Familiar names in the FIBA Basketball World Cup
Aug. 29, 2014
BILBAO, Spain (AP) — Kevin Durant stands front and center in a billboard that hangs high above the outside of the arena where the U.S. will play its first-round games at the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
But he's not here. Neither are Spurs teammates Tony Parker of France and Manu Ginobili of Argentina. They're all sitting this one out. Plenty of big names remain, from Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving with the Americans to Spain's Gasol brothers.
There are also players and coaches who are lesser known but still familiar names, though a few of them are with unfamiliar teams.
Here are some to look for when the 24-team tournament starts Saturday:
ANDRAY BLATCHE, PHILIPPINES. The veteran center is an NBA free agent at the moment but currently has a job as the man in the middle for the Philippines. If you're confused, you're far from alone, as how a native of the United States with no ties to the country ended up on their roster is the stuff of international mystery. But teams are allowed to naturalize one player and the Philippines ended up picking Blatche, who could use a good showing to persuade an NBA team to sign him after the Brooklyn Nets decided not to bring him back.
MIKE FRATELLO, UKRAINE. Fratello won 667 games as an NBA coach, though none since the 2006-07 season with Memphis. He's best known now for his work as a TV analyst, and the Hackensack, New Jersey, native's only work on the sidelines now comes with the Ukrainians. He has led them since 2012 and now takes them to their first appearance in the World Cup.
NICK CALATHES, GREECE. He had developed into the Memphis Grizzlies' backup point guard by the end of his rookie season before it was cut short on the eve of the playoffs when he was suspended 20 games for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy by testing positive for tamoxifen. The former University of Florida guard's work with the national team will be the last he gets for a while; he still has 13 more games to sit out when next season starts.
HANNO MOTTOLA, FINLAND. The last of his two NBA seasons came way back in 2001-02, four years after he helped the University of Utah reached the NCAA championship game. The forward will be 38 next month and said he's had two shoulder and two Achilles surgeries in the last five years, but has recovered from a torn knee ligament at last summer's European championship to be in uniform with the Finns when they made their World Cup debut Saturday against the U.S.
RENALDO BALKMAN, PUERTO RICO. Balkman never lived up to his promise in the NBA as a first-round pick of the New York Knicks, but the forward has found some success in the international game. He ranked in the top five in the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament in points, rebounds, blocks and steals per game, while making a tournament-best 66.3 percent of his 2-point shots, in helping the Puerto Ricans to a second-place finish that qualified them for the World Cup.