The FIBA World Cup is quickly approaching.
One week from Friday, the games will count and all the preparation will culminate with the international tournament that seems to matter to everyone else around the world except the United States — not that the U.S. is not sending a team capable of winning the tournament.
Unlike many of the other teams around the world, the U.S. is going to have to come together quickly to put all the bad memories of previous World Cups — they finished seventh in the 2019 version of the tournament — behind them. And that process is well underway.
The Orlando Magic are certainly watching with five players participating in World Cup action.
Orlando Magic players are already making their impact for their national teams as they prepare for the FIBA World Cup at the end of the month.
This week represented the unofficial beginning of FIBA season for teams around the world. The training camps are done and teams are in full practice mode with exhibition games — “friendlies” — in full effect.
The U.S. opened up its training camp last Thursday and defeated Puerto Rico in Las Vegas on Monday as the official debut of this year’s World Cup team. They look interesting albeit very young — no player on this year’s team has senior international experience and notable American players like Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker are sitting out this summer but sure to be back on the team next summer in Paris.
The U.S. team departed for Malaga, Spain, from there for a pair of exhibition games against Slovenia and Spain. Those represented the first real tests for this young squad (and Luka Doncic sat out Saturday’s game against Slovenia leaving Sunday’s 98-88 win over Spain as the true measure for this team so far).
Paolo Banchero made his debut with the national team and looked decidedly buffer and just as fluid as he took the floor. But the U.S. is experimenting with him at center more, hoping to take advantage of his playmaking and size in their fast-paced style of play.
Banchero has had a lot to learn, as any player coming off his rookie year surely still does.
Meanwhile, Germany built off a nice opening win over Sweden last weekend with a gut-check clutch win over Canada in Berlin before splitting games with a blowout win over China and an overtime loss to Canada in Hamburg.
Franz Wagner has continued to look impressive with his national team, scoring in bunches and displaying the driving and scoring ability that has endeared him to Magic fans. But he too has looked every bit the young player trying to reach his next level.
Similarly, Moe Wagner has shown a lot of what you expect from him. He has been a solid presence on the interior, gobbling up rebounds and being available for passes even as his shot has sometimes deserted him.
Finally, Goga Bitadze and Georgia scored a huge victory for the newcomers to the World Cup scene, defeating Jordan and Montenegro in a tournament in Tbilisi, Georgia. That was their first pair of wins in three previous outings for Georgia as they prepare for their first World Cup.
Joe Ingles and Australia tip off their first game Monday (early Monday morning on the East Coast of the United States). But FIBA play is in full swing.
Obviously, you have to treat some of these games like preseason games. There are a lot of rough edges on these games and a lot of work to do before these teams reach their peak. Still, we are learning plenty as we begin to look at these players this offseason.
Let’s wrap up the week, then, of what we have learned so far from the Magic players participating in FIBA play ahead of the World Cup.