Giannis Antetokounmpo

U.S. men’s basketball team may play Giannis, Doncic, plus Spain before FIBA World Cup

Giannis Antetokounmpo

The U.S. men’s basketball team is ensuring it will be tested before this summer’s FIBA World Cup.

After scheduling pre-World Cup games against top-ranked Spain and Slovenia (possibly with Luka Doncic) this August, USA Basketball announced its men’s team will also play Greece (possibly with Giannis Antetokounmpo) and Germany leading up to the World Cup, which is Aug. 25-Sept. 10 and co-hosted by Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.

The pre-World Cup schedule:

Aug. 12 — USA vs. Slovenia in Malaga, Spain
Aug. 13 — USA vs. Spain in Malaga
Aug. 18 — USA vs. Greece in Abu Dhabi
Aug. 20 — USA vs. Germany in Abu Dhabi

The U.S. will learn its group opponents for the 32-team World Cup in the April 29 draw. The U.S. roster for the World Cup will likely be named in the summer.

At the last men’s World Cup in 2019, the U.S. lost twice and finished seventh overall, its worst major tournament result ever. That team had just two reigning NBA All-Stars and one player with Olympic experience.

The U.S fielded a stronger roster for the Tokyo Olympics. Though it lost an Olympic game for the first time since 2004 (to France in group play), it still won a fourth consecutive Olympic title.

At the World Cup, the top two teams from North and South America will qualify for the 2024 Paris Games. The rest can still make it to Paris through one of four last-chance, winner-take-all qualifying tournaments, likely to take place in June 2024.

Steve Kerr succeeded Gregg Popovich as U.S. head coach following the Tokyo Games.

This past November, the U.S. men dropped out of the No. 1 spot in FIBA’s world rankings for the first time since 2010. Spain, coming off a European title, displaced the U.S. by a slim margin. The U.S. beat Spain in the Tokyo Olympic quarterfinals.

Doncic led Slovenia to its first Olympic basketball berth in 2021. Slovenia, with a population of 2.1 million, became the smallest nation by current population to participate in an Olympic men’s basketball tournament since Estonia and Latvia in 1936.

The Slovenians beat Argentina and Spain in Olympic group play, then lost in the semifinals to France and the bronze-medal game to Australia.

Greece’s men’s basketball team last qualified for the Olympics in 2008, two years after beating the U.S. in the FIBA World Cup semifinals. In 2019, the U.S. beat an Antetokounmpo-led Greece team 69-53 at the World Cup.

In 2021, Greece, without Antetokounmpo as he was playing in the NBA playoffs, lost a winner-goes-to-the-Olympics game against the Czech Republic.

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Rick Pitino takes over Greek basketball’s Olympic quest

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rick Pitino has agreed to coach the Greek national basketball team and lead the country’s effort to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Greek basketball federation said Friday that Pitino will be officially presented on Monday, when details of his agreement will be announced.

“Really honored to be coaching the Greek National team,” Pitino wrote on Twitter. “Have a lot of work and preparation ahead but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

The 67-year-old American coached Greek club Panathinaikos last season and guided the team to victory in the country’s cup competition before returning to the United States. He remains popular among Greek fans despite his outspoken criticism of smoking and rowdy behavior by spectators at games.

NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his brother Thanasis Antetokounmpo both play for Greece and the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Greeks narrowly missed out on reaching the quarterfinals at the World Cup in China in September.

Pitino spent much of his career jumping between the college ranks and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville.

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Giannis, Greece beaten by U.S. at FIBA World Cup

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Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece were no match for the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup.

The Americans withstood Antetokounmpo’s hot start — and 15 points and 13 rebounds overall — to prevail 69-53 in Shenzen, China, moving closer to a quarterfinal spot.

A full box score is here.

Antetokounmpo, the NBA MVP trying to lead Greece to its first Olympic men’s basketball berth since 2008, won the jump ball and scored five points in the first 43 seconds. The lead changed hands through the first few minutes before the U.S. took control en route to its fourth win in as many games.

The U.S. will earn a place in the last eight, and possibly get Olympic qualification out of the way, by beating Brazil in its last group-play game Monday. It could still advance by tiebreaker if it loses to Brazil.

France or Australia waits in the quarterfinals.

The top two teams from the Americas clinch Olympic spots. The U.S., Brazil and Argentina are the lone nations remaining vying for them, but the odd team out gets another chance to earn a spot in Tokyo at a last-chance qualifying tournament next year.

Greece must beat the Czech Republic on Monday and have the U.S. beat Brazil to have any chance to advance to the quarterfinals and keep hope alive of avoiding the last-chance Olympic qualification tournament.

Greece was the last nation to beat the U.S. at the FIBA World Cup, doing so with zero NBA players in the semifinals in 2006.

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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