Ball in Europe contributor Francesco Cappelletti wraps Eurobasket 2009 with little surprise and a long view on the future of Europe’s premiere national basketball programs. Today, analysis on the tournament’s top four finishers.
It was simply a result that we could take for granted: Spain at the top of Europe, with silver medalist Serbia beaten by 22 points in the Eurobasket final, almost the same gap between Scariolo’s boys and other “pretenders” such as France (who lost to Spain in the quarterfinals, 86-66) and Greece (82-64 losers to Spain in the semifinals) were supposed to be.
It was a Eurobasket in some ways boring, featuring little advancement from the tactical perspective, with many teams focused on the abused pick-and-roll play, few squads able to run, and one team (Spain, who else?) very, very distanced from the other national teams, even just in terms of a talent base that is embarrassing to compare.
Today, with Eurobasket behind us, a look at what national teams are lacking, where they have failed, and are the scenes set for the future.
Absences: J.M. Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez, Fran Vazquez.
Sergio Scariolo found perfect harmony after some hesitation, but with that material it was impossible to fail, especially at a Eurobasket without strong stars that marked the end of one generation of players with the rise of another one, best represented by Serbia. Sometimes Ricky Rubio hasn’t shown the abilities required of an NBA lottery pick, but Rudy Fernandez’ return was enough to cover a way of play too slow and too dependent on Pau Gasol in early appearances. It seems easy to say of Spain that “tomorrow never comes,” because this team will probably lose only the decadent Jorge Garbajosa (who shot 6-of-23 on three-pointer!) and the bull Carlos Cabezas, but beyond the absences, there’re also players like Fernando San Emeterio, Sergi Vidal, and Antonio Bueno still available.
Interesting names to watch: guard Carlos Suarez, forward Pere Tomas, center Pablo Aguilar, center Xavi Rey.
Absences: All those considered “big.”
Not the Euroleague titles, not the national championships, but this medal is the absolute masterpiece of Dusan Ivkovic. Driving a youthful team to the last appointment of a crocodile competition like Eurobasket, Ivkovic has made the Italians conscious that young players can mature and become competitive only by playing. Stefan Markovic, Ivan Paunic, Miroslav Raduljica, Nemanja Bjelica, Milan Macvan: Do they have Continental status? Milos Teodosic, Uros Tripkovic, Kosta Perovic: Are they more than Euroleague role players?
Excepting the Novica Velickovic-Milenko Tepic duo and the unique threat of Nenad Krstic against the Gasols’ dominion in the paint, this Serbia was a “work-in-progress” team. Great credit to the coach, who built a defensive structure excellent at controlling rhythm and stingy in breakaway points, but thanks to Milos, Novica and the rest: the future is yours.
Interesting names to watch: forward Marko Keselj, forward Dragan Labovic, center Dejan Musli, center Boban Marjanovic.
Absences: Dimitris Diamantidis, Theodoros Papaloukas, Kostas Tsartsaris.
Here’s another example of how youth coaches and programs have worked well during recent times. Maybe it’s the sunset of a wonderful generation, but the reservoir is so full of good and *ready* players that the Greek situation risks being even better than Serbia’s. Vassilis Spanoulis has demonstrated the ability to guide the team while scoring (14.1 points and 4.2 assists per game), while the 1983-1986 products (Nikolaos Zisis, Efstratios Perperoglou, Georgios Printezis) will be a guarantee during the short-term changes, and there’s the same Jonas Kazlauskas who has immediately to find out what’s the identity a tough team as Greece has always had and must maintain. However, the high point was the rehabilitation of Sofoklis Schorstanitis, a big man who can make the difference near the basket. Waiting for Diamantidis’ return, that will better balance an offense often put under the cares of forwards and centers, the Greek run is far off knowing a stop.
Interesting names to watch: guard Nikos Pappas, guard Kostas Sloukas, guard/forward Kostas Papanikolau, forward Giorgios Bogris.
Absences: Sasha Vujacic, Beno Udrih, Sani Becirovic, Emir Preldzic.
No doubt Slovenia was the most important surprise of Eurobasket. It started its race without three main characters in the backcourt, and during the competition lost flag-bearer Matjaz Smodis and useful Goran Dragic; despite the obstacles, Slovenia fell just one overtime loss short of the final and a single point away from the podium. A true shame, if we recall that Slovenia lost only one other game, making Spain sweat in an inside-out game.
Coach Zdovc painted one of the most beautiful playbooks we’ve seen in Eurobasket, one not so fixated on pick-and-roll plays but careful to serve Nikola Vujcic’s heir, Erazem Lorbek. Plus, Zdovc revitalized Domen Lorbek and Uros Slokar, whose help was decisive in achieving the fourth-place finish – A result that will make people think about the old question: Does fewer all-star players equal better team chemistry?
Interesting names: guard Mirza Sarajlia, guard Zoran Dragic.
Tomorrow: A look at France, Croatia, Turkey, Russia and the rest.