Latvia: With Or Without Kaspars - That Is The Question

19.08.2005

Latvia step up their preparations for EuroBasket 2005 on Friday but may be without Kaspars
Kambala after the big man missed his flight to link up with the squad.

Karlis Muizinieks' men take part in the four-team Adriatic Tournament in Porto San Giorgio, Italy, where they will face hosts Italy in their first game on Friday, before taking on Greece on Saturday and Croatia on Sunday.

The presence of three fellow EuroBasket qualifiers should give the Latvia coach a genuine indication of his team's prospects in Serbia & Montenegro next month, where they line up in a Group D which includes the host nation, Spain and the team that wins the additional qualifying tournament.

Kambala would be a very valuable player, but only if he is in a good form
Karlis Muizinieks

Muizinieks says his team needs to be tested against top-quality opposition after winning the Baltic Sea Cup in Estonia last week.

"We have to get used to higher-quality opponents, different playing styles, and the tough pace of a tournament," he said.

Kambala may miss the whole event if he fails to arrange another flight to Italy from the United States, where he once played college basketball for the University of Nevada and Las Vegas (UNLV).

It is not the first time the 2.05m star has failed to turn up on time ahead of a big tournament, although he was picked in Latvia's squad for EuroBasket 2003 in spite of his tardiness.

Muizinieks hopes Kambala can still play some part in this weekend's tournament.

He said: "Possibly, Kambala will join us in Italy. This complicates our preparations, but that's the situation.

"Of course Kambala would be a very valuable player, but only if he is in a good form. I hope he will be although it is not easy to achieve this in a month. But the team will continue preparing in accordance with the plan, in spite of this problem."

Kambala is coming off a season in the FIBA Europe League in which he averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds for UNICS Kazan.

Latvia captain Roberts Stelmahers has shrugged off Kambala's absence but has warned him not to expect the same treatment has received in the past.

"We're looking at these events with amusement and irony," he said.

"Last year, we had a similar situation and Kaspars did not arrive in the end. Under these circumstances, it would be better if he kept his promise this time.

"I am ready to play with or without him. I don't think Kaspars will find it easy to find his place in the team since he has not been with us for two years and many things have changed."

If Kambala does not link up with Latvia in Italy, it is expected he will join them upon their return to Riga on Sunday.

Latvia will also be without fellow forwards Arnis Vecvagars and Kaspars Berzins, with the former recovering from surgery earlier this year.

However, both are expected to train with the squad even if they are deemed unfit to play in the European Championships.


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