No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama has decided not to play for France in this summer’s FIBA World Cup and instead will focus on preparing for his rookie season with the San Antonio Spurs and next year’s Paris Olympics.
This is a reversal from Wembanyama’s previously stated plans for the summer and a blow to the French, the current Olympic silver medalists who are planning to be a serious contender for the world title this August and September in Manila, Philippines.
Wembanyama is still planning to play in at least some of the Spurs’ summer league matches in July.
“It would not be realistic in terms of development and not prudent in terms of health,” Wembanyama said in announcing his decision to French newspaper L’Equipe. “I hope people will understand. It’s frustrating for me, too. The France team is still central for me. I want to win as many titles as possible with the team. But I think it’s a necessary sacrifice.”
Wembanyama stated in the interview the Spurs would have supported whatever decision he made and he came to this choice himself after consulting with his personal medical staff.
Part of the choice, Wembanyama told L’Equipe, was the volume of games he is planning to play over a two-year stretch.
He played a total of 62 games this season with Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 in reaching the French League Finals. Including his first season with the Spurs and plans for the Olympics, he calculated he was looking at playing about 170 games in a 24-month span. That made the World Cup seem like too much.
In an attempt to differentiate the FIBA World Cup from the FIFA World Cup, international basketball officials changed the timing of the event in 2019 to move the FIBA event off summers when FIFA played its global soccer tournament. As a result, however, the FIBA World Cup is played in back-to-back summers with the Olympics.
That calendar change has had a dramatic effect on the American stars who play for Team USA and is also affecting NBA stars playing for their home nations.
Team Serbia, another contender for the title this summer, is waiting on a decision from national hero Nikola Jokic after his long run to the NBA title with the Denver Nuggets.