The preliminary round of the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship tournament began earlier this afternoon with Uruguay taking an 88-84 overtime win over Panama. Puerto Rico vs. Mexico is up now as of 3:00pm Pacific/6:00pm Eastern. Later this evening, Canada will face off against Brazil at 5:30pm Pacific/8:30pm Eastern, and Team USA will face Venezuela at 8:00pm Pacific/11:00pm Eastern. All total there are 10 teams involved in the tournament, split into two groups of five each. Group A consists of Argentina, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay. Group B consists of Brazil, Canada, USA, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Venezuela. At stake are two spots at the 2008 Olympics. The top two teams will earn those spots, while the third, fourth, and fifth place teams will get another shot at the World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2008.
As for the Suns who are involved, it looks like we may be down to just Amare Stoudemire for Team USA and Leandro Barbosa for Brazil. It had been reported that Raja Bell was playing for the U.S. Virgin Islands, and this link on NBA.com still says he is, but he's not listed on the official team roster at FIBA's web site. He's also not included in NBA.com's list of NBA Players on National Team Rosters. I hadn't heard that he dropped out, though, so I'll try to find out more and post it here. Shawn Marion dropped out last month, reportedly to nurse a case of plantar fasciitis. More about each team is available at FIBA's website.
Much like they did with the summer league, NBA.com will be broadcasting the games on their web site. You can find the complete broadcasting schedule here, along with links for viewing the games online. I will be covering the tournament as much as my schedule will allow. Since I'm sure there will be plenty said about Team USA already, I'll be keeping much of my commentary focused on the Suns players that are involved. Depending on how many comments I get to this post, I may or may not post pre-game threads. (Consider this the first one, and we'll go from there).
Tonight's games of interest to Suns fans are Canada vs. Brazil and USA vs. Venezuela. The Canada-Brazil game would have been a bit more intriguing had Team Canada succeeded in convincing Steve Nash to join. But, I'm sure all Suns fans can live without a Nash-Barbosa face-off if it means preserving Steve's legs for the NBA season. Team USA's matchup against Venezuela should be a classic case of The Alpha Dogs vs. The Underdogs if you believe that the best players in the world play for the NBA. Team USA has a 12-0 advantage in that department, and not only that, nearly all are considered the face of their franchise. The guess here? Kobe Bryant will find a way to be the alpha among alphas. I see a repeat of his All-Star MVP performance (and perhaps that's why I'm not nearly as enthusiastic about watching these guys as I should be).