Now what do you think of this definition for European basketball? Thanks to this post on Ettore Messina’s blog, we know what the “Godfather of European Basketball” thinks. Remember this article was written in February 2007, so maybe his thinking has changed since Russia won the European Championship and the NBA Europe Live tour showed again that the gap is getting smaller and smaller.

I believe European basketball is something in between US college basketball and NBA. In Europe, we have professionalism, money, audience and expectations that sometimes can be compared to NBA, but still, we play team basketball similar to college basketball.

I know, trying to say that Messina is right isn’t that difficult since everybody looks up to him, but this really makes sense. We have pointed out along the way the Europeans love team basketball and this is what Europe’s finest coach also thinks:

The biggest adjustment American players have to make when they move to Europe is putting team goals ahead of their own goals. In NBA players are generally assessed by their individual performance with a lot of emphasis on individual statistics. If you managed to improve your stats by the end of the season, usually you receive a better contract regardless the result of your team. In Europe, if your team wins, you’re perceived as a better player. That means individual statistics are only important combined with the team result.

He also points out that some American players, that come to Europe might now be able to deal with the pressure you have in Europe:

Another important adjustment is caused by the season structure. In Europe we have a small regular season with just 26 to 34 games in a national league and 20 games in Euroleague. With addition of playoffs in national championship, Cup and Euroleague we have about 70 games. As a result every single game, even away game against small team, is extremely important as it might affect your standings dramatically. No European club could afford starting the season the same way Dallas (4 straight losses) and Phoenix (4 losses in 5 games) did in NBA. The way the season is structured requires maximum concentration in almost every game and, consequently, in almost every practice. The mental toughness of the player is a big factor, if he wants to play in a top club in Europe. Most of American guys are not used to this pressure level. At least, not in NBA, where you can afford losing some of 82 games.

The best part of Ettore Messina’s article though is the explanation why some guys from the US who easily make an NBA team come to Europe. We have heard and read a lot of reason from people like – money – playing time – not good enough and many more reasons but Messina shows us on the the example of Trajan Langdon what is the true reason:

Trajan Langdon is a very good example. In NBA he was considered an up-and-down shooter, while in college he had been an excellent shooter. In NBA defenders stay close to their opponents because they are much better athletes. So if you’re not very quick at releasing the ball you’ll find it hard shooting with high percentage. Trajan has a great shot, but he’s not the quickest guy on the planet. Trajan’s defense is really good in terms of fundamentals and understanding of the situation, but he doesn’t have the quickness of, let’s say, J.R. Holden. In the NBA it is possible to isolate Langdon against quicker opponent with a little possibility of help of teammates. Without help of teammates few players can stop the opponent by themselves. So in both cases – shooting and defense – he needs a system where there is also help from teammates.

One more point. Trajan was the captain in Duke University. He was grown up thinking that the team is more important than the individuals it’s formed of. When he was drafted by Cleveland Cavaliers, he probably found himself in a situation where everybody was fighting for themselves. The situation where everyone was focused on individual goals bothered his mentality. He was not in the right water for him. That’s why he chose to come to Europe, I suppose.

You really should read the whole article – I promise you will like it and everything makes sense but one more thing has to be quoted since it also shows the reason why makes sense to read – even as an American:

The majority of American players don’t even know what European basketball is. If you tell them “I’m going to play for CSKA in Euroleague,” they will think that you’re far away in some strange country with a very bad basketball. Therefore, for many of them being a twelfth man in an NBA franchise, sitting on the bench, waving a towel and getting a lot of money is a fantastic career, because they don’t know the alternative.

I don’t want to say Americans have no idea about European basketball, but here’s a reason to read our blog…

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