With the addition of China's Yi Jianlian on Thursday, the Nets' international contingent has grown to four, although the other three, Nenad Krstic of Serbia, Boki Nachbar of Slovenia, and DeSagana Diop of Senegal are all free agents with varying chances of returning to New Jersey. They also have varying degrees of commitment to their home countries' national teams this summer.
Yi has the strongest commitment to both, as a star on the Chinese National Team along with the Rockets' Yao Ming...and being under contract with the Nets beyond midnight Tuesday. In fact, Yi had just finished playing a series of exhibition games with the National Team in his hometown of Shenzen when word came that he had been traded to the Nets. The Chinese National Team won eight straight against teams from Croatia and Lithuania in that series with Yi in the starring role. Yao Ming is still recovering from a foot injury. Both are scheduled to compete in two pre-Olympic exhibition tournaments as well as the Olympics themselves.
Krstic's Serbian team isn't playng in the Olympics and must participate in a qualifying tournament this summer jusst to make it into Eurobasket09, the continental championship, next year in Spain. Its last two national teams have been disasters with locker room brawls and bad losses. Krstic will also play in two exhibition series before heading to the qualifying tournament in Italy in August. One of them will take place in China in late July and match him up against Yi. He used to dominate Yi in international competition.
Nachbar's Slovenia is in better shape: it has a chance to get into the Olympics. Still, it must qualify for the Olympics in July. He will not play in the qualifying tournament in Athens but has told the Slovenian national federation he is willing play in Beijing if the team qualifies. It's not known if the federation has taken him up on his offer.
Diop will not play for Senegal. (Vince Carter, of course, played in the 2000 Olympics for Team USA, winning a gold medal in Sydney.)
Here is the schedule:
July 17-July 20 - Borislav Stankovic Cup, Hangzhou, China Yi Jianlian will compete in this annual FIBA tournament. He is training for it currently in China. He could face off against Andrei Kirilenko of Russia on July 19. In addition to China and Russia, the national teams of Iran and Angola will compete here and in the Olympics.
July 25-27 - Mechel Cup, Moscow, Russia Together with Russia, Latvia and Ukraine, Krstic's Serbian National Team will take part in this FIBA tournament which for Russia will be a tune-up for the Olympics, for the others a tune-up for European competition later in the summer.
July 29-August 1 - FIBA Diamond Ball Tournament, Nanjing, China. Yi is part of the host nation's team in this annual tourney. Krstic committed to play with Serbia in this tournament January when he told an ESPN chatroom this January: "It's an honor to play for my National Team and I'm looking forward to playing this summer." The three day tournament also includes Angola, Australia, Argentina and Iran.
August 10-24 - Olympics, Beijing, China. Yi can be expected to play a major role for China in the Olympics. Nets fans will be able to watch him go up against Team USA live on NBC August 10. China and the US open their medal quests that morning. If Slovenia gets to Beijing via the Qualifying Tournament, Nachar will play...assuming his team wants him. Of the five Slovenian NBAers, only Rasho Nesterovic has committed to play.
August 20-September 6 - Eurobasket 09 Qualifying Tournament, Italy. Serbia didn't qualify for the Olympics last year, so it must play in a qualifying tournament to get in the European championships next year in Warsaw. Krstic and his Serbian teammates will play a round-robin tournament in northern Italy against other teams, including Italy, Finland, Bulgaria and Hungary. The Knicks' Danilo Gallinari is committed to play for Italy.