The Milwaukee Bucks have a fairly international team, but only one player on their roster will be playing in the 2014 FIBA World Cup when the international tournament tips off tomorrow in various venues across Spain.
Bucks power forward Ersan Ilyasova had to bow out from his roster spot on Turkey’s national squad, ranked seventh in the world by FIBA, in order to rest the ankles that kept him out for nearly 30 games last season. Zaza Pachulia‘s home country of Georgia did not qualify for the World Cup. (Although Zaza has been busy helping the team qualify for Eurobasket 2015.) This year’s second-round pick, Damien Inglis, couldn’t find a way onto France’s roster — perhaps because of his extremely young age. Although Jabari Parker would no doubt like to change this fact in the future, there are no Bucks on Team USA.
And so that leaves Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be playing for the fifth-ranked Greek national team.
Giannis is joined by the Greek-American Memphis Grizzlies point guard Nick Calathes, who is in the middle of a 20-game NBA suspension and has just finished a four-month FIBA suspension for PEDs. Even though Calathes has just one year of NBA experience, and even though he was born and raised in Florida, Calathes is a veteran of the Greek system, at one point playing for both Olympiacos professionally while also playing on the national roster. A backup in Memphis, Calathes will presumably run starting point guard for the Greeks:
Also alongside Antetokounmpo is Kostas Papanikolaou, who was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks. Papanikolaou had his rights traded to the Portland Trail Blazers and then the Houston Rockets, who signed Papanikolaou to a two-year NBA deal to start the 2014-15 season. As a 6’8″ stretch-4 who can shoot a powerful three-point shot, Papnikolaou will fit right in with the Rockets:
The only other player with NBA experience who will be playing alongside Giannis is the big man Andreas Glyniadakis, who has been playing professional basketball since 1997. Almost all of Glyniadakis’ career has been in Europe, specifically in Greece, although he did play in 13 games for the Seattle SuperSonics in the 2006-07 season. In recent years Glyniadakis has been playing less than 20 minutes a game for his club teams (in Kazakhstan, Cyprus, and Lithuania). As a member of Greece’s 2008 Olympic team, consider Glyniadakis simply as veteran presence:
Of course, the main focus will be on Giannis himself, his reported growth spurt, and whether or not he will assume a leading role in his first appearance with the senior national team. If these highlights from earlier this month are any indication, Giannis will be ready to make a difference:
Giannis played for the U20 Greek team in last year’s world championships for that age bracket. Antetokounmpo averaged 31 minutes, 8.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, his impact deflated by a 36.4 field goal percentage. (Stats via RealGM.) Of course, that was before Giannis Antetokounmpo came to America and experienced his rookie season in the NBA.
The Greeks play their first game on Saturday, Aug. 30 against Senegal.