If Giannis Antetokounmpo is going to compete in the Olympics next summer, Greece will have to win a few games in Canada first.
The draws to see which countries will grab the remaining basketball berths in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — four men’s spots and 10 women’s spots in the 12-team fields — were held Wednesday in Switzerland, and a Greece-Canada matchup in one of those tournaments is guaranteed in the early stages of the event next June.
And there’s a chance that the turnaround for some players and coaches could be incredibly quick. The men’s qualifiers start on June 23, just two days after a possible Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Canada drew Greece as one of the five teams coming into Victoria next summer — so there will be some player and coaching star power. Greece will be coached by Rick Pitino, Canada is being coached by Nick Nurse of the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors and some top Canadian players already are starting to commit to the event.
“I want to play my part to help push our team into the Olympics and compete at the highest world stage. Let’s go Canada,” Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets wrote Tuesday on Twitter. Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, New Orleans’ Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Toronto’s Oshae Brissett also have committed, and Miami’s Kelly Olynyk said earlier this fall that he would consider it as well.
It’s unclear if Antetokounmpo intends to play in the qualifiers. His Milwaukee Bucks are one of the top teams in the NBA, with a good chance of reaching the NBA Finals or at least making a long playoff run.
Canada, Serbia, Lithuania and Croatia are the host sites for the men’s qualifiers. There are six teams in each, split into a pair of three-team groups at each site. Teams in the same group will play each other once to determine two semifinalists from each side. Those four teams will play a single-elimination tournament to decide the winner, and each of the four winners will get an Olympic berth.
“Being able to host a FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament at home is a great opportunity for our team on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games,” Canada Basketball CEO Glen Grunwald said when his nation was announced as a host for the qualifiers.
The women’s qualifiers to be held in France, Serbia, China and Belgium are not as daunting as the men’s events.
There are 16 teams playing, with two — the U.S., as World Cup champions, and Japan, as the host nation — already having earned berths into the Olympics. That leaves 14 teams playing for the final 10 spots.
There are eight men’s teams already in the Olympics: host Japan, along with Nigeria, Argentina, the U.S., Iran, France, Spain and Australia.
Games to be played Feb. 6-9
(World ranking in parentheses)
Format: Round-robin at each site, top three finishers qualify for the Olympics with the exception of the U.S. and Japan, which already are in the Tokyo field.
At Bourges, France: France (5), Australia (2), Brazil (15), Puerto Rico (23).
At Belgrade, Serbia: Serbia (7), U.S. (1), Nigeria (17), Mozambique (43).
At Foshan, China: China (8), Spain (3), Britain (18), Korea (19).
At Ostende, Belgium: Belgium (9), Canada (8), Japan (10), Sweden (22).
Games to be played June 23-28
(World ranking in parentheses)
Format: Teams in each group play once, and the top two finishers from each group advance to qualifying semifinals. Only one team from each site will qualify for the Olympics.
At Victoria, Canada
Group A: Canada (21), Greece (7), China (27)
Group B: Czech Republic (10), Turkey (15), Uruguay (43)
At Split, Croatia
Group A: Germany (18), Russia (9), Mexico (25)
Group B: Croatia (14), Brazil (11), Tunisia (33)
At Kaunas, Lithuania
Group A: Lithuania (8), Venezuela (20), Korea (30)
Group B: Poland (13), Slovenia (16), Angola (32)
At Belgrade, Serbia
Group A: Serbia (6), Dominican Republic (19), New Zealand (24)
Group B: Italy (14), Puerto Rico (23), Senegal (35)
Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press