x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Fiba needs to rethink basketball qualification schedule

Fiba must understand that the NBA will never allow its stars to disappear for weeks during the season to play in an international qualifying tournament. Never, writes Steve Dilbeck.

No one can blame Fiba, basketball's governing organisation, for wanting its quadrennial tournament to more closely resemble football's World Cup.

Last week, Fiba announced it would push back its 2018 championship to 2019, so as not to play in the same year as the World Cup.

Their event will now be known as the Fiba Basketball World Cup, and will expand from 24 teams to 32. The intent is clear: to encourage global basketball growth.

Yet the most significant item adopted by Fiba is its plan to have six qualifying periods scheduled for November 2017, February 2018, June 2018, September 2018, November 2018 and February 2019.

Four of those qualifying windows will take place during the NBA season, in North America, where the concept of an "international break" remains unknown.

Fiba must understand that the NBA will never allow its stars to disappear for weeks during the season to play in an international qualifying tournament. Never.

How this plays out will be interesting. The US has enough competent players - not in the NBA - to be certain of qualifying for a watered-down tournament. But does Spain? Greece? Germany? Argentina? Brazil? China? Basketball leagues in Europe, familiar with football's international breaks, may be willing to adapt.

However, the new system could damage the tournament's image in the US, where the attraction of pitting the best each country has to offer will be compromised throughout the qualifying period.

sports@thenational.ae