JOHANNESBURG – Two-time All Star Luol Deng and two-time NBA champion JaVale McGee are among the additions to the squads for the NBA Africa Game that will be played in Tshwane next week, while legendary former Los Angeles Lakers centre Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be among the high-profile guests attending the event.
The NBA announced the final list of names for its exhibition game - which features Team Africa, with players either born on the continent or with direct family ties against a World team, made up of players from the rest of the world - that will take place at the Sun Arena next Saturday.
Besides Deng, who has played in the previous two Africa Games, and McGee, who was part of the Golden State Warriors' title-winning sides in the last two years, other additions, announced overnight include Atlanta Hawks rookie John Collins, Dennis Smith Jr of the Dallas Mavericks and Marvin Williams of the Charlotte Hornets, who will all be representing Team World.
In a major blow for the event, guard DeMar DeRozan withdrew, officially due to his impending move from the Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs, although a more likely reason is to avoid any awkwardness were he to be in the same room with the Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who is one of the high-profile ambassadors of the event.
DeRozan, who spent nine years at the Raptors, delivered a scathing critique of Ujiri this week over the deal which saw him traded from Toronto to San Antonio, strongly implying Ujiri had gone behind his back to move him after apparently saying DeRozan remained a key element of the Raptors’ planning for the future.
DeRozan’s absence significantly weakens Team World too, who, unlike in previous editions of the event could call on superstars like Chris Paul and Dirk Nowitzki.
This year the star quality is very much with Team Africa, most notably in the form of the colourful Joel Embiid, a breakout star in the NBA last season, and a young player with a bright future who many believe will be crucial in the Philadelphia 76ers’ drive for an NBA championship.
Arguably the brightest star for the occasion, will be a 71-year-old who hung up his sneakers nearly two decades ago. Abdul-Jabbar regularly features near the top of any list of the "greatest basketball player ever." He won six NBA titles in a professional career that spanned 20 years.
John Collins (Atlanta Hawks; US), JaVale McGee (Lakers; US), Dennis Smith Jr. (Dallas Mavericks; US), Marvin Williams (Hornets; US), Harrison Barnes (Mavericks; US), Danilo Gallinari (LA Clippers; Italy), Rudy Gay (San Antonio Spurs; US), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks; US), Hassan Whiteside (Heat; US).
Luol Deng (Los Angeles Lakers; South Sudan), Ian Mahinmi (Washington Wizards; France; parent from Benin), Al-Farouq Aminu (Portland Trail Blazers; US; parents from Nigeria), Bismack Biyombo (Charlotte Hornets; Democratic Republic of the Congo), Cheick Diallo (New Orleans Pelicans; Mali), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers; Cameroon), Evan Fournier (Orlando Magic; France; parent from Algeria), Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors; Republic of the Congo), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (76ers; France; parent from Democratic Republic of the Congo), Pascal Siakam (Raptors; Cameroon).