When the Portland Trail Blazers get together for pre-camp workouts soon, they are going to be without two players who were starters last season. And those two players could be missing right up to or past the start of training camp on Sept. 25.
Al-Farouq Aminu (Nigeria) and Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia and Herzegovena) are scheduled to represent their countries in the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifying rounds. The format of the World Cup has been changed and teams now will be required to play qualifying rounds in 2018 to move into the 2019 Cup finals, scheduled to be played in China.
The two players could be occupied until the middle of September with the games, then will need to return to Portland. Often, after the national-team training camp and games, players are given a few days off to rest. And then they will need time to re-acquaint themselves with NBA rules and the NBA basketball, which is different than the FIBA ball. There is also the possibility of injury, particularly when playing against players who may not be as skilled as NBA players.
The Trail Blazers players' participation in the tournament has the franchise's blessing.
"Farouq and Nurk are elite players within their National Team programs and this is an excellent opportunity to represent their countries and solidify their inclusion in future international competitions," said Neil Olshey, Portland's president of basketball operations.
The USA roster for the qualifying tournament will be made up largely of G-League players and be coached by Jeff Van Gundy.