Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Australia, New Zealand signify FIBA Asia basketball shift.

Australia, New Zealand signify FIBA Asia basketball shift.
by rick olivares

The new Asian order is here.

Australia has been crowned FIBA Asia Cup champions. They displaced the old order, three-time champions Iran rather mercilessly 79-56.

Both teams were undefeated heading into the gold medal match. It was no contest.

Along with New Zealand, the two countries formerly bracketed in Oceania made their Asian debuts in smashing style.

Australia finished fourth in the 2016 Rio Olympics losing to Spain by a whisker, 89-88, in the bronze medal match.

If you look at the team that topped Asia, only of them competed in the last Olympics and that is center David Andersen. During that Summer Games, Andersen played for Tony Parker’s French side, AVSEL. He is currently with Melbourne United in the Australian National Basketball League.

In case you don’t remember, that Olympic squad is stocked with NBA players.

There was Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs), Andrew Bogut (then of the Golden State Warriors), Joe Ingles (Utah Jazz), Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers), Cameron Bairstow (Chicago Bulls), and Aron Baynes (Detroit Pistons). Ryan Broekhoff (Lokomotiv-Kuban in Russia), David Andersen (ASVEL Basket in France), and Brock Motum (Zalgiris Kaunas in Lithuania) competed in Europe with only three players playing pro ball in Australia in Chris Goulding (Melbourne United), Kevin Lisch (Sydney Kings), and Damian Martin (Perth Wildcats).

This current side that thoroughly dominated FIBA Asia competition are all playing at home Down Under.

Think about that.

In this FIBA Asia, Australia, undefeated in five matches, was tops in scoring (92.5) and rebounding (43.0). Second in assists to Korea with 4.8. Third in steals with 9.2 per game.

New Zealand was without any of its stars Mika Vukona, Corey Webster, Thomas Abercrombie, Tai Wynyard, Robert Loe, and Isaac Fotu. These players gave the Philippines a massive headache in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila last year where this squad finished third in a field of six.

Of that team that played in Manila, only Reuben Te Rangi, Jordan Ngatai, and Sean Ili were in the roster for the FIBA Asia Cup. And they gave a very good account of themselves as they finished in fourth place.

In this continental cup, the Kiwis were sixth in scoring (79.9 points), fifth in rebounding (38.8), 10th in assists (14.8).

New Zealand finished with a 3-3 record. However, their last two losses were in the semi-finals (Australia) and the third place battle (Korea).

Outside the Philippines, if you look at the other Asian powerhouses – Iran, Korea, and China… they are slowly rebuilding.

China features a team that will compete for many years to come. Many of its players who saw action in the Rio Olympics or even the last FIBA Asia didn’t suit up this time around.

Iran has begun its transition. While Hamed Haddadi and Oshin Sahakian probably have one more FIBA Asia campaign left in them, this side is becoming slowly Mohamad Jamshidi’s. others who are coming up include forward Arsalan Kazemi and guards Sajjad Mashayekhi and Behnam Yakhchali. Their concern will be at the four and five spots.

Korea had to turn to some of its veterans who competed in 2014 as opposed to the side that featured in the 2017 William Jones Cup.

Lebanon will lose key players such as Fadi El Khatib and possibly Jean Abdel Nour. Jordan knows that veteran guard Mousa Alawadi is in the twilight of his career as well. They will need others to step up while find new parts to their national team.

The arrival of Australia and New Zealand signify that Asian basketball hasn’t only gotten better but also made it infinitely more competitive.

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