Fiba World Cup luster dimmed by absent stars
MANILA, Philippines–The Fiba World Cup showcases the best basketball teams in the world, but the game’s brightest stars will be missing in action.
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic, who have four NBA MVPs and a couple of NBA championships between them, are just a fraction of the prominent talents who won’t be around for the global showcase.
The Fiba World Cup tips off on August 25 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece)
Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence due to left knee surgery in June spoiled what could have been a mouthwatering matchup between Greece and the United States on August 28 at Mall of Asia Arena.
Antetokounmpo played hurt in last season’s playoffs that saw the top seed Milwaukee Bucks get knocked off by the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference first round.
The two-time NBA MVP from the Milwaukee Bucks announced on August 11 he is not yet ready to compete in the Fiba World Cup.
“Everyone knows my passion and love for my National Team has and never will change. Since the conclusion of my NBA season I have been pushing my body to the limits to be the player I need to be to help our team achieve the goals we set,”Antetokounmpo said on his social media accounts.
“But after months of work and multiple meetings with medical staff it is clear that I am not ready to compete [at] the level that I need to be to participate in the World Cup.
Nikola Jokic (Serbia)
A herculean effort in the NBA playoffs took its toll on Nikola Jokic, who led the Denver Nuggets to a historic championship run in June.
The Finals MVP, as per Serbia coach Svetislav Pesic, reportedly begged off from the World Cup due to physical and mental exhaustion.
Jokic, a two-time NBA MVP, would have been a premier attraction in Manila with Serbia, which plays China, South Sudan, and Puerto Rico in Group B.
Jamal Murray (Canada)
The Denver Nuggets’ other star Jamal Murray also withdrew his name for Canada after a deep run in the NBA playoffs.
Murray said he needs “additional recovery” upon consultation with Canada’s medical staff and team. Murray attended Canada’s camp earlier this month before pulling out.
“When I came into training camp, I wanted to see how my body would respond after a long and demanding season and if I would be physically able to compete at the highest level required for the World Cup,” Murray said in a statement distributed by Canada Basketball.
Victor Wembanyama (France)
Victor Wembanyama will miss France’s World Cup campaign to “prepare his body for the many events awaiting in the coming years” including the upcoming NBA season.
The 7-foot-4 Wembanyama, the biggest NBA prospect since LeBron James, was selected first overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs in last June’s draft.
“I hope people will understand. It’s frustrating for me, too. The French team is as central as ever. I want to win as many titles as possible with them. But I think it’s a necessary sacrifice.”
Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania)
After playing through an avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the right thumb last NBA season, Damontas Sabonis is unfit to lead Lithuania for the World Cup.
Sabonis, who was coming off an All-Star NBA season, sustained the injury last December and still managed to help propel the Sacramento Kings back into the playoffs.
Al Horford and Chris Duarte (Dominican Republic)
Al Horford and Chris Duarte won’t suit up for the Dominican Republic, which is in Group A along with Gilas Pilipinas, Italy and Angola.
The two, however, didn’t cite reasons for their absence in the World Cup which is a big blow to the Dominicans and a shot in the arm for Gilas.
Horford, 37, made the Eastern Conference Finals in the previous NBA season with the Boston Celtics.
Duarte, meanwhile, had a promising first two seasons with the Pacers. He was traded to Sacramento last month.
Ricky Rubio (Spain)
There will be a new World Cup MVP regardless of who ends up winning the prestigious trophy.
“I have decided to stop my professional activity to take care of my mental health,” Rubio said in a statement distributed by the Spanish Basketball Federation, or FEB. “I want to thank all the support I have received from the FEB to understand my decision. Today #LaFamilia makes more sense than ever. Thank you.”
The 32-year-old guard has been playing professionally since he was 14 years old.
Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia)
Kristaps Porzingis is another top big man who won’t be able to strut his stuff in the World Cup.
Porzingis, who was recently traded to the Boston Celtics, won’t be part of Latvia because of a foot injury.
“Such a decision is not easy to make, but I promise that I will be there and support the team as much as I can,” Porzingis wrote in Latvian.
Rui Hachimura (Japan)
Co-host Japan, which is in a tough Group E, will have to make do without its main man Rui Hachimura.
Hachimura withdrew his name from the Japanese team after a “long playoffs” where he played a big role in the Los Angeles Lakers’ run to the Western Conference Finals.
Ben Simmons (Australia)
After his NBA return with the Brooklyn Nets was cut short, Ben Simmons will remain sidelined after deciding not to join Australia in the World Cup.
Simmons is out for the Boomers to continue his rehabilitation for a back injury. He hasn’t seen action for Australia for a long time now after pulling out of the team weeks before the Tokyo Games where the Boomers bagged the bronze.
“Ben needs more time to focus on his rehab and he looks forward to being part of the Boomers in the future,” Basketball Australia said. “We wish Ben all the best in his recovery.
Danilo Gallinari (Italy)
Danilo Gallinari is another player that Gilas Pilipinas won’t have to worry about in the World Cup.
Gallinari, who was supposed to boost the Boston Celtics last season, is still not ready to play after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee during a Fiba World Cup qualifier against Georgia in September. It was same knee injury he sustained in 2013.
Steven Adams (New Zealand)
New Zealand will have to wait longer before Steven Adams finally gets his chance to play for his country.
Adams missed the remainder of the Memphis Grizzlies season after sustaining a knee sprain in January.