September 21, 2022 

Daily Briefing — Sept. 21, 2022: Everything you need to know about the 2022 FIBA World Cup

Plus: Robert Sarver, caught sowing, finally reaps

It’s Wednesday. Welcome back to The Next’s Daily Briefing, featuring the daily Watch List. After a long summer of waiting, roster changes, and endless hype, it’s finally time for the FIBA Women’s World Cup (WWC)! Taking place over the next week and a half, the event will feature basketball’s best from around the world. Earlier this year, the 12 teams which had qualified for the event drew into two groups. Each group will play 15 matches, with each team facing the other members of their group once.

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Group A is made up of Belgium, China, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH), Puerto Rico, Korea and the USA, while Group B contains France, Serbia, Japan, Mali, Canada and Australia. Full rosters for each team were released on Tuesday afternoon, and can be found here. The event itself will feature plenty of familiar faces for fans of the WNBA — from players headed straight from the Finals, or the Aces’ celebratory parade, to training camp cuts and hardship players, it won’t be hard to find someone to root for in every game.

Must-watch matches

Heavy hitters USA and Belgium, currently ranked No. 1 and 5 in the world, respectively, headline the slate of opening games for Group A. It’s not clear whether Team USA’s last three players (A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray) will be in Sydney, or ready to play, for the match. Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones, the other two pieces for Team USA who featured in the WNBA Finals, arrived Tuesday night. For Group B, it’ll be the return of Opals (and Seattle Storm) legend Lauren Jackson that will take center stage. No. 3-ranked Australia will take on No. 6-ranked France in their opening match, which will close out Day 1 matches.

Dark horses

In Group B, underdogs Mali will face their first test against No. 6-ranked Japan. Mali entered the World Cup race after Nigeria withdrew from the event in June. Despite their No. 37 ranking, key pieces in Sika Kone and Touty Gandega may bring the team the energy it needs to pull off an upset.

In other news: Updates regarding Robert Sarver

Earlier this morning, the WNBA player’s union (WNBPA) sent a letter to the WNBA and NBA commissioners. The letter, which was made public by a reporter at Sportico, urges the commissioners to re-evaluate the NBA’s previous decision regarding Mercury/Suns managing partner Robert Sarver and requests a meeting with both commissioners. An independent investigation to the NBA found that Sarver had engaged in inappropriate and harmful conduct, including racist and sexist speech, towards employees of the Phoenix franchises. The report containing the findings of the investigation can be found here, and an abridged version here.

The WNBPA’s letter alleges that neither WNBA players, nor league officials, were never contacted as part of the NBA’s investigation. In advocating for its union members, the majority of which are Black women, the letter sought to understand how the $10 million fine Sarver was dealt will be handled. It also urges much stronger and significant action by both leagues toward Sarver and the systems that enabled him.

Earlier this afternoon, Sarver announced that he has begun looking for new owners for both the Mercury and Suns franchises. Whether further punishment beyond the fine will be dolled out toward Sarver, who alleges he will “continue to work on becoming a better person,” in “our current unforgiving climate,” only time will tell. It appears the hundreds of employees who dealt with the 18 years of workplace harassment by Sarver and others he enabled are finally being heard.

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Next, read:

  • Need a primer on who Team USA brought to Sydney? No fear! The Next’s Scott Mammoser has you covered on the All-Star roster head coach Cheryl Reeve put together.
  • Our Matthew Walter walks through the play-by-play on the Aces first WNBA title and wraps up a season like no other.
  • Our Caylen Johnson digs into the Dallas Wings’ recent firing of head coach Vickie Johnson and their options heading into an offseason already packed with coaching changes.

Watch list, Group phase, Day 1

(All times in Eastern, Games of the Day in bold)

Wednesday, Sept. 21

Puerto Rico vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 8:30 p.m., ESPN+, Courtside1891

USA vs. Belgium, 9:30 p.m., ESPN+

Canada vs. Serbia, 11:00 p.m., ESPN+, Courtside1891

Thursday, Sept. 22

Japan vs. Mali, midnight, ESPN+, Courtside1891

Korea vs. China, 3:30 a.m., ESPN+, Courtside1891

Australia vs. France, 6:30 a.m., ESPN+, Courtside1891, FIBA YouTube channel

Written by Isabel Rodrigues

Isabel Rodrigues (she/her) is a contributing editor for The Next from upstate New York. She occasionally covers 3x3 and labor in women's basketball.

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