With exhibition play out of the way, the FIBA World Championships officially kick off tomorrow, with three Grizzlies players in the mix — Rudy Gay with team USA, Marc Gasol with Spain, and Hamed Haddadi with Iran.
Saturday, August 28th:
USA vs. Croatia — 11 a.m. (ESPN Classic)
Spain vs. France — 1 p.m. (NBA TV)
Brazil vs. Iran — 1:30 p.m.
Notes: Gasol will tangle with a couple of NBA-caliber bigs in the former of Boris Diaw and Ian Mahinmi, while Haddadi could struggle against what might be the tournament's best frontcourt duo in Anderson Varejao and soon-to-be Spurs-rookie Tiago Splitter.
Sunday, August 29th:
USA vs. Slovenia — 8:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
Spain vs. New Zealand — 1 p.m. (NBA TV)
Iran vs. Croatia — 11 a.m.
Notes: Slovenia features flamboyant Suns backup point guard Goran Dragic, who is coming off a terrific NBA playoff performance and has a chance to elevate himself even more with a good tournament here.
Monday, August 30th:
USA vs. Brazil — 1:30 (ESPN)
Iran vs. Tunisia — 11 a.m.
Notes: With Varejao, Splitter, and Leandro Barbosa, Brazil might boast more significant NBA-caliber talent than any team outside of tourney the US and Spain. With the USA featuring very small lineups, Brazil's size advantage could make for an interesting match-up.
Tuesday, August 31st:
Spain vs. Lithuania — 1 p.m. (NBA TV)
Notes: Tough guy Linas Kleiza, who is returning to the NBA this season, leads Lithuania. This should be a fun game.
Wednesday, September 1st:
USA vs. Iran — 11 a.m. (ESPN2)
Spain vs. Lebanon — 1:30 p.m.
Notes: Both of these games should be massive blowouts, but it will mark the first Griz-on-Griz action of the tournament (discounting exhibition play) with Gay and Haddadi share the court.
Thursday, September 2nd:
USA vs. Tunisia — 8:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
Spain vs. Canada — 8 a.m.
Iran vs. Slovenia — 11 a.m.
Notes: Gasol gets some NBA-level frontcourt competition here in the form of Miami Heat shot-blocker Joel Anthony.
Links: Chris Sheridan leads a nice package of preview stories at ESPN.com, including an overview/prediction piece and a USA roster breakdown. And the Hubie Brown-loving blog The Painted Area has a thorough overview along with separate breakdowns of the individual groups.