Sat, Aug 18, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Brazil hopes NBA players will lead to Olympic berth

AP , SAO PAULO, BRAZIL

With NBA stars Nene and Leandro Barbosa guaranteed to play, Brazil is hoping to make it back to the Olympics next year.

The Brazilians failed to qualify for both the 2000 Sydney Games and the 2004 Athens Games, but the team gets another chance at the America's Olympic qualifying tournament in Las Vegas.

"We have all the conditions to earn a berth for Beijing," Brazil's Marcelinho said. "Our group is focused and we are training hard to achieve this goal."

The last time Brazil participated in the Olympics was at the 1996 Atlanta Games, when former great Oscar Schmidt was still in action. If it finishes in the top two at the FIBA Americas tourney from Wednesday through Sept. 2, it will clinch a spot for next year's Beijing Games.

"The group is tight and we have been able to keep the momentum from the Pan American Games and we also have the players who arrived now," Brazil coach Lula Ferreira said.

Brazil will be boosted by one of its best generations of players, led by Nene of the Denver Nuggets and the Phoenix Suns' Barbosa, who won the NBA's Sixth Man Award this season.

Nene and Barbosa were doubtful to play in Las Vegas because of contract problems regarding their insurance policies, but their teams and the Brazilian confederation have reached an agreement and they will participate in the tourney, the confederation said on Thursday.

Nene and Barbosa were absent from the Brazilian squad that won its third consecutive Pan American Games title last month.

Nene hasn't played for the national team in four years because of conflicts with the local confederation. He skipped last year's world championship saying the confederation owed him money.

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