This is what I just learned from Mark Woods who is a sports journalist and blogging on the UK version of the NBA.
Sam spent two years of his career in Europe. Unlike Memphis’ Marc Iavaroni, who told me his time in Italy and Spain, influenced his thoughts on basketball, the reigning NBA Coach of the Year doesn’t appear to see much merit in the European game. In fact, he claims he didn’t watch any of the recent Eurobasket tournament – even though Jose Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa, his Raptors charges, were in action there.
“I played in Europe so I know that the game is totally different,” Mitchell said. Totally? That’s an exaggeration perhaps.
“If you have 16 points a game in Europe you are considered a high scorer.” And so…? Is the new NBA order not preaching shared offense and defense-first?
“There are a lot more things you can do to slow the game down than in an NBA game where it is more wide open.” Actually I’d argue there are just as many in Europe, if not more, simply because there’s a much greater commitment to team defense.
So Sam, when you’re over, take a good look around. Soak it in. You might even learn something.
Now I know that Sam Mitchell is a good and smart coach – well he has to be since he is the coach of the year, right? But I must say that things have changed in Europe and you just can’t ignore it especially when some of your best players are from Europe.
I will let you know how the training camp for the Raptors goes in Italy – especially the game against an Euroleague team: Lottomatica Roma. Maybe I will get a chance to ask Sam if he really did not watch ONE game of the European Championship…
EDIT: I just talked to FIBA basketball guru Jeff Taylor and I got some interesting news which I did not know. He tells me that Sam did not play his Europeans Bargnani and Garbajosa in the beginning until GM Colangelo told him to play them.
We know the rest of the story – the Raptors did well and Sam ended up being coach of the year…