How ’Bout This Jazz newsletter: Jazz players past, present keeping busy with World Cup qualifying

Five current Jazz players have suited up for their national teams ahead of the 2023 tournament. Plus, a look ahead to Udoka Azubuike’s Basketball Without Borders trip, and a business-heavy week in the Jazz.

Italy's forward Simone Fontecchio (13), right, blocks shot by Nigeria's Obi Emegano (11), left, during men's basketball preliminary round game at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

There are more than 40 NBA players taking part in the ongoing 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers, and the Utah Jazz are well-represented, with five current players participating for their national teams this summer.

The second round of the tournament kicked off Wednesday, with games in the European Region.

Forward Bojan Bogdanovic played for his native Croatia back in late June and early July, but after going 1-4, they were the only team from Europe’s Group C not to make it to the second round.

Free agent signee Simone Fontecchio is representing Italy, which just beat Ukraine before taking on Georgia on Saturday.

Leandro Bolmaro (Argentina) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Canada) are, of course, both participating in the Americas Region. The two new Jazz teammates and their respective nations actually squared off on Thursday night.

Meanwhile, the only NBA player participating in the Asian Region is Jordan Clarkson, who is suiting up for the Philippines. He scored a game-high 27 points, but shot just 6 for 17 in the Philippines’ opening 85-81 loss to Lebanon.

Former Jazz players playing for their national teams include Rudy Gobert (France) and Juancho Hernangomez (Spain).

Details on Dok’s trip to Egypt

As third-year Jazz center Udoka Azubuike was meeting with UFC star and fellow Kamaru Usman inside Vivint Arena last week, he mentioned he wouldn’t be able to attend UFC 278 because he’d be on his way to Egypt for Basketball Without Borders — which apparently came as news to the Jazz PR staffers in the vicinity.

More details of Dok’s trip were announced by the NBA on Thursday morning, including the other participants: the Magic’s Mo Bamba, and the Celtics’ Malcolm Brogdon and Grant Williams.

There were also five NBA head coaches making the trip — the Warriors’ Steve Kerr, the Blazers’ Chauncey Billups, the Pelicans’ Willie Green, the Wizards’ Wes Unseld Jr., and the Wolves’ Chris Finch.

Various other NBA front office executives, scouts, assistant coaches, trainers, and Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo also will take part in the camps, which will feature 64 boys and girls from 26 African nations learning basketball and life skills, leadership development, and community service, at the Hassan Mostafa Indoor Sports Complex in Cairo between Sunday and Wednesday.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the kids,” Azubuike told me that day. “It’s gonna be awesome.”

The business of basketball

I’ve told many people many times since I got this gig covering the Jazz that, as a kid, being a beat writer covering an NBA team for a newspaper was my dream job. Knowing that I wasn’t going to be a professional basketball player myself, I couldn’t envision a better job than getting paid to travel around, watch games, and talk to players.

Of course, as a kid, you’re not envisioning the parts of the job that necessitate learning about the business of basketball. I knew when I got hired for this four years ago that I’d need to learn the finer points of salary cap and luxury tax minutiae, and I’ve made quite a bit of progress there (though I still find myself needing to look up the rules on base-year compensation).

This past week or so, though, was an instructive lesson in how much more the business of basketball is a part of the deal.

The ins and outs of regional sports networks and the impediments to team-specific streaming deals. Looking into the impact of having a private equity firm as a new minority shareholder. Paying attention to franchise values. Getting up to speed on contractual triggers between the new and old ownership groups which impact how and when percentages of the team’s shares can change hands.

It’s not quite as simple as, say, writing about trading Patrick Beverley for Talen Horton-Tucker and Stanley Johnson. But it’s an intriguing wrinkle of the job.

Better time travel and warn Eric circa 1986 to study up on a wider range of stuff, because in the modern NBA, the board room is right up there with the locker room.