10 Things You Need to Know About EuroBasket 2007
Posted Sep 24 2007 12:55PM
NEW YORK, Sept. 21, 2007 -- It's been five days since EuroBasket 2007 ended in Spain, but the tournament is worth revisiting. Sixteen teams squared off in the two-week long competition creating thousands of basketball memories in the process. Since your brain is too crammed with ATM pin numbers, email passwords and phone numbers as it is, I've taken the liberty to shrink everything that went down into a succinct top 10 list to cram into your hippocampus.
1. Approximately five percent of the NBA played in it.
With the NBA season still nearly six weeks away, 24 of the 450 or so players in the league congregated for EuroBasket. Basically, that's the equivalent of a really good summer barbeque party. Only it lasted for two weeks, which is even better. Here's a nice picture guide as to who was there. The 24 players were spread out over 10 countries: France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey.
2. Russia won it.
As basketball history will show you, a lot of times what decides who wins and who loses is pretty simple. Whichever team has the best player out of the 10 men out on the court has a decided advantage for the most part. Well, the best player at EuroBasket was Utah's Andrei Kirilenko. In the semifinals, Russia was tied with Lithuania in the third quarter after surrending a 19-point lead, but AK-7, (No. 47 isn't eligible in Europe), scored six straight and then had a block on defense to give teammate J.R. Holden an open look, pushing Russia's lead to eight. His line against Lithuania read 29 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three blocks and his team won 86-74.
The championship was an even better game as Holden hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds left to secure the 60-59 win for Russia over Spain. Kirilenko scored a game-high 17 points to go with five rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block. Fellow Russian Victor Khryapa, of the Chicago Bulls, chipped in seven points, 12 rebounds and three steals in the title game.
"It is the best achievement in my professional career," Kirilenko told NBA.com's John Hareas. "We played as a team. We really deserved that win."
3. Spain didn’t.
When you add up the facts that Spain was coming off the 2006 FIBA World Championship, playing in its home country and boasting five NBA players on its roster, its no surprise that they were the prohibitive favorites to win EuroBasket. Only, they didn't. The tournament didn't start well for them when they were shocked by Croatia, 85-84 in the preliminary round. Pau Gasol, Jose Calderon, Jorge Garbajosa, Sergio Rodriguez, Juan Carlos Navarro and Co. righted the Santa Maria, if you will, and tore through the qualifying round -- including a dismantling of Russia, who were undefeated at the time. In the quarterfinals Spain really took it to Dirk Nowitzki and Germany, holding Dirk to just 11 points and won easily, 83-55. Next Spain knocked off the defending EuroBasket Champions, Greece, in the semifinals, but in the championship, Holden's shot dashed their title dreams.
4. The “International Triple Crown” competed in it.
Last season an unprecedented string of events occurred in the NBA. It started in June of 2006 when the Raptors selected Italy-native Andrea Bargnani with the No. 1 pick. The next step was Germany-born Dirk Nowitzki winning the Maurice Podoloff Trophy as the league's MVP. The finale was Frenchman Tony Parker being named MVP of The Finals. Here at the league we refer to the troika of events as the "International Triple Crown." All three jewels in the crown competed in EuroBasket. Bargnani paired with Golden State rookie Marco Belinelli to take Italy to the qualifying round before bowing out to Nowitzki and Germany. Nowitzki and Germany finished off the tournament by defeating Croatia to end up in fifth. Parker joined the Suns' Boris Diaw, the Lakers' Ronny Turiaf and the Nuggets' Yakhouba Diawara on France and made it to the qualifying round.
5. Greece had a comeback for the ages.
You know how you never forget a great game? Remember last season's D-II NCAA National Championship Game in basketball or Boise St. pulling off that bowl game miracle? That was Greece against Slovenia in the quarterfinals. The same team that upset the U.S. in the 2006 FIBA Worlds came back from 12 points down with less than three minutes remaning against Rasho Nesterovic's squad. "Slovenia played more intelligent than we did and better than us for 39 minutes," said Greece's Theo Papaloukas whose layup with 6.7 seconds remaining capped his team's rally and secured the 63-62 victory. "But we played better in the last minute. We had no chioce."
6. David Blatt had a coming out party.
He once found success on American soil as a collegiate player for Princeton University, now David Blatt may return as a hot, young professional coach. Blatt, who coaches Efes Pilsen in Turkey (who will play against the Grizzlies in Europe Live next month) for a living, moonlighted as Russia's head coach and took them all the way to the Gold. Henry Abbott of TrueHoop on ESPN.com linked to a Jerusalem Post article in which Israel's head coach, Tzvika Sherf, is quoted as saying, ""If a European coach will reach the NBA in the coming years it will be David. David is very similar to Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. They're both Americans who coached successfully in Europe for several seasons. David has the vision, ability and contacts to get to the NBA."
7. A trio of NBA players led Lithuania to the Bronze.
They might not have the name recognition of a Nowitzki or a Bargnani, but Sarunas Jasikevicius, Linas Kleiza and Darius Songaila went home with medals while Dirk and Andrea didn't. Sarunas, who the Warriors recently requested waivers on, led the tournament in assists while the Nuggets' Kleiza and the Wizards' Songaila combined to chip in 21.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game during the competition.
8. Yaniv Green was the best player you’ve never heard of.
In six games, Israel's Yaniv Green averaged 11.8 points per game (15th in the tourney), 9.3 rebounds (1st) and 1.5 blocks (4th). Green's chances of playing in the NBA are probably slim seeing as he plays power forward but stands just 6-7 and already is 27-years old, but regardless, he had a spectacular tourney and deserves some recognition.
9. It wasn’t just Europeans.
This blurb will hardly do him justice, so please read Chris Sheridan's profile, but Russia's point guard J.R. Holden isn't Russian. He isn't even European. He's American. Holden, who ended up clinching the title for Russia with his aforementioned jumper, was playing overseas a couple years ago watching the Russian national team play and noticed the hole at the point guard position. He joked around that he would play for them. Little did he know that a year later Russia's team president would secure him a Russian passport and he would actually start playing with the team. "All I do is play basketball as a Russian," Holden told ESPN.com. "I pay taxes in the U.S, I live in the U.S, I do everything in the U.S. except play basketball."
10. The players care.
"For any athlete it's a great experience to try to try to qualify for the Olympics." -- Tony Parker.
Ask one of the NBA players present at EuroBasket why they are there, and you're not going to get a canned answer. Their glare thickens, their words come out with weight to them. The question shouldn't be, "Why do you come to EuroBasket?" but, "Why wouldn't you?"