NBA stars to play in world championship tune-up event up in IncheonA pair of NBA stars will lead Lithuania in a pre-world championship tournament in Korea this month.
The competition will act as a tuneup for the four countries before the FIBA Basketball World Cup, scheduled to run from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15 in eight cities in China.
Lithuania will be the top-ranked team in Incheon at No. 6 and will feature Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers and Jonas Valanciunas of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Sabonis, son of the Hall of Fame star Arvydas Sabonis, is coming off his most productive NBA season. The 22-year-old averaged 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and finished second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. The 6-foot 11-inch player shot 59 percent from the field.
Valanciunas, a former first round pick of the Toronto Raptors, averaged a career-high 15.6 points per game despite playing the fewest minutes of his seven-year career. The 7-foot center scored 19.9 points and grabbed 10.7 boards in 19 games for the Grizzlies following a midseason trade.
The Czech Republic, ranked 24th, will be led by Chicago Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky. He enjoyed a strong second half last season with the Washington Wizards in the absence of injured All-Star guard John Wall and finished with career highs of 8.9 points and five assists per game. He was dealt to the Bulls last month.
Angola is seven spots below Korea at No. 39, and 6-foot 11-inch center Yanick Moreira, a one-time Raptors property, is considered its best player.
Korea will feature Lee Dae-sung, the reigning MVP in the Korean Basketball League (KBL) Finals for the Mobis Phoebus and a former G League guard for the Erie BayHawks. Ricardo Ratliffe, a U.S.-born center naturalized as a Korean citizen, will also be in the lineup.
Korea’s first game will be against Lithuania at 3 p.m. on Aug. 24, followed by the Czech Republic at 3 p.m. on Aug. 25 and Angola at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 27.
At the FIBA World Cup, Korea will face Russia, Argentina and Nigeria in Group B in Wuhan, China. There are eight groups of four, and only the top two teams from each group will advance to the next round.
Angola is in Group D against the Philippines, Italy and Serbia. The Czech Republic will face the perennial powerhouse United States in Group E, along with Turkey and Japan. Lithuania will take on Canada, Senegal and Australia in Group H.
This year’s World Cup also doubles as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Only the top team from Asia, other than the host Japan, will secure a place in the Olympics. Aside from Korea, China, Iran and the Philippines will be vying for the Asian spot at the World Cup.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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