Posted on: August 30, 2011 3:11 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2011 4:03 pm

EuroBasket preview: Spain and then everybody else

Posted by Royce Young

Actual competitive basketball being played in an actual arena with actual NBA players! No, this isn't another Drew League versus Goodman League showdown -- it's better. It's Eurobasket 2011 and if you're completely starved for some quality hoops, then welcome your all-you-can-eat buffet of basketball.

You're probably sick of people trying to convince you how quality the European game has become, and while no, it's not the NBA, it is about as good of basketball as you're going to get. And with the labor negotiations going about as well as Charles Barkley in a marathon, this might be one of your last chances to get competitive basketball.

The EuroBasket tournament features 24 countries all with the opportunity to put away an automatic bid to the 2012 Olympics in London. The top two finishers get an automatic bid while four bids to the Pre-Olympic qualifying tournament (for third through sixth) are at stake as well. But it's not only about the Olympic bids. It's about taking home a title for your country against the top competition in Europe. It's a big deal.

It starts up Aug. 31 and runs through Sept. 18. It's going to be a frantic few weeks of hoops with big names like Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Luol Deng and Tony Parker. Let's take a look at the field.

Group A: Britain, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Turkey, Portugal
Group B: France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Serbia
Group C: Bosnia, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Finland
Group D: Belgium, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine

(A heads up: Every game of EuroBasket can be watched free on ESPN3.com.)


Spain -- Pau Gasol. Serge Ibaka. Ricky Rubio. Jose Calderon. Rudy Fernandez. Marc Gasol. If you're looking for your NBA fix, the Spaniards are your team to watch. They're going to play the most fluid, flashy game of anything and with players like Ibaka, Gasol and Rubio, will blend athleticism and skill together nicely.

It's really Spain's tournament to lose. There's just so much talent on the team, not even including the big names. Sergio Llull, recent first round draft pick Nikola Mirotic and the irresistible Juan Carlos Navarro make Spain the can't-miss team and clear-cut favorite.

NBA players: Pau Gasol (Lakers), Serge Ibaka (Thunder), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Jose Calderon (Raptors), Rudy Fernandez (Mavericks), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies)

-- The Lithuanians are sort of a borderline favorite, but they are playing the tournament in their home country, so that's an advantage. Plus, there's talent scattered throughout the team with players like lottery pick Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas and Sarunas Jasikevicius.

NBA players: Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors), Donatas Motiejunas (Timberwolves)

-- Quietly, the French have assembled a pretty stellar team. Most aren't listing them as a top tier favorite, but it's hard to ignore the talent. A core of Nicolas Batum, Joakim Noah and Tony Parker make them a squad strong enough to consider. Add in Rodrigue Beaubois (if he's healthy), Kevin Seraphin, Mickael Pietrus and Kevin Seraphin and that's a quality rotation of players.

They don't have the same level of talent as Spain, but if Batum can emerge as a go-to scorer to supplement Parker, the French team could make noise in the knockout rounds.

NBA players: Tony Parker (Spurs), Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers), Mickael Pietrus (Suns), Joakim Noah (Bulls), Rodrigue Beaubois (Mavericks), Kevin Seraphin (Wizards), Ronny Turiaf, injured though (Knicks), Ian Mahinmi (Mavericks), Boris Diaw (Bobcats)

Serbia -- One of Europe's most consistent powers, Serbia features a smooth balance of interior scorers and outside shooters. Nenad Krstic is the anchor but don't underestimate players like Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic. Serbia doesn't have anything all that flashy, but it's a team that's stayed together for a while and knows how to play extremely well with each other.

NBA players: None


Germany -- They have Dirk. That's enough to at least warrant consideration. Now after that it doesn't look extremely strong, but it's Dirk and if we learned anything, the dude can play in big moments. He can carry a team that otherwise looks like a batch of just mid-level players to a higher place and win with them. So I'm not doubting him one bit in this tournament.

Plus there's Chris Kaman and Thunder property Tibor Pleiss there with him, which gives Germany a pretty formidable front court.

NBA players: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), Chris Kaman (Clippers)

Russia -- One thing that constantly intrigues me with the Russian team is coach David Blatt. He's an American coach that played for Pete Carril at Princeton and has been extremely successful overseas with major clubs. The team has some talent, but nothing to get too excited about. It would take a breakout tournament from Timofey Mozgov or swingman Victor Khryapa a huge showing from Andrei Kirilenko for them to truly contend, but they could be medal contenders.

NBA players: Timofey Mozgov (Nuggets), Andrei Kirilenko (Jazz)

Slovenia -- Slovenia's the Atlanta Hawks of Europe. Always solid, never good enough to win. They have some quality players, but lack enough quality size to compete with Spain, Lithuania or France.

NBA players: Goran Dragic (Rockets)

-- Last year's World Championship runners-up to the United States, Turkey has most of that team back. It's a good group and one that could certainly get hot and make a run again, but the World Championship run came largely because of a huge bump from a home court advantage. Not happening again in Lithuania.

NBA players: Semih Erden (Celtics), Omer Asik (Bulls), Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks), Enes Kanter (Jazz), Hedo Turkoglu (Magic)


Greece -- When their fluid passing is leading to open 3s (which they make), the Greeks are a problem for people. But when they're missing, they're a team easy to run over. They're scrappy and will claw on each possession, but reality is, they just don't have enough talent to hang with the bigger clubs. They do have one of the funner players to watch in Dimitrios Diamantidis, so keep an eye on him.

NBA players: Kostas Koufos (Nuggets)

Croatia -- Much like Slovenia, Croatia is a squad that is always in the conversation, but lacks the firepower to truly contend. Hard to figure where the points will come from for them in big spots. They'll be good enough to likely win Group C, but after that, it'll be a tough road to advance.

NBA players: Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets)

Great Britain
-- I'm intrigued by this British team despite it not having any depth whatsoever. Had Ben Gordon been cleared to play, the Brits would've had a dark horse caliber team. Instead, they'll have to fight to get out of group play. Luol Deng is good enough to carry them some with Joel Freeland and Ryan Richards potentially adding some scoring pop from inside.

Don't worry though: They've already qualified for the 2012 Olympics. Because, you know, they're hosting it.

NBA players: Luol Deng (Bulls)

Italy -- There's a little something to the Italian team. Danillo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli and Andrea Bargnani give them some scoring. Problem is, can they stop anyone? It's a decent team and one that can probably make the knockout round, but not much after that.

NBA players: Danillo Gallinari (Nuggets), Marco Belinelli (Hornets), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors)

Montenegro -- Not a powerful team but one with some consistent shooters and a couple decent interior players. Montenegro could very well be every bit as good as Slovenia or Croatia, but their roster doesn't strike you as anything special.

NBA players: Nikola Vucevic (76ers), Nikola Pekovic (Timberwolves)


NBA players: None

NBA players: Omri Casspi (Cavaliers) -- Casspi's unlikely though because of injury

NBA players: None

NBA players: None

NBA players: Zaza Pachulia (Hawks)

NBA players: Kyrylo Fesenko (Jazz),



NBA players: None

NBA players: None

NBA players: None

NBA players: None

NBA players: None

PREDICTION: If Spain doesn't reach the final, it's a massive disappointment and a massive shock. It's really just a matter of who will challenge the loaded Spaniards. I see the final four teams being Spain, France, Lithuania and a dark horse in Germany. A lot of people aren't necessarily on the French bandwagon, but I see a team with a bunch of talent that could possibly put together a little run. The safe bet is to go with a Spain-Lithuania final (this of course assuming the teams match up correctly in the knockout round), but I'm looking at France to fall to Spain in the gold medal game but still earn that automatic bid to London in 2012.
Posted on: July 22, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2011 12:37 pm

Chris Kaman and Dirk to play for Germany

Posted by Royce Young

Eurobasket is just getting better and better.

Already a good number of NBA players have committed to their countries to play in the tournament which starts in Lithuania late in August, but you can add two more to the German national team. And two All-Stars at that: Chris Kaman and Dirk Nowitzki. You could say Germany's chances just got a lot better.

According to talkbasket.net, both Kaman and Dirk will even be with Germany during the BEKO-Supercup tournament in Bamberg Aug. 19-21, which is a warm-up.

Dirk had previously said he planned to play for his country because of the opportunity to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. But adding Kaman really increases Germany's chances. 

Kaman has dual citizenship between the United States and Germany, while of course Dirk is from Germany.

The competition is pretty stiff with France and Spain both looking very strong to go with the other number of quality countries. But Germany now has an anchor in Dirk and a solid post player in Kaman. They aren't quite a favorite, but certainly a team to be considered.

Posted on: July 21, 2011 2:24 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 2:30 pm

Noah sent back to Chicago to have ankle looked at

Posted by Royce Young

Joakim Noah was all set to compete for the French national team in Eurobasket in August and September, but it looks like that plan could have a few bumps in it. According to ESPN Chicago, Noah was sent back to Chicago by the French team to have his right ankle looked at.

Noah injured his right ankle March 28 against the 76ers but returned on April 5. Yet according to FIBA, if there are concerns with an injury, everything needs to be squared away before he can continue. The French team said in a statement, "In an act of transparency, the FFBB sent the medical reports to his club and his agent."

Clearly, the French team doesn't want any complication with Noah and doesn't want to jeopardize his hefty NBA contract over an injury. It's just a setback and Noah still anticipates to play for France in Eurobasket, which starts Aug. 31 in Lithuania for the French.

The European Championships serve as a qualifier for the Olympic Games, and with France having some solid talent, led by Nicolas Batum, the team could make a little noise in the tournament. If it could just bring in someone like Tony Parker to go along with Noah, then France could jump to being a favorite.

Noah has dual citizenship in France and the United States.

Category: NBA
Posted on: July 15, 2011 12:26 pm
Edited on: July 15, 2011 1:11 pm

Ibaka granted Spanish citizenship, in Eurobasket

Posted by Royce Young

All Serge Ibaka has left to do to finish off his Spanish citizenship is he "must swear loyalty to the Spanish crown and constitution." No word on if he has to kiss someone's ring though.

After Ibaka, 21, completes those last couple steps, he's officially be a Spaniard and will be eligible to play in the Eurobasket tournament in Lithuania which is in August and September.

This is a pretty massive thing for Spain, who is already one of the tournament favorites with Ricky Rubio, Pau and Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon and other NBA caliber players. Adding Ibaka immediately gives Spain maybe the best athlete in the tournament and an imposing big man who can impact the game on both ends of the floor. If you weren't picking Spain already, the addition of Ibaka should put you over the top.

I mean, look at that front court. Gasol, Gasol and Ibaka. That'd probably be the best front court in the NBA.

Why Spain for Ibaka, who is a native of the Republic of Congo? It's a place he spent three of his formative years, especially in terms of basketball. He started playing professionally in Spain as a teenager and really, his first language is Spanish. He still has a house in Barcelona.

"Spain is a country that has given me a lot," Ibaka told reporters after Spain's Council of Ministers approved his petition for nationality. "It will be an honor to give Spain back all that it has given me on the court."

Spain is the defending champion and at stake is an automatic bid for the 2012 Olympics in London. Which now, Ibaka can play in for Spain as well.
Category: NBA
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