FIBA World Cup 2019: Team USA three-peat, Boomers booming - Five talking points

By Sports Desk August 30, 2019

The 2019 FIBA World Cup gets under way in China on Saturday.

A total of 32 teams from four confederations will battle it out across eight host cities in the space of just over two weeks.

We take a look at five talking points ahead of what should be an enthralling competition.

 

A three-peat in the offing?

The United States have won the past two editions of the World Cup and are once again the favourites for glory. No country has ever won three straight titles.

However, Team USA are without a host of their leading NBA stars and are relying heavily on a young group.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said: "A lot of guys back in 2010; KD [Kevin Durant], Russ [Westbrook], Kevin Love, all those guys were young. They made a name for themselves and really propelled themselves for future success in their careers."

The competition could prove beneficial to the Boston Celtics, with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Brown getting some extra time on court with new arrival Kemba Walker.

Booming Boomers

Australia enjoyed a huge boost ahead of the World Cup by beating Team USA for the first time with a 98-94 triumph at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

The experienced quartet of Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles and Patty Mills will be key to their hopes of a deep run.

Mills said: "We're locked in focused on trying to create history for basketball within Australia and that's what it's all about. So, we're not satisfied, we've just got to keep working hard."

However, the Boomers lost their final warm-up match against Germany 74-64 and saw Andrew Bogut limp off in the fourth quarter.

More Nurse magic?

After leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Championship, Nick Nurse took the reins for Canada.

He got off to a winning start against Nigeria and went on to record victories over Australia and New Zealand.

But Canada also lost warm-up matches with Nigeria, Australia and Team USA, showing they have plenty of work to do if they are to pull off a shock in China.

A 'Greek Freak' Show

Greece's best performance came in 2006, when they finished second to Spain in Japan.

This time, though, they have a once-in-a-generation talent in NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 assists during the 2018-19 regular season.

Antetokounmpo will be integral to Greece's hopes, though he sat out their final warm-up against Venezuela due to a knee problem.

If he is fit and firing, Antetokounmpo will undoubtedly make a mark on the competition.

Understrength Spain

It looks like it will be difficult for Spain to win the title for a second time.

Head coach Sergio Scariolo has selected an experienced team that is headlined by Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull.

They would undoubtedly have had a better chance had Serge Ibaka and Nikola Mirotic made themselves available, while Pau Gasol is absent due to injury.

Scariolo said: "The players that you have named [Nikola Mirotic and Serge Ibaka], at least one of the two would have been picked if they had made themselves available for selection.

"Another like Pau for example, he would have killed to be with us but unfortunately he is unavailable through injury."

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    Heritage. Football heritage.

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    Similarly, the 2011-12 LaLiga title triumph at Real Madrid took a heavy toll upon coach and squad alike, with his Santiago Bernabeu tenure concluding unsatisfactorily 12 months later. When in charge of greats of the game, clubs familiar with prolonged and recent success, Mourinho's schtick came up short.

    His greatest deeds played out in sharply contrasting circumstances.

    No team outside Europe's "big five" leagues had won the Champions League in the eight years before Mourinho masterminded Porto's march to glory in 2003-04 and none have since.

    Chelsea were flushed with Roman Abramovich's riches but had not won an English championship since 1954-55. The self-proclaimed Special One delivered two in two seasons after arriving at Stamford Bridge as a freshly minted European champion.

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    But if anything should encourage tentative enthusiasm for the third act of Mourinho's coaching career at the elite level, it is that Spurs bear more resemblance to the Porto, Chelsea and Inter teams he took hold of than Madrid or United.

    Pochettino's sustained excellent over the past five seasons in north London does not mean the scars of "Spursy", "St Totteringham's Day" and other mockery do not still sting a little for a club starved of trophy success. Spurs feels like a place where Mourinho can promise the world and demand everyone falls into line far more effectively than when in charge of a superclub.

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    Alli as Lampard, Kane as Drogba?

    So, what of that squad? That all important heritage.

    It feels safe to say Mourinho is far happier with his lot than when he walked into Old Trafford. Not least because the likes of Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and Harry Kane were all touted as United targets when he was in Manchester.

    His best teams have featured a potent striker willing to work hard for the cause, hard running wingers and a goalscoring threat from attacking midfield. Kane, Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli in tandem could feel instantly more "Mourinho" than anything he threw together at United.

    Behind them, a combination of Dier and club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele feel equipped to provide the power and control his most dominant engine rooms boasted.

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