Everyone is understandably engrossed with the current FIFA World Cup action (RIP Germany). International sporting endeavors aren’t confined to the pitch, however, and countries will take the hardwood this weekend as part of the qualifying round for the 2019 FIBA World Cup (taking place August 31-September 15, 2019). For those missing NBA action and impatiently waiting for summer league play, it’s a good time to catch a handful of current and (maybe) future Sixers.
First, a quick description of how FIBA World Cup qualifying works. The final tournament will feature 32 teams, 12 of which will come from FIBA Europe. FIBA Europe currently has 32 teams playing as part of the first of two rounds of qualifying. This qualifying round consists of eight groups of four teams, with each country playing a home-and-home against each of the other three teams. Teams have already played four games this round, with the final two games coming this weekend. The top 3 teams from each group will advance to the second round in September (when 24 teams will then be whittled down to 12).
World Cup play can be viewed through an ESPN Plus or LiveBasketball.tv subscription (or I’m sure some corners of the dark web). Below are the details for the Sixers participants.
Croatia (Dario Saric)
June 28, 2:45pm EST vs. Italy in Trieste
July 1, 12:00pm EST vs. Romania in Cluj
1-3, 4th place in Group D
In danger of not moving on to the second round, Croatia is bringing out the big guns with Dario, Bojan Boganovic, and Mario Hezonja all playing this weekend. The Croatians need at least one, and possibly two wins in order to avoid elimination.
Undoubtedly, Saric will play a huge role in the team’s success. Last summer, in EuroBasket 2017, Dario averaged 14.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.0 blocks. However, arguably his biggest moment on the international stage came back in the 2016 Olympics, when Saric had the game-winning block against Pau Gasol. That play to seal the upset of highly-touted Spain signaled fans stateside that the Homie was ready for NBA competition (if he ever comes over).
Dario Saric blocks Pau Gasol to upset Spain! pic.twitter.com/DfqGggKAAm— Full Court Prez (@fullcourtprez) August 7, 2016
Turkey (Furkan Korkmaz)
June 28, 1:00pm EST vs. Ukraine in Ankara
July 1, 11:00am EST vs. Sweden in Ankara
2-2, 2nd place in Group B
Turkey needs one win to seal its ticket to the next round. Korkmaz is a valuable team member for “12 Giant Men”. Furkan played 21 minutes per game last year in EuroBasket, averaging 10.5 points on 53.8% shooting from the field and 33.3% from three. Last season was a bit of a lost year for Korkmaz after suffering a Lisfranc injury. Hopefully, these games will provide an opportunity for him to flash his continued development and show he can still fly.
Latvia (Anzejs Pasecniks)
June 28, 12:30pm EST vs. Sweden in Stockholm
July 1, 9:00am EST vs. Ukraine in Kiev
2-2, 3rd place in Group B
Like Turkey, Latvia will advance out of Group B with one win in these next two games. This weekend could be a good opportunity for Sixers fans to see the man Bryan Colangelo moved up into the first round to draft last summer. Pasecniks receives regular playing time for Latvia; he averaged 10.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks in the first 4 games of this qualifying round, shooting 63% from the field (and less optimistically, 42.1% from the foul line).
France (Mathias Lessort)
June 29, 2:30 pm EST vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina in Tuzla
July 2, 12:00pm EST vs. Russia in Krasnodar
4-0, 1st place in Group E
No Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot for Team France, but we might get a glimpse of the Sixers’ 2017 second round pick, Lessort. While he’s listed on the roster, I’m not actually sure if Lessort will be receiving any playing time. He did not participate in the earlier qualifying games. France has already clinched advancing, so maybe they’ll be more willing to empty the bench. One fun fact: Google Translate changed Lessort’s position to “Strong Winger,” a pretty fierce descriptor.
Use the thread below to follow along with all the FIBA World Cup action this weekend.