Mark Woods answers your burning questions from Istanbul on a variety of hoop issues – including GB’s Olympic hopes, the BBL season, and the world championship final.

FIBA seem to be softening their position on GB at the Olympics – what’s the latest? Andy Brown, London

I had a long talk with Patrick Baumann and the outgoing President Bob Elphinstone about this on Wednesday and it’s clear they are going to make British Basketball sweat up to March when the vote is taken. In a letter – seen by MVP – from Baumann which was sent to BBF chairman Bill McInnes last week, it says the decision will be down to two things: “the competitiveness of the British teams and the legacy plans for basketball after the Games.”

On the first, FIBA are happy and in fact were pleasantly surprised by the GB women qualifying for Eurobasket.

Patrick Baumann wants GB to clean house (FIBA Archive)

It is on the second one that they are going to turn the screw and extract a commitment to clean house. Baumann wants British basketball in general to start paying more attention to the lessons learnt in making the sport visible and successful in other European countries, including raising the standard of the BBL. They are singularly unimpressed with the state of the game in general, despite its supposed popularity at grassroots level in the UK. And to FIBA’s credit, they are taking a hard line to avoid any inertia at this point.

There was a Q&A with England Basketball chair Alison Muir in the daily newspaper which FIBA have been producing for the championships where she stated: “We realise that we are not going to be a Spain, or a Croatia, or a USA but just because we are little does not mean we do not have a big heart…” Another European journalist, reading it, asked me “Why do they want to be ‘little’?” While a former FIBA official proclaimed that “Do Lithuania think they’re little because they only have 3 million people?” And it is the perception of unambitious malaise that has left Britain in a position of weakness.

Regardless, I put it to Baumann that he can get all the assurances he likes but no sport is getting its funding guaranteed post-2012 due to the government’s spending review. But rather than cash, he wants to see a radical change. A lot of this is posturing on both sides, of course, but I genuinely get the sense he wants GB in the Olympics – and I’d be stunned if there isn’t an invite next spring.  But he will push it to the limit.

The world championships have now become secondary to the Olympics – what can FIBA do about this? Paul Gonzalez, Denver.

Not much. But FIBA do recognise that things ain’t what they used to be. I understand that a number of players, some here, some not, were canvassed privately and the message came over that they were skipping this summer but playing in 2011 because that’s when there are more qualification places up for the Olympics up for grabs (only the world’s winner goes straight to London). And that’s going to continue to be a problem, no matter how much they keep stressing the calibre of those who have been in action here over the past two weeks.

Incidentally, FIBA has been told the IOC is to review the number of participating teams in each sport post-2012. And they believe basketball’s popularity will see the men’s field increased to 16 by Rio.

Is there any chance of FIBA ditching the wild card system for entry to the world and just having qualification? Tim Neilson, Sydney

It is to be reviewed, especially in the light of some of this year’s wild cards (i.e. Germany) flaming out. But the signs are that some invitational places will kept for Spain in 2014. “It give us an opportunity to achieve a balance on geo-political grounds,” one FIBA official told me. It helps us develop certain areas. And it’s helpful from an economic standpoint which is important.” So, don’t expect much change.

I went to the launch of Espana 2014 and their preparations are on track which will be a relief after some of the traumas that Turkey inflicted en route to this edition. Only the new arena in Gran Canaria is yet to be completed and there have been assurances it will be ready. And it looks like Barcelona (which wasn’t originally hosting any games after a political fall-out) will share the latter stages with Madrid.

What’s been the reaction in Turkey to the worlds? Aveline, UK

Great. The venues have been excellent. The organisation has been solid over the past two weeks. There’s been a lack of media food (I may never eat another biscuit again) but we’ve been well looked after. And apart from a horrendous half-time karaoke at each game (the in-game entertainment, which has gone down like a lead balloon, was handled by the Local Organising Committee, not FIBA), the atmosphere has been excellent despite far too many empty seats at a lot of ties.

FIBA say it’s a major step forward on four years ago in Japan with a much better product to showcase to the kinds of global sponsors that they want to attract.

But we shouldn’t forget that this is the first major international sporting event held in Turkey – and they’ve done a pretty decent job. Good on them.

Is the BBL coming back on TV or not? John Spence, Edinburgh

99% yes. The league, so my sources inform me, is waiting to learn where it will be placed in the Sky Sports schedule. But that means that the planned weekly highlights and magazine programme is unlikely now to start before November. A lot is being hung on returning to Sky around the BBL. The league hasn’t attracted any noteworthy sponsors since it disappeared off screen when ITV Digital died many moons ago. Given the costs for production, it is an investment which teams hope will be repaid.

Who will win the BBL? Ian, Chester

Drew Sullivan is a big signing for the Tigers

Mersey Tigers have really surprised me with their aggressive signing approach under new owner Gary Townsend. Losing Olu Babalola is a big blow but they’ve got some excellent players into Liverpool. There is real pressure on Tony Garbelotto to show that he can finally land a league title.

Newcastle has been a step behind all summer, much to Fab Flournoy’s frustration. Kadiri Richards Internet spat against Drew Sullivan (later removed, but he wrote a diatribe which claimed the GB captain was over-rated) will add to touch of spice to the presumed top of the table rivalry.

I like Worcester to surprise a few people, Leicester to impress and Milton Keynes to move up after Mike New’s much-needed clearout. But it’s Mersey for me. You can read a full league preview in Issue 1 of MVP Magazine, out soon.

Who’ll win on Sunday night? Fernando, Madrid


Seriously though, it depends on the fatigue factor for the Turks, who were the second-best team on the court on Saturday night but survived thanks to their will and the extraordinary support from their fans which was worth the extra point, and then some. It took everything that had to pull off victory against the Serbs who could do something special come London 2012.

The USA, for all their flaws, are an efficient team who have learnt to disguise their weaknesses through the hustle of unsung heroes like Lamar Odom and Kevin Love. Turkey needs to find a way to contain Kevin Durant but as yet here, it has proved impossible.

On the roads out of the arena after the semi-final, flags were being waved, horns blasted and folks hanging out car windows in celebration. No alcohol sales are allowed here on Sunday because of a referendum on the constitution but there is no chance that ban will hold if Turkey reign supreme. The heart would love them to press the Americans but the head says it will be hard for the hosts to raise themselves again, 24 hours after their outstanding comeback.

USA by 12.

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