Popovich to coach, Gasols to play in NBA’s 1st Africa game
NEW YORK (AP) Gregg Popovich will coach Team Africa with captain Luol Deng, while brothers Pau and Marc Gasol will play for Team World in the NBA’s first game in Africa.
Popovich, the five-time champion from the San Antonio Spurs, will guide Team Africa in the Aug. 1 game in Johannesburg, the league announced Thursday. He will be assisted on the bench by Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer, the NBA Coach of the Year and his former assistant with the Spurs, and Oklahoma City assistant Monty Williams.
Team World will be coached by Brooklyn’s Lionel Hollins, with Boston’s Brad Stevens as an assistant. Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers will serve as captain. Team World players are: Pau Gasol (Chicago), Marc Gasol and Jeff Green (Memphis), Bradley Beal (Washington), Kenneth Faried (Denver), Marcus Smart and Evan Turner (Boston) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando).
Team Africa features players born in Africa or second-generation Africans. Their roster is: Captain Deng (Miami), Al-Farouq Aminu (Portland), Nicolas Batum (Charlotte), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee), Bismack Biyombo (Toronto), Boris Diaw (San Antonio), Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota), Festus Ezeli (Golden State), Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City) and Luc Mbah a Moute (Sacramento).
More than 35 players from Africa have been on NBA rosters since Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted No. 1 by Houston in 1984.
Diaw, who has a parent from Senegal, said he is thrilled to take part ”in what is truly a historic occasion.” Ibaka will not play because of injury.
The Spurs’ R.C. Buford is the Team World general manager, while Brooklyn’s Billy King and Toronto’s Masai Ujiri will hold the position for Team Africa.
The game will be held after the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camp and televised live on ESPN. Commissioner Adam Silver, NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo of Congo and NBA Africa Ambassador Olajuwon of Nigeria also will participate in the event, which features clinics and other community service projects. The game will be played in support of Boys & Girls Clubs of South Africa, SOS Children’s Villages Association of South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
”When I heard about the NBA Africa Game I jumped at the chance to participate,” Pau Gasol said. ”The continent of Africa has a special meaning for me through my foundation. I look forward to putting on a great show for the fans and taking part in activities in the local community.”