How 2023 FIBA World Cup can affect Knicks, Nets this season

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Mar 1, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) brings the ball up court against Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mar 1, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) brings the ball up court against Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports / © Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Fournier wrapped up his third FIBA World Cup with Team France earlier this month. He’s played in seven major international tournaments over the past 10 summers.

So Fournier is well accustomed to the small window between an Olympics/FIBA tournament and the NBA season.

Last year, he started training camp with the Knicks just nine days after playing in FIBA Eurobasket.

He felt good early in camp, but Fournier knew he’d hit a wall at some point in the season.

“It really hits you in December; you have the first wave of fatigue,” Fournier said last year during training camp. “It’s not my first time dealing with it, so I know how to manage myself. I know being in the weight room is going to be very important. Sleep is going to be very important, but. … I’ll be alright.”

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As you know, Fournier didn’t get the chance to hit that December wall last year. Tom Thibodeau removed him from the rotation after the 13th game of the club’s 47-win season.

So international play in the offseason had no impact on the 2022-23 Knicks. But that won’t be the case this season.

Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both started for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this month. RJ Barrett played significant minutes for Team Canada. Brunson, Hart, and Barrett played their final FIBA games on Sunday (Barrett and Team Canada topped the United States to capture the bronze medal). So they’ll have about three weeks to prepare for the first day of training camp.

We’ll start to find out then whether the international tournament helps or hurts those Knicks this season. Research from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton suggests that it could have a positive effect on the club.

Writing for ESPN+, Pelton used his own SCHOENE projection system to conclude that “U.S. players from 2010 through 2021 to average 2.1 points per 100 possessions better than league average the following season.”

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That bodes well for a Knicks team that will rely heavily on Brunson to initiate offense in 2023-24. It also should make Nets fans feel good about the coming season. Mikal Bridges played a significant role for Team USA in the World Cup.

We spoke to a scout last week who warned about the physical toll international play can have on NBA players.

“Guys who play in these tournaments traditionally start fast but feel fatigue midseason,” the scout said. “I’d keep an eye on that. … These guys have played a lot since (the start of last season).”

Fatigue can lead to injury. So it’s worth wondering whether the FIBA World Cup leaves players like Brunson, Barrett, Hart and Bridges more susceptible to injury.

Pelton’s research doesn’t support that theory. He compared a group of Team USA players to players who fit similar profiles but did not compete for Team USA.

Pelton – a must read for NBA fans – found that there was no uptick in games missed for the Team USA players. His article is worth your time if you are interested in how he came to his conclusions and the recent history of the Team USA effect on the NBA season. (It’s behind a paywall, so you may not be able to see the article. But Pelton’s work alone is worth the price of admission, in my opinion).

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BIG HONOR FOR ANDERSON

Kyle Anderson was back in Bergen County on Tuesday for a special occasion. The court at Lincoln School in Fairview was officially named Kyle Anderson Court on Tuesday morning. Anderson, a nine-year NBA vet, grew up playing on the middle school’s small basement court, per NJ.com.

“Being a student here, going through everyday life with these teachers and with my classmates and now to see 20 years later, that I’m able to be celebrated and commemorated and just lead the way for the kids after me, that means a lot to me,” Anderson told the outlet.

Anderson was a standout at Paterson Catholic and St. Anthony’s – two of the tri-state area’s top programs at the time. After starring at UCLA, Anderson established himself as a strong rotation player with San Antonio, Memphis and Minnesota. Anderson and the Timberwolves are expected to take a big step forward this season after losing in the NBA Play-In Tournament last year.

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