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Giannis Antetokounmpo looks to lead Greece to Olympics

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Giannis Antetokounmpo will play for Greece at the FIBA World Cup for a second time, but much has changed since his debut five years ago.

Antetokounmpo, then 19 and coming off his Milwaukee Bucks rookie season, was a sub in all six games at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Greece was eliminated in the round of 16 and ultimately failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

But now Antetokounmpo is the NBA MVP, looking to lead Greece back to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

“I haven’t talked with the coach yet. I don’t know which position I will play in,” he said, according to FIBA. “But I don’t care. I just want to play. Whether I play as a guard or as a center, I don’t care. I’m a basketball player. I want to help the team in every way.”

The top two European teams at September’s World Cup in China qualify for Tokyo 2020. Others can still qualify at a last-chance tournament next year.

Greece, without Antetokounmpo, beat longtime European power Lithuania in the 2017 EuroBasket round of 16 before falling to Russia in the quarterfinals. The Greeks are now ranked eighth in the world, but sixth among European nations behind Spain, France, Serbia, Lithuania and Slovenia.

Kosta Koufos and Nick Calathes, both with major college and NBA experience, have also featured on the Greek national team in recent years. Kostas Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ little brother, played for Greek junior national teams before debuting in the NBA for the Dallas Mavericks in two games in March.

Greece, should it advance out of its World Cup first-round group with Brazil, New Zealand and Montenegro, would likely play the U.S. in the second round of group play, where the top two of four nations per group advance to the quarterfinals.

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Pau Gasol, No. 3 scorer in Olympic history, to miss FIBA World Cup

Pau Gasol
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Pau Gasol will miss September’s FIBA World Cup after left foot surgery, but Spain’s head coach hopes to have the Milwaukee Bucks center at a fifth Olympics next year.

”We will try to do the best and get one of the spots for Tokyo 2020 so he can come with us to the Olympics,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said, according to an Olympic Channel translation of an AS report.

Gasol, 38 and already older than every previous Olympic basketball medalist, owns silver medals from 2008 and 2012 and a bronze from Rio. This will be Gasol’s first time missing a global championship since the 2010 World Championship, when he cited a need to rest from two major muscle injuries, and Spain struggled to a sixth-place finish without him.

He led the 2004 and 2008 tournaments in scoring. Gasol’s 623 career Olympic points rank third behind Brazilian Oscar Schmidt (1,008) and Australian Andrew Gaze (789), according to reports from the Rio Games. Gasol would likely have to play at least two more Olympics to pass Gaze.

It was unknown whether Gasol would continue with the national team after Rio, but in 2017 he played at EuroBasket and became that tournament’s career points leader, passing Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker.

Others from Spain’s golden generation have retired from the national team, including José Calderón and Juan Carlos Navarro. The active pool still includes NBA veterans Marc Gasol and Ricky Rubio.

The top two European nations at the World Cup will qualify for Tokyo, but it’s not Spain’s only chance. Four more nations overall will qualify for the Games at a global tournament next year.

MORE: How U.S. Olympic 3×3 teams will be chosen

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FIBA bans players, coaches for Australia-Philippines basketball brawl

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Thirteen basketball players and two coaches were suspended and fined Thursday, and sanctions were imposed on the national federations of the Philippines and Australia after a brawl during an Asian qualifier for the sport’s World Cup.

Video of the brawl on July 2 was widely played around the world, with punches thrown, chairs tossed at players from the crowd, and security needed to restore order.

Ten Philippines players were suspended: Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright (one game each); Terence Romeo, Jayson Castro William, Andray Blatche and Jeth Rosario (three games each); Roger Pogoy, Carl Cruz and Jio Jalalon (five games each); Calvin Abueva (six games, because of prior unsportsmanlike behavior in a FIBA competition).

FIBA, the sport’s governing body, said Philippines assistant coach Joseph Uichico was suspended for three games for unsportsmanlike behavior. Head coach Vincent “Chot” Reyes was suspended for one game and fined for unsportsmanlike behavior, as was the national federation.

Philippines federation president Al Panlilio said later Thursday in Manila that “it could have been worse.”

“FIBA was quite fair in the process,” he said, adding he wasn’t sure if the federation would appeal.

Australian player Daniel Kickert was given a five-match ban for unsportsmanlike behavior. Basketball Australia said Milwaukee Bucks forward Thon Maker received a three-game ban and Chris Goulding a one-game suspension. Basketball Australia was also fined $110,000 for removing floor decals a day before the game.

Kickert was seen elbowing a Philippines player in response to a foul on Goulding before the brawl erupted.

Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore said it was unlikely the organization would appeal the bans.

“As we stated at the outset, Basketball Australia sincerely regrets the incident,” Moore said.

“We acknowledge the sanctions handed down against Australian players and acknowledge the sanctions imposed against Philippines players and officials involved in the incident. We are seeking further clarification from FIBA about possible sanctions against other officials and fans involved in the incident.”

MORE: U.S. men’s basketball team suffers rare loss in World Cup qualifying

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