It seems a world ago that the Tall Blacks came fourth at the 2002 Basketball World Champs in Indianapolis and probably created more history and legacy than any other team to come 4th at a major World Championship event in any sport but here we are in 2014 and there seems a genuine chance that history could go some way in repeating itself at this year’s re-branded ‘Basketball World Cup’ in the heat of Spain.
In order for this to occur an examination of the Tall Blacks pool is required where 2 games (USA Ranked 1 in the world and boasting a cache of NBA stars on the floor and in the coaching area and Turkey ranked 7th) appear somewhat out of reach but given 4 teams out of 6 in each pool will qualify for the Round of 16 (the format mirrors the recent Soccer World Cup somewhat) and beyond, it’s the other 3 pool games where the juice really lies.
Dominican Republic are ranked 26th in the world (7 BELOW NZ’s current ranking of 19) and are without their injured Atlanta Hawks star Al Horford, Finland are ranked WELL BELOW the Tall Blacks at #39 and everybody’s favorite ‘other’ team the Ukraine are ranked EVEN MORE WELL BELOW the Tall Blacks at 45th in the world in what should be considered a gimme game for the Tall Blacks.
Of course for this to occur the Tall Blacks will need luck in the form of injuries, referees and pure form to go their way but don’t be surprised if they survive the Round of 16 game and even a Quarter Final.
The key of course is in our shooting guards where in Kirk Penney and Corey Webster the Tall Blacks have 2 of the best shooters going around and the thought of them on the floor heating up at the same time will be difficult to defend regardless of the other team.
However, in what is a perennial issue with New Zealand sides, size will always be an issue especially given the recent injury to Alex ‘evaluate that’ Pledger and the failure of the Oklahoma City Thunder to play ball with Steve Adams in a rather cynical and short-sighted decision given the plethora of other NBA stars that were actually allowed by their NBA owners to go to Spain to help grow the game globally. The sight of Adams leading the Haka could have been one of the images of the tournament.
So there you have it Tall Blacks to make a Quarter Final and from there ‘anything can happen’ as they say…