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 Team USA Not Only Squad Missing Stars at 2010 FIBA World Championship

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Magic Man13
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PostSubject: Team USA Not Only Squad Missing Stars at 2010 FIBA World Championship   Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:29 am




That Team USA has lost its entire gold medal roster from Beijing has been well-documented. All 12 players from USA Basketball's 2008 Olympics team have opted out of national team duties in 2010, leaving a combination of second-tier veterans (Chauncey Billups, Lamar Odom) and rising stars (Kevin Durant, Brook Lopez) to take over for the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey this August and September.

But while there may be fear and loathing over the losses of Team USA's megastars, several other contenders for the FIBA World title will be missing their best players, as well.

Spain, which won the tournament in 2006, will be without star big man Pau Gasol, who is taking a break after numerous summers of duty for his home nation. Gasol was the MVP of last year's Eurobasket tournament and led Spain to the final game of the 2008 Olympic tournament, where the Spaniards gave Team USA its greatest challenge of the Games. Spain is still well-stocked without Gasol -- the nation has his brother Marc Gasol, as well as Ricky Rubio, Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro in the backcourt. The guard matchup in any potential USA-Spain game will be a fun watch, with the Americans potentially sending Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, Russell Westbrook or Stephen Curry to Turkey. M. Haubs of The Painted Area considers Spain the tournament favorite, and it's really hard to disagree.

German star Dirk Nowitzki announced this week he will skip the Worlds, just as he skipped Eurobasket 2009. I can't imagine FIBA is pleased with Nowitzki's decision; the organizing body for international basketball granted Germany a wild-card berth to the tournament, and one can only assume that was based on the likelihood Nowitzki would play -- the team isn't competitive without him. Making things even worse, Nowitzki's absence rules out Clippers center Chris Kaman, who played with Germany in Beijing but won't make the trip minus Dirk, according to ESPN's Marc Stein.

Another wild-card entrant, Russia, will be without its star Andrei Kirilenko, adding to FIBA's regrets. Yao Ming won't play for China for the second straight summer. France will be without ace point guard Tony Parker and possibly Joakim Noah, who is reportedly attempting to work out an early extension with the Bulls before suiting up for the French team. Argentina won't have Manu Ginobili, who was injured in Beijing but still watched his team captured the bronze. Mehmet Okur won't play for host nation Turkey, and Hedo Turkoglu -- who just underwent minor gall bladder surgery -- could be out of service, an unfortunate turn for a rising team, which features Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, Bulls big man Omer Asik and Celtics center Semih Erden.

Greece has most of its stars back ... except for gunner Theo Papaloukas, the guard who blasted the Redeem Team out of gold contention four years ago in the 2006 World. Even without Papaloukas and three other key players, including stopper Dimitris Diamantidis, the Greeks finished third in Eurobasket last summer. Slovenia won't use Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic due to a dispute in advance of Eurobasket last summer; it's hard to call that a major loss for the Slovenians, considering the team has Goran Dragic and Beno Udrih in the backcourt.

Rising contenders Serbia, Brazil and Croatia figure to be intact, barring late injury. Contender Lithuania is still around despite a woeful Eurobasket performance, and Puerto Rico remains dangerous. Despite the star losses, the FIBA World Championship has plenty of talent.
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