Great Britain Qualifies for EuroBasket, Bolsters Olympic Bid
Luol Deng continued to power Britain, with 38 points and 13 rebounds in the victory. Former Raptor and NBA D-League All-Star Pops Mensah-Bonsu came through with a beastly 32 and 21 performance of his own. Ben Gordon watched from the crowd, and may finally be able to join Team GB next summer in Lithuania.
No matter how Britain does in Lithuania, this performance certainly ought to make FIBA strongly consider adding the team to the Olympic field with its host bid. Host nations are typically admitted to Olympic tournaments no questions asked. But British basketball has been so bad in recent years FIBA has threatened to give the nation's bid to a wild card team. If Britain isn't admitted to the Olympic tournament, basketball will be the only sport in which the host nation isn't participating.
Of course, with NBA commissioner David Stern and the international and British Olympic committees deeply interested in seeing Team GB in London, FIBA has a bit of a chip here, and will certainly keep everyone guessing until mid-2012, unless the British manage to win an automatic berth by performing really well at EuroBasket.
Israel (featuring Sacramento's Omri Casspi), Montenegro (starring Wolves rookie Nikola Pekovic), and Macedonia have also effectively clinched berths to EuroBasket, barring extremely wacky outcomes Sunday. One of Belgium and Bulgaria will make it, with the Belgians in the driver's seat. Italy has been disqualified from contention, but will have an opportunity to make amends in next summer's last chance qualifying tournament.