September is guaranteed to be more exciting than August or July. Not only is there the pending Impact Basketball league, which is going to feature 40-60 NBA players.
But what's going to be even better are the Olympic qualifiers taking place in Lithuania and Argentina starting next week. EuroBasket 2011 and FIBA Americas 2011 get going the middle of next week and in case you didn't know, pretty much every foreign born San Antonio Spurs player or guy the Spurs own the draft rights to is playing in that tournament. So let's go through each player starting with the guys who have the best shot of making it to London next summer.
Ryan Richards - Great Britain might be the worst team in EuroBasket, but you know what, they're the host country so along with the Americans, Richards & Co. are a lock for London. It's really not even clear why they're playing in EuroBasket, but the more the merrier, right? Sadly for Richards he hasn't been getting much run lately so you probably won't see much of him. Also, there's a decent chance the Brits are the first team bounced from EuroBasket.
Manu Ginobili- Best player for the host country of FIBA Americas, I can't imagine them losing this tournament or at least making it to the final game (top 2 teams advance to London). Let's remember this team has been playing together for the better part of a decade, so we're talking about Manu, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni and maybe Fabricio Oberto. Put it this way, if we get Argentina-Brazil in the finals in Argentina, well make sure you get to a computer to watch this game because it's going to get crazy. Speaking of Brazil...
Tiago Splitter - Normally I'd call this a slam dunk as well, but Nene, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa aren't playing for Brazil, so I'm calling this a 66-33 possibility they get to London. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic (that's Al Horford, Charlie Villanueva and Francisco Garcia) are both going to give the Brazilians problems, but I'm guessing Brazil still gets in and since a lot of the Brazilian talent is missing, we'll get to see how Splitter's offensive game has come along in the offseason.
Tony Parker - Here's where things get hazy. EuroBasket has a lot of really good teams. We should assume that Spain will be one of two teams heading to London when it's all said and done, but after that it's a complete crap shoot. The thing about France is based on talent, they should make it at least to the semi-finals of this tournament. But as Parker has admitted, this stacked French team (Parker, Rony Turiaf, Joakim Noah, Kevin Seraphin, Mikael Pietrus, Fat Boris Diaw are all playing for Team France) but they alwayseem to underwhelm during international play. Perhaps Noah's toughness inside will be a difference maker.
Nando de Colo - See the French guy above.
Erazem Lorbek - Here's the sleeper team of EuroBasket. Slovenia has Lorbek, Goran Dragic and Bostjan Nachbar. These guys have all been playing together for several years now and a tough team like Slovenia is exactly the type of team that can knock off a more talented team like France.
Davis Bertans - Bertans wasn't a lock to make Team Latvia, so it's pretty encouraging that he's playing with the senior team. It'll be interesting to see how he's used with Team Latvia. Let's hope they don't put him at center like the U-19 team did.
Cory Joseph - If their exhibition games against France are any indicator, we may not being seeing much of Mr. Joseph this tournament. Joseph, Joel Anthony and Andy Rautins probably not going to be enough to win more than a game or two. What would help is getting Steve Nash to join Team Canada. Who better than Nash for Joseph to study for a month and a half than Nash?
Stay with Project Spurs for the latest updates on all the FIBA Americas and Eurobasket games, it's sure to be an exciting couple of weeks.