SOME of the biggest names in Asian basketball won’t be around when the 27th Fiba Asia Championship gets going on Aug. 1 at MOA Arena in Pasay.
Seven-foot giant Wang Zhizhi of China, NBA-bound Arsalan Kazemi of Iran and Jordan’s Sam Daghles and Zaid Abbas were not on the official roster of teams released yesterday by Fiba Asia.
The latest development is a boon for the Philippines, which is bidding for a strong finish in the Asian championship. The top three qualify for the world championship in Spain next year.
The Filipinos will try to put in two more warm-up games against a PBA selection tomorrow and the Kazakhstan national team on Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kazemi, a 6-foot-8 power forward who played for US NCAA division I Rice University and University of Oregon, opted not to risk his health in the tournament after being picked 54th overall in the recent NBA Draft.
He now plays in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas for the Philadelphia 76ers, who are expected to offer the first Iran-born NBA draftee a one-year contract.
Also sitting out the Asian championship is Wang, China’s first NBA player.
China coach Panagiotis Giannakis left out the 34-year-old Wang in the lineup, ending a colorful international career for the long-time Chinese team captain.
Daghles and Abbas, who made life miserable for Gilas Pilipinas in the semifinals of the 2011 Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, China, before helping Jordan to a silver-medal finish, have decided to skip the tournament and focus on the Chinese Basketball Association where both play as imports.
The Jordanians are grouped with the Philippines in Group A along with Chinese Taipei and Saudi Arabia. China and Iran are bracketed in Group D.