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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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Nick Nurse looks to end Canada’s Olympic basketball drought

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Nick Nurse, who just coached the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, will now try to lead Canada to its first Olympic men’s basketball berth since 2000.

Nurse said Sunday that “it’s just about done” that he will be named Canada’s head coach ahead of the FIBA World Cup in China in September.

The top two teams from North and South America at the World Cup will qualify for the Tokyo Games (there is also a last-chance qualifying event next year).

The U.S. is the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup and grab one of those spots. Canada has the talent to join the Americans, but it hasn’t gotten the job done in recent Olympic qualifying.

Four years ago, Canada lost winner-goes-to-Rio games to Venezuela and France.

Canada could easily field a starting five of NBA players, led by 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland Cavaliers big man Tristan Thompson, Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray and former Duke star R.J. Barrett, a projected top-10 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

Nurse, 51, was an assistant coach for Great Britain at the 2012 London Games.

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

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James Harden, Damian Lillard lead USA Basketball candidates for FIBA World Cup roster

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James HardenDamian Lillard and Anthony Davis headline 20 candidates for USA Basketball’s 12-man FIBA World Cup roster.

The players will attend an Aug. 5-9 camp in Las Vegas. The final roster will be named Aug. 17 for September’s FIBA World Cup in China.

It’s the first opportunity for nations to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The U.S. will do so if it is one of the top two teams from the Americas at worlds.

The 20 players going to camp:

Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings*
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans**
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Eric Gordon, Houston Rockets
James Harden, Houston Rockets**
Tobias Harris, Philadelphia 76ers
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers**
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors*
C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets

*2016 Olympian
**2012 Olympian

Harden passed on the Rio Olympics. As did Lillard, who was a late addition to the Rio Olympic finalists list in February 2016, then withdrew from consideration four months later to rest. Davis missed the Games due to knee and shoulder injuries.

The U.S. is loaded with Olympic guard options, including every player from the All-NBA teams: Harden, Lillard, Walker, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. Not so much at center. The three All-NBA selections were Serbian Nikola Jokic, Cameroon’s Joel Embiid and France’s Rudy Gobert.

No players from the Golden State Warriors are on the World Cup finalist list, but that’s not a shock. No players from the NBA Finals were finalists for the the last World Cup roster in 2014.

There is typically a lot of turnover on the U.S. roster from the World Cup to the Olympics. In the last cycle, four players carried over — DeMarcus CousinsDeMar DeRozanKlay Thompson and Irving.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will make his U.S. head coaching debut at the World Cup, succeeding Mike Krzyzewski, who led the Americans to Olympic titles in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

LeBron James, who skipped the Rio Olympics to rest after winning an NBA title, has said Popovich being in charge “factors a lot” in whether he will be available for Tokyo 2020. James called Popovich “a great mastermind of the game of basketball” in January 2017. James’ lone FIBA Worlds appearance was in 2006.

Curry, who has never played in the Olympics, wasn’t a finalist in 2012 and withdrew from consideration before the 2016 team was named.

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

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