Those of use who are starved for basketball have been enjoying a respite from the offseason drought with the FIBA World Cup that tipped off on August 25th.
Cade Cunningham helped Team USA (the favorite in the event) prepare by scrimmaging with them with a select team of players that also included teammate Jalen Duren.
Though neither of the Pistons’ youngsters were on the Team USA roster (Cunningham declined to focus on the upcoming season in Detroit), the experience will surely help them as they try to make a big leap as players and as a team in the 2023-24 season.
Aside from Team USA, there are many interesting storylines, including the rise of NBA Africa, which has seen huge improvement over the past couple of years. I was looking forward to the South Sudan vs. Puerto Rico game yesterday, largely because I hoped to catch a glimpse of teenage phenom Khaman Maluach, who was a late add to the South Sudanese roster.
Maluach didn’t end up playing, but one of his teammates stole the show in a hard-fought loss to Puerto Rico.
FIBA World Cup: Carlik Jones goes off for South Sudan
We’ve already seen some huge and entertaining performances in the FIBA World Cup, including Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who did his best lefty Kobe Bryant impersonation in a performance for Jordan (the country) that went viral on social media.
But the surprise performance of the tournament so far belongs to Carlik Jones, a 25-year-old who has been toiling in the G-League and has only played 12 games in the NBA. He is currently with the Chicago Bulls who moved Jones to a full-time contract after he was on a two-way last season and won the G-League MVP.
The 6-foot-1 point guard, who is an American of South Sudanese descent, went off for 35 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and four steals, and was the player of the game even though his team ultimately lost.
These are the kinds of performances that make this tournament great, as fans not only get to see lesser-known players in bigger roles, but also get to see how much talent is spread around the world.
And who doesn’t like to watch a little guy carve up a defense? South Sudan isn’t going to win the FIBA World Cup, but they could provide some of the best moments as guys like Jones get a chance to show what they can do.