FIBA's Global Game: 5 Reasons to Follow Olympic Qualifying Tournaments

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FIBA's Global Game: 5 Reasons to Follow Olympic Qualifying Tournaments
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The triple-digit temperatures continue here in Texas, with no end in sight. Football maniacs are engrossed in the preseason, even if the outcomes rank as meaningless and vacuous. The jocularity involved in dissecting these jousts for hours on end causes both amusement and headaches.

The Lastros organization continues to disgrace Houston fans with the lousiest baseball in franchise history. No one can despise the poor kids on the bare-bones roster, which now features the largest collection of average AA talents masquerading as major leaguers in the world. Management and ownership allowed this train wreck to happen. The team’s win total compares to a solid MLB campaign’s worth of home runs and a box office flop’s weekend intake.

The Houston Rockets managed 43 victories in 82 tries with a 6’6” defensive specialist starting at center. The fire sale-crazy Astros struggled to top that mark in 162 attempts.

The soccer squad provides the lone respectable pro sports refuge in this city. Even then, the Dynamo have been a few games away from a playoff spot for most of the season.

What, then, is a hardcore hoops fan to do with both NBA labor parties still embroiled in a bitter battle? The lockout claimed the Las Vegas Summer League, the July 1 start of free agency, the rookie transition program and other summer milestones. Soon, the meat of the campaign will meet the fire.

Some, if not all, of it will cook. A hard-line group of owners will ensure catastrophe.

Pigskin supporters, devout college fans and residents lucky enough to live in markets with playoff-bound baseball teams will survive the work stoppage, no matter the fallout. The NBA, however, is my drug. I penned this piece for the fellow hardwood junkies stuck on my sinking boat.

I cannot bring you news of imminent, non-street ball competition in the U.S., but I can deliver the next best thing. Professional-level basketball commences this week in Argentina and Lithuania, and you should make the effort to care about the results.

These games matter. The players competing in them will exhaust themselves in inspiring and captivating ways.

The FIBA Americas and Eurobasket tournaments promise intrigue, plenty of sweat, slam dunks, gorgeous passing and seamless teamwork. The scope of the events will inevitably yield clunkers and stinkers.

Anyone who followed the 2010 FIBA World Championship, though, knows that such settings can produce nail-biting brilliance. The spirited tussle between Argentina and Brazil—the ending of which inspired Rockets GM Daryl Morey to tweet that Luis Scola had entered “video game god mode”—was one of the finest contests I have ever watched.

The prize for the national teams that finish first and second in each qualifier? A bid in the 2012 Olympics. The rest must qualify for London via last-minute tournaments next summer. The U.S. secured its spot by winning in Turkey the previous September.

This slideshow's title implores you to “follow” these events because NBATV and ESPN’s family of networks do not plan to broadcast any of the games. ESPN 3 might air a few, and the FIBA and individual tournament websites will allow you to watch the clashes for a fee.

Here are five reasons to at least skim the box scores beginning now. FIBA Americas starts today. Eurobasket begins Wednesday. 

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