In part two of Ball in Europe’s look at Europe’s top teams following Eurobasket 2009, Francesco Cappelletti contributes his analysis of present and future for those nations who did not finish in Eurobasket’s top four. Part one, featuring looks at Spain, Serbia, Greece, and Slovenia, may be found by clicking here.
Absences: Mickael Pietrus, Yakhouba Diawara, Joakim Noah, Johan Petro.
A lot of people thought France would be a frontrunner in Eurobasket 2009, thanks to the team’s more detailed preparation thanks to qualifying round play, handily won against what remained of Italy and Belgium. In fact, France’s beginning was outstanding; OK, Group B was a joke, but many victories by slim margins (69-64 over Russia, 87-79 over Croatia, 71-69 over Greece) made us trust a very physical yet technically perfect team with teachers like Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, and Boris Diaw. Unfortunately, the improving Spain was not the team France expected after six wins in a row and France lost by 20: Come on, that’s a road accident! The confirmation came from the next games, wins against Turkey and Croatia.
After Parker, the only player over 10 points per game (17.8), there were seven scoring between 5.1 and 9.6 ppg: a good signal, together with the solid performances by Antoine Diot, Ali Traore and Nando De Colo in their first serious senior experience with the national team.
Interesting names to watch: guard Rodrigue Beaubois, guard Thomas Heurtel, guard Edwin Jackson, forward Ludovic Vaty, center Kevin Seraphin.
“This is the end, beautiful friend / the end of our elaborate plans / the end of everything that stands the end / no safety or surprise the end / I’ll never look into your eyes again…” Jim Morrison couldn’t have had this edition of Team Croatia in mind when he wrote that unforgettable “Apocalypse Now” tune, even if it fits Jasmin Repesa’s team perfectly. The former Fortitudo and Lottomatica coach is the biggest suspect to blame for an epic failure, when every expert foresaw at least one of the podium stairs. Croatia simply lost every game that counted, including a terrible quarterfinals against Slovenia, in whom Repesa missed on all crucial decisions and relied on a disastrous Zoran Planinic, probably the most overrated guard in Europe. The horizon binds the federation to change lead actors and director: Davor Kus, Sandro Nicevic, Nikola Vujcic, Nikola Prkacin have all arrived at the end. It’s time to renew, and Croatia isn’t lacking in the needed resources. Please, don’t keep on wasting this fortune!
Interesting names to watch: guard Toni Prostran, forward-center Ante Tomic, forward-center Mario Delas, center Tomislav Zubcic.
Absences: Andrei Kirilenko, Viktor Khryapa, J.R. Holden.
The Eurobasket 2007 gold medal was the fruit of a marvelous moment for the Russian national movement, for Russian players, for coach David Blatt. Two years later, only Sergey Monya, Sergey Bykov and Anton Ponkrashov remained from that success, with the remainder composed of young little-known gregarious youth and a last-minute naturalized Russian, i.e. Kelly McCarty in J.R. Holden’s place. Seventh place was much more promising than what people expected from a Russia renewed in names and style of play. Timofey Mozgov is now ready to be a leader in Euroleague as well, but remarkable was how Anton Ponkrashov has grown as a passer, or how Vitali Fridzon did the same in scoring from distance! The Eurobasket experience was positive for Russia, and the team-as-unit never gave up in lieu of a dangerous go-to guy, and that’s the answer coach Blatt wanted from his boys.
Interesting names: guard Alexei Shved, guard Dmitry Khvostov, forward Pavel Antipov, forward Semen Antonov.
Absences: Mehmet Okur.
Along with France, Turkey was one of the best two or three teams during the first phase, only to go down beginning with the quarterfinals (losing 74-76 against Greece), and continuing with the remaining matches against France (a 12-point loss) and Russia (lost by 23). Mentally, Hedo Turkoglu and companions were on holiday, after the delusion suffered by Vassilis Spanoulis and his 6-of-9 shooting from 3-point range.
There’s one year before the FIBA World Championship on Turkey’s homecourts begin, and Bogdan Tanjevic will work on a group that knows one another and has played together since youth competitions, a reason to believe Turkey could be one of the candidates for the silver medal (assuming the US wins gold, of course). Okur is out, and we don’t know if he’ll come back to the national team, so the major problem remains in the backcourt where Kerem Tunceri, Ender Arslan and Omer Onan are a mile behind the forwards (Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova, Semih Erden) and centers (Omer Asik, Oguz Savas) to whom pass the ball. Turkey needs to rediscover Cenk Akyol, who has a good opportunity at Avellino.
Interesting names to watch: guard Dogus Balbay, center Enes Kanter.
As for the rest, Lithuania is not to be judged based on Eurobasket 2009 performance as long as it finds a new playmaker after the retirement of Sarunas Jasikevicius (recall Ramunas Siskauskas’ absence). Augustas Peciukevicius could be a good name, but right now he’s still too young for a team that counts on Linas Kleiza, the Lavrinovic twins and prospect Donatas Motiejunas.
Poland disappointed its fans, and me, too. The impression is there were three above-average players (David Logan, Marcin Gortat, Maciej Lampe), a numerous group of role players (Michal Ignerski, Lukasz Koszarek, Szymon Szewczyk) and no coach, because the gap was very large, and it’s not normal when you can line up these names.
Cheers for FYR Macedonia (two wins and a half against Russia) and its leader Vrbica Stefanov in the last episode of a glorious career; nothing much can be said about a Latvia that can’t ask more of Andris Biedrins. Dirk Nowitzki’s Team Germany orphans closed their tournament with little success and the only good news is Robin Benzing; Israel, with a spectacular Lior Eliyahu and a regained Tal Burstein, must recriminate for losing to FYR Macedonia; on the other hand, Yotam Halperin is still too soft to aspire to an elite role in Euroleague.
Finally, Bulgaria and Great Britain … well, they’re happy to be back home.