Sun Aug 25 11:10am ET
By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Basketball Writer
The reigning NBA MVP is headed to the basketball World Cup. So are three other members of this past season's All-NBA squad, and so is the starting center from the team that won the NBA championship a couple months ago.
Most of those guys won't be playing for the United States.
The majority of America's best players are sitting out the World Cup, while many of the best international players are not. NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of Greece, fellow All-NBA players Nikola Jokic of Serbia and Rudy Gobert of France, and Marc Gasol of Spain - a significant part of Toronto's run to the NBA title - are among the headliners who won't be in U.S. colors when the tournament starts Saturday in China.
''We're going to China with the goal of a medal,'' Jokic said.
The Denver star isn't just looking for any medal. He's seeking gold.
And the Serbians would seem to have as good a chance as anyone in a tournament that suddenly looks wide open.
France and Australia - which is coming off a 98-94 victory over the United States on Saturday that ended the Americans' 78-game winning streak in international play - are expected to have five NBA players on their rosters for the World Cup, and Serbia is likely to bring four. In all, more than 60 players with NBA experience are likely to participate in the tournament and only 12 of them are playing for the U.S.
''A lot of teams can be in the medal spots and it's going to be intense, very hard for every team to be in those spots,'' said France's Nicolas Batum - the only player from the last World Cup All-Tournament team in 2014 who is expected to compete in this year's event. ''But every team, including ours, is going to fight for it, to play at its best level to try to come back home with a medal.''
The only U.S. World Cup player who was an All-NBA pick this past season is Kemba Walker, then of the Charlotte Hornets and now of the Boston Celtics. Look at the NBA stats from last season for World Cup-bound players and the leading scorer, the top three in assists per game and the top seven rebounders all are on international rosters.
The world is getting better.
That means the U.S. is no lock in this tournament.
''There are a lot of contenders out there,'' U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said.
The Americans are the only team with a roster composed entirely of NBA players, but that isn't stopping some from scoffing at the notion that the U.S. is vulnerable heading into this tournament because its World Cup roster doesn't have anything close to a Dream Team-esque level of star-studded names.
Spain coach Sergio Scariolo bluntly dismisses that notion.
Scariolo, a Toronto assistant coach when he's not leading Spain, is quick to point out that a glance at the NBA salaries of the U.S. players dwarfs the combined salaries of every other World Cup roster. When the Americans played Spain in an exhibition earlier this month, the U.S. sent out a starting five that will make roughly $105 million this season.
So yes, in terms of earning power, no other team in the world comes close to the roster that the Americans are bringing to China this week.
But as evidenced by how Australia battled the U.S. twice in a pair of exhibitions in Melbourne, and beat the Americans there on Saturday, at least some of the world's best teams aren't exactly fearful of the two-time defending World Cup champions.
''Let's let them play their basketball and we will play ours,'' Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic now-famously said earlier this month. ''And if we meet, may God help them.''
Clearly, the tournament means quite a bit to Serbia. It means plenty to other nations as well.
Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee star who won NBA MVP this past season, even said earlier this month that he would give back the award if it could be exchanged for a World Cup gold medal for Greece.
''I believe him,'' U.S. center and Antetokounmpo's Bucks teammate Brook Lopez said. ''That's how much he wants this.''
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Dylan Windler (leg) is ready to participate in 5-on-5 workouts. He was a first round pick by the Cavs in 2019, but didn't play in a single game for the team. Windler suffered a leg injury that resulted in surgery, which cost him the entire season. It sounds like he is making progress and getting ready for next year. However, he'll face an uphill battle for minutes after the emergence of Kevin Porter Jr. towards the end of the regular season. Windler could find some minutes in Cleveland next season, but probably won't play enough to warrant drafting in most formats.
Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans decided to sit out the Orlando bubble in order to preserve his health for free agency. Bertans is an upcoming free agent and the Wizards had a slim chance of making the playoffs. He didn't believe it was worth the risk after not playing basketball for almost two months. Bertans sitting out shouldn't hinder his value whatsoever on the free agent market. He'll be a highly coveted player, but the Wizards are likely going to be aggressive to keep him in Washington.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had a three-hour meeting with co-owner Marc Lasry on Saturday. They reportedly discussed the season and how the Bucks can improve their roster. Lasry confirmed that he is willing to go over the luxury tax this offseason. It sounds like the Bucks are trying everything to keep Antetokounmpo happy in Milwaukee. We'll see what happens during the offseason.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (ankle) has been ruled out for Tuesday's Game 1 against the Miami Heat. He was listed as doubtful, but it appears Hayward will remain sidelined for this one. Hayward is likely going to need to go through a full practice before being allowed back on the court. The team is hopeful that Hayward will be able to play at some point during this series. It's unclear whether or not he'll be limited when he does return. Fantasy owners should keep an eye out for updates. In the meantime, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will benefit with increased playing time.
Boston Celtics guard Javonte Green (knee) is listed as doubtful for Game 1 against the Miami Heat on Tuesday. He left the bubble in August to undergo an arthroscopic procedure to repair a small meniscal tear in his right knee. Green hasn't been able to play since then, but is surprisingly not listed as out here. Listing him as doubtful is actually an upgrade for Green. Regardless, Green won't have a big enough role in the rotation to do any damage in DFS lineups.
Houston Rockets forward Danuel House (personal) could miss the rest of the playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA is currently doing an investigation on House allegedly sneaking a female into the bubble. It doesn't sound like he'll get back on the court until the NBA makes their decision. That means, Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, and Ben McLemore will see more playing time coming their way.
Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (ankle) is back in the bubble and expected to clear quarantine on Friday. However, he is still not close to getting back on the court after suffering a Grade 3 ankle sprain in mid-August. The hope is that Hayward could return at some point next series, assuming the Celtics advance. Until then, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will continue to have increased value.
Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela (foot) has been cleared to begin doing 5-on-5 workouts. The Hawks are expected to begin group workouts in the end of September, so Capela should be taking part in that. He was traded to Atlanta mid-season, but has not played a game for them yet due to a plantar fasciitis issue. He is fully expected to be ready for the 2020-2021 season. It'll be interesting to see what kind of fantasy value he produces alongside John Collins.
Charlotte Hornets forward Nicolas Batum is expected to pick up his $27 million player option for next season. It is far more than he'd get in free agency, so there's no reason for him not to accept the deal. It's the final year of his contract, so the Hornets are likely going to attempt to move Batum. Sadly, it's going to be difficult to find a trade partner when he's owed that much money. The Hornets are likely going to be stuck with Batum for at least one more season.
Houston Rockets forward Danuel House (personal) was unable to suit up for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Los Angeles Lakers. He is dealing with a personal issue, so it's unclear if he'll suit up next game. Robert Covington (face), Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, and Ben McLemore would benefit if House is out. Covington is the best fantasy option out of the bunch.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Marvin Williams has decided to retire from the NBA. The 34-year-old is walking away from the game after 15 productive seasons in the league. "I've been very blessed. God has been very, very good to me," Williams said. He was unable to win a championship before retiring, but put up fairly solid career numbers. Williams averaged 10.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists during his NBA career. He won't make the Hall of Fame, but he had a productive career nonetheless.
Houston Rockets forward Robert Covington (face) is expected to be available for Game 4 against the Los Angeles Lakers. It doesn't sound like his nose is broken and Covington was able to pass the concussion protocol. Danuel House (personal) is questionable for Game 4, which could mean big minutes for Covington. Fantasy owners should check back for another update.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Dion Waiters (groin) is listed as doubtful for Tuesday's Game 3 matchup versus the Houston Rockets. He has played a total of eight minutes in this series, so losing Waiters won't hurt too much. Rajon Rondo looked fantastic last game and would probably take most of his minutes anyway. Rondo could be a sneaky DFS option for Tuesday's slate.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (hip) has been downgraded to questionable for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks. He was listed as probable, but it appears he has a slight downgrade now. It doesn't sound like anything serious, but fantasy owners should check back closer to tip-off just in case. Andre Iguodala and Kendrick Nunn would benefit if Herro is unable to suit up.
Miami Heat forward Kelly Olynyk (knee) is listed as questionable for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks. He was listed as questionable last game and only ended up playing 10 minutes. It sounds like Olynyk is a risky DFS option even if he does suit up for this one. Andre Iguodala would likely benefit the most if Olynyk is unable to play. Fantasy owners should check back closer to tip-off.
Miami Heat forward Jae Crowder (ankle) is listed as questionable for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Milwaukee Bucks. The Heat are a little banged up right now, so losing Crowder would hurt. Andre Iguodala would likely benefit the most if Crowder is out, but Kendrick Nunn and Derrick Jones could see more chances as well. Iguodala would be the best fantasy option there if Crowder sits out.
Toronto Raptors center Serge Ibaka (ankle) was seen wearing a walking boot during the media session on Tuesday. He tweaked his left ankle during Game 5 and it's unclear if he'll be available for Wednesday's contest. Ibaka was able to play through the issue, but it appears to be worse now. Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would split up the minutes if Ibaka is unable to play. Fantasy owners should check back on Wednesday for more information.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) was seen wearing a walking boot while arriving to the arena for Tuesday's Game 5 against the Miami Heat. He is currently listed as questionable, so there probably won't be a better update until closer to tip-off. Khris Middleton would see his usage skyrocket if Antetokounmpo is unable to suit up. Donte Divincenzo would likely enter the starting five and could be a nice DFS option. Fantasy owners should check back closer to tip-off.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (wrist) will start in Monday's Game 3 matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. He played well during Game 2, but suffered a right wrist sprain along the way. Jokic was a game-time decision heading into this one, but it appears that he's good to play. It doesn't sound like the Nuggets have any plans to limit him, so DFS players can plug him into their lineups for Monday.
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (wrist) is listed as questionable for Monday's Game 3 matchup versus the Los Angeles Clippers. Jokic played fantastic during Game 2, but sprained his wrist in the process. It doesn't sound like something that is going to sideline him, but fantasy owners should check back just in case. Mason Plumlee and Bol Bol would be asked to play more if Jokic sits out. Plumlee would probably be the safer fantasy option between the two.