Let the games begin! The FIBA World Cup begins at 6:30 a.m. ET Saturday with Croatia facing the Philippines, a game featuring Bojan Bogdanovic vs. Andray Blatche. Team USA, with Mason Plumlee, plays Finland at 3:30 p.m. In between, at 10 a.m., Mexico with Jorge Gutierrez plays powerhouse Lithuania.
What should Nets fans be looking for? Here's a basic viewing guide...
--Can Mason Plumlee play power forward? He is listed as a forward, not a center, on the Team USA roster. He has said he can play power forward and Coach Mike Krzyzewski has said he believes he can --and will-- play at the four. Plumlee shoud have plenty of opportunity. Group C, where the United States plays, is weak and there should be a number of blowouts early in the tournament, good for big minutes.
--How good is Bojan Bogdanovic? Croatia is a dark horse medal candidate. They are a young club but with some veteran leadership. Last year in the FIBA Europe tournament, Croatia reeled off eight straight wins before being ground up by Lithuania and then Spain, finishing a surprising fourth. The red-and-white were led by the 6'8" swingman with the big shot. Bogdanovic averaged 15.8 points while shooting 50 percent overall and 48.9 percent from deep. He was named to the All-Eurobasket first team, the only player without NBA experience on the team. He was also the youngest member of the all-star team. Expect Croatia's coach Jasmin Repesa to go to him early and often.
--Does Jorge Gutierrez have a future with the Nets? Gutierrez has a partially guaranteed deal with the Nets. If he makes training camp, he gets $25,000. From that point on, through the first week of January, his deal is non-guaranteed. Gutierrez may have played better than Marquis Teague at the end of last season, but Teague has a fully guaranteed $1.2 million contract this season. It would be hard for the Nets to eat that. Gutierrez, who has a shoulder injury, didn't play well in the friendly competition after he got hurt. A good performance with Mexico could enhance his trade value ... or give the Nets second thoughts about his future.
--Will Andray Blatche get a contract by the end of the World Cup? The Nets are not going to sign Blatche after putting up with a number of shenanigans last season. Despite his youth, height and two solid years statistically, Blatche has no offersHe barely has had any interest. Nets insiders expect that he he will get an offer and a solid performance in Spain would help. If not, don't be surprised if the now 28-year-old gets a lucrative offer from a team in China.
We'll try to track it all. If you're interested in watching teams other than Team USA, LIVE TV is offering a $9.99 World Cup pass. You can order it here. ESPN3 will stream all 63 games for the first time, while ESPN2 and ESPN will cover all of Team USA's games. The best place we've seen for tracking all the games on East Coast time is here, For Nets fans, the team has come up with a handy schedule of games featuring "Brooklyn's Own."
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