Fratello has entrusted naturalized citizen, Pooh Jeter, one of the best guards overseas, to orchestrate the offense, consistently finding the shooter with the hot hand, and keeping the offense chugging along. As a hard playing team who gives everyone a togh time, Coach Fratello has set this team up to be the type of group capable of pulling off a big time upset when their shots are falling.
8. Losing a top level NBA star can crush a national team program pretty quickly. While Russia and Germany have both been two of the stronger European national teams over the last decade, both of them were eliminated in the first round. Russia came in without Andrei Kirelenko, the jack of all trades forward who has long been the centerpiece of their program, Victor Kryhapa, who is like a mini Kirelenko, and Timofey Mozgov, who has become one of the best centers in Europe. Any one of these players possibly could have been the difference maker to push Russia into the second round.
While Team Germany may have played very hard in this tournament, they just aren’t the same without Dirk Nowitzki in the fold. Dirk is the type of superstar that can put a team into the medal conversation by himself. Not to mention that Germany also missed Dennis Schroeder and Elias Harris, who are both preparing for their rookie NBA seasons, and center Chris Kaman, who opted to sit out when Dirk didn’t commit to playing.
With that core, along with center Tibor Pleiss, Germany could have been a contender next summer. However, now they are in rebuilding mode, and will need to make a big improvement to have a successful transition post-Dirk.
Spain has the kind of depth to play without a transcendent star like Pau Gasol, and still be excellent. Without both Pau and Juan Carlos Navarro, they will be far more unlikely to upset Team USA next summer. However, in this setting, where they don’t have to face Team USA, they have the horses to contend.
Don’t forget that Nikola Mirotic has a Spanish passport, and he could be a huge addition to an already loaded team that is itching for another crack at LeBron and Co. next summer.
9. The competition system in Eurobasket can be very frustrating. Going into the tournament, many pundits around Europe expected the 24-team competition to be quite watered down, with teams like Belgium, Great Britain and Finland scoffed at for not being at the level. Throughout this tournament, we have seen that many teams, especially the smaller national teams, have made great strides, and overall, the first round featured many competitive games, with the Great Britain squad managing to pull out two big W’s.
However, what has been a drag on this competition is that in the second round, the teams that advance bring in their records from the first round only from the games against the two teams in their group that advanced. This means that Greece, which went 3-2 in the first round, became 0-2 going into the third stage. In addition, they only get the chance to play 3 more games, so basically blowing one game in the second round disqualifies them.
The system would make more sense if teams either started fresh in the second round, or brought their entire record with them. As such, a team can win 60% of its games, and still not advance to the playoff, which doesn’t seem terribly fair. The system in the World Cup, where after the first stage it becomes one and done, will make the competition a lot less quirky, and add a March Madness type of excitement that will make the games all the more thrilling.
10. Being physical and tough in Europe will get you called for fewer fouls than if you play soft.
One of the most noticeable things throughout the tournament is how much aggressive play is being rewarded by the referees. Teams that play physical and make the first push get the calls far more often than those that shy away from contact. NBA officials should take note that in the playoffs, the more physical teams should be rewarded. While playing finesse is fun to watch, when it comes to critical points in the game, players should be encouraged to give an all-out effort, and it allows for outstanding games, like the magnificent upset Greece pulled over Spain.
AJ Mitnick is an American living in Israel and working for Maccabi Rishon Lezion of the Israeli Basketball Super League. A graduate of IDC Herzliya, Mitnick also blogs at mindlessdribble.net and is pursuing a pro basketball coaching license from the Wingate Institute in Israel. Follow him on Twitter.
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