnes is the lone player on the American roster who has won an NBA championship. He also won a gold medal in the summer of 2016 with TUSA at the Olympics — he’s the only player on this team with one of those as well.
“Pop trusts him,” said USA assistant Steve Kerr, who was Barnes’ head coach with Golden State for two years. “Pop talks about it all the time with our staff. He knows he can count on him to make the right play and to execute under pressure.”
Those fans remember Barnes on their TVs in the Finals, too. “Just from what I’ve seen from our experience so far, trying to help guys understand what it means to play on an international stage and what we’re going to have to go through to win it,” Barnes said, when asked how his past championships can help here. “Anytime you have championship experience, whether it was just that journey of going through it, whether it was in ’15 or ’16, whatever it is, that just helps you in this process because you have eight games to lock in and do something special.”
Meo Sacchetti cut out Giampaolo Ricci and Brian Sacchetti from Italy’s roster for the World Cup and the 12 remaining players to compete in China are the following: Amedeo Della Valle, Marco Belinelli, Alessandro Gentile, Paul Biligha, Luca Vitali, Danilo Gallinari, Daniel Hackett, Ariel Filloy, Jeff Brooks, Amedeo Tessitori, Awudu Abass, and Luigi Datome.
All that flying comes in the span of basically a month. And that doesn’t even count what it took for players to individually reach Las Vegas and Los Angeles, the site of the two training camp weeks. “We’re feeling great,” U.S. center Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers said. “We learned a lot over these past couple weeks, learned a lot about each other, learned a lot about the competition. We’re getting to know each other better. As opposed to just running a whole bunch of plays, we’re reading each other, making plays off each other.”
“We have a great team of guys, very unselfish group,” Bucks center Brook Lopez said before the team left Australia. “We all have the same goal in mind. A lot of young guys, so we have a lot of guys who are learning on the fly. We don’t have a problem being a team. Our guys have come together really quick.”
With the FIBA Basketball World Cup just three days away, Canada head coach Nick Nurse confirmed that point guard Cory Joseph will join the team once they arrive in Dongguan, China. "As far as I know he is," Nurse told reporters in Sydney when asked if Joseph would be joining the squad. "I exchanged a text with him a little earlier today and he said he was getting on the plane tomorrow [Monday] and he'd see me there. I guess we'll wait until we see if he's there. He'll be there.”
Storyline: World Cup
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