Italy still needs to qualify for Eurobasket 2009 in a tough elimination round with France and Finland this August before playing an eventual final game against the winner of the second qualification group which features Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belgium, and Portugal. FIBA Europe has announced that two Italian NBA players, Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli, will be with the team.
The Golden State Warriors guard told FIBA Europe that he is thrilled to play again for the Squadra Azzurra this summer, as he was not with the team in 2008:
The Warriors have accepted my desire and I am really happy; the national team means a lot to me and for me to play gives me great joy. I honestly cannot wait to play.
I have already spoken to Ronny Turiaf, my Warriors teammate. The (opening) game (between France and Italy) will be a special one for the both of us. I am already charged up for that game.
Bargnani already announced his participation two weeks ago, and Italy is trying to put all the chances on their site to be ready for the final qualification phase in August.
Two other players currently in the United States are being considered by coach Carlo Recalcati: Danilo Gallinari will certainly be out because of his recent back surgery. Gallinari will only start his rehab in the beginning of May, and the New York Knicks probably won’t be too happy to see him playing this summer with someone other than their own Summer League team.
The other player is USC’s Daniel Hackett. The guard has declared to participate at the NBA Draft this year but his chances to get an NBA spot are rather small. His career will most likely continue in Italy next season, but before he will be added to the Azzurri roster to compete in Eurobasket.
Coach Recalcati, however, already knows exactly about his plans for this summer.
It’s going to be a very long summer.
We will not have a long preparation, but I believe it will be enough to arrive in the best possible condition for the games that count – first the one with France, a traditional rival that has great quality. We will not underestimate the other teams but the first game at home will be crucial.
Listening to this, you know already that Italy will probably struggle against Finland as the team’s entire concentration is focused on France. Same goes for the French national team that is particularly preparing for the opening game of the qualification phase against the Italian rivals. But Recalcati seems confident as he’s already making digs at Tony Parker and the French national team, as they’ve made their NBA players sign a letter of engagement.
We hope our players don’t need a piece of paper. The national team is not a contract. It’s a feeling, an emotion. For me, a handshake means much more.