This dead period in the NBA off-season is going to start feeling a lot less dead as the calendar turns to August and multiple Phoenix Suns represent their nations in international FIBA events.
The Suns are set to only have one representative — newcomer wing Yuta Watanabe playing for Team Japan — at the World Cup (which will tip off on August 25), but will have two players — center Deandre Ayton and newcomer guard Eric Gordon — representing Bahamas in the Americas section of Olympic Pre-Qualifiers.
NBA players Deandre Ayton, Eric Gordon, Buddy Hield and Kai Jones are on the roster for their native Bahamas for the Olympic Qualifier in Santiago de Estero, Argentina on Aug. 14-20. Other countries: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Uruguay and the US Virgin Islands.— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) July 31, 2023
Ayton is a native of Nassau, Bahamas while Gordon’s connection comes via his mother Denise, who is also a Nassau native.
It’s worth noting that while Marc J. Spears includes Gordon on the roster, an Instagram post from the Bahamian Basketball Federation this morning does not include Gordon; it does add Wisconsin guard AJ Storr among others, transferring from St. John’s this off-season.
Eight nations — Argentina, Bahamas, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Virgin Islands, and Uruguay — will be vying for just one available spot in next year’s final Olympic Qualifiers, which start early next July.
To qualify, the Bahamas will need to finish a three-game group phase with one of the top two records in their group (Bahamas, Argentina, Cuba, and Panama), then win a semifinals and finals game in Santiago del Estero, Argentina. To the Bahamas’ benefit, they’re fortunate enough that their group phase takes place in the same city as the elimination round minimizing on travel, which is a real factor in FIBA play.
Here’s the schedule for their group phase (FIBA usually streams these games on their YouTube channel):
- Aug. 14 at 3:10 p.m. AZ time (7:10pm locally) vs Cuba
- Aug. 16 at 5:10 p.m. (9:10pm) vs Argentina
- Aug. 17 at 3:10 p.m. (7:10pm) vs Panama
Then the elimination round will take place August 19 and 20.
As far as the Bahamas’ chances at qualifying, I would guess the one spot ends up going to Argentina; that’s a nation that has a history and pedigree of excellent basketball, and their roster for this includes some familiar names like Facundo Campazzo and Gabriel Deck.
That doesn’t preclude the Bahamas from a solid group phase leading to an appearance in the elimination round, where we should be able to see some good film from Ayton and Gordon. It’s nice that those two will get some reps together ahead of Suns training camp the month after, and optimistic minds will suggest that Ayton will be able to showcase some more of his skilled side, without on-ball dynamic creators at guard around him.
“I’m excited to be back playing for Team Bahamas and to see how much the program has grown. Can’t wait to play with my guys. It’s truly a special experience to compete with teammates – who are from where you’re from – with Bahamas on your chest,” @DeandreAyton to @andscape. pic.twitter.com/lHWm0dhxhV— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) July 31, 2023
We’ll have full coverage of the Bahamas’ run starting in a couple weeks, which will hopefully include some awesome moments for these two Suns, Ayton and Gordon.