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Four Timberwolves Set to Play in the 2023 FIBA World Cup

As we near closer to the 2023 FIBA World Cup, four members of the Minnesota Timberwolves have either been confirmed or have plans to suit up in late August.

Turkey v France: Round of 16 - FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Photo by Pedja Milosavljevic/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

With the 2023 NBA Summer League closing, we are entering a slow point in the off-season. The draft and hype around rookies will be on pause until the 2023-24 regular season opens in late October. Usually, we hoop junkies won’t have any live basketball to consume for a few months. However, the 2023 FIBA World Cup is set to kick off on August 25th in the Middle East (Philippines, Japan, and Indonesia), and a handful of Minnesota Timberwolves will be participating and representing their home countries.

Canada v China - FIBA Men’s Olympic Qualifying Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

This will be Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s third time representing Canada in his young pro career. Every opportunity is an honor when being able to play for your home country. This is especially true for Alexander-Walker, who described playing for Team Canada as a “huge opportunity” last year.

Both are huge opportunities, to be on a club team, and to also represent your country. It’s very important for me to be representing the national team. It hits a little differently because this is where you’re from. There’s family and friends behind it. You’re representing your country and your nation. You can’t take any opportunity like that for granted.

NAW will be joining a loaded Canada team that features Denver Nuggets guard and reigning NBA Champion Jamal Murray, Oklahoma City guard Shai-Gilgeous Alexander (NAW’s cousin), New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett, Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell, and many more.

Our first look at Team Canada will come as an exhibition game in Germany on August 9th. The team will play four more exhibition games before they open the World Cup against Team France on August 25th at 8:30 a.m. CT.

Photo courtesy of Acorn Entertainment

Kyle Anderson

As of July 14th, it has yet to be confirmed whether Kyle Anderson will suit up and play for Team China in the World Cup. However, prior to Minnesota’s Play-In game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Anderson spoke with ESPN about his deep roots in China and if he plans on playing for China’s National Team in the 2023 World Cup.

It was awesome for me. It turns out my Grandmother’s Father was born in China before he moved to Jamaica. My mother put countless hours in trying to find out where our family was in China and we were able to locate them. We were worried if they were going to accept us or not, but they welcomed us with open arms, and they are really nice, sweet people. We had a great time with them.

[Playing with the Chinese National Team] is something I’ve got to talk over with my family and my agent. I’m really focused on the Timberwolves right now, and I think once our season is over I’ll sit down with my family and make a decision.

Following Minnesota’s loss in the first round of the Playoffs to the Denver Nuggets, Mike Chain of the South China Morning Post reports that Anderson is expected to fly to China and continue his Naturalization process to officially become a Chinese citizen. Li Kaier — a Chinese name given to Anderson by his 70-year-old cousin — already meets the requirements of playing for China. However, every player must be a Chinese citizen, and being that Slo-Mo was born in New York, he must first be naturalized.

If Anderson ultimately does play for China, the team’s first World Cup game will be held on Saturday, August 26th, against Serbia.

Poland v France: Semi-Final Round - FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Rudy Gobert

Over his 10-year pro career, Rudy Gobert has become a staple of France basketball. After all, he’s one of the best players out of the country. This summer will be Gobert’s second straight season representing his native land. Usually, being able to play for your country is one of the biggest honors. However, Gobert was scrutinized after he decided to play for France in the World Cup this August.

Last summer, when Gobert was playing for Team France in the Eurobasket, he suffered a knee injury that ultimately altered his first season in Minnesota. The Stifle Tower’s training camp with the Timberwolves was handicapped, which resulted in a lack of development with his new teammates. This left Gobert unsure if he would play for France in the World Cup.

However, after some off-season thinking and partaking in a 64-hour darkness retreat, Gobert decided to play for France in the 2023 World Cup. This decision followed with many Timberwolves fans being upset. I get it; Minnesota’s fanbase wants their players to be as healthy as possible for the NBA season. However, the honor of being able to represent the country you are from means just as much, if not more, to most players in the NBA. You can’t fault The French Rejection for his decision. All we as a community can do is hope the best for Gobert and his team while wishing them all relative health.

2021 USA Basketball Training Camp : All-Access Photo by Madison Quisenberry/NBAE via Getty Images

Anthony Edwards

Reports came out in early June saying Anthony Edwards will be playing for Team USA in the World Cup this August. Similar to Gobert, the controversy started to fly ever since Edwards’ commitment. Of course, most weariness stems from the fans’ concern about their favorite players being injured in competitive play that has no impact on the outcome of the NBA season. However, as I stated above, being able to represent your country is something almost no player has passed up. And for someone as competitive as Edwards, he will never back down from a challenge.

In an exclusive interview with Timberwolves lead play-by-play announcer Micheal Grady, Ant talked about what it means to now represent the USA as a whole, not just Minnesota.

It’s dope, man. Seeing all the guys on previous teams, the Micheal Jordans, Kobes. It’s super exciting... I see a lot of people saying we are going to lose early, so it’s going to be fun.

Edwards will be the youngest player on a stacked USA roster this August. Some of his teammates will include Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges, New Orleans Pelicans Forward Brandon Ingram, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., and more.

Training camp for Team USA will begin on August 3rd in Las Vegas, with the first exhibition game being held on August 7th against Puerto Rico. The team will then start a two-week “brainstorming trip” through Spain and the United Emirates. USA’s first World Cup game will be on August 26th against New Zealand.

Charlotte Hornets v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Other Mentions

According to Dane Moore, Luka Garza will be training with Bosnia this summer. However, won’t play in the World Cup.

Karl-Anthony Towns stated on The Ringer NBA Show, hosted by his teammate Austin Rivers, that he wants to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Cup.

This summer, I want to go and play with the Dominican team. That would be cool. That would be fire. I’m trying to work that out right now.

However, since saying that in late March, there has been no traction on Towns playing for the Dominican team this summer.

From a fanbases perspective, seeing key players from their favorite NBA team committing to play high-intensity basketball in the off-season warrants some nerves. However, not many players can pass up the high honor that comes with playing in the World Cup. Along with that, being able to watch those star players compete in the Summer time is always a blast, as long as everyone involved can enjoy relative health and will be ready to compete at an equally high level once the NBA season begins in late October.