Column: Remme's Take On This Summer's EuroBasket And FIBA Americas

Remme's Take On This Summer's EuroBasket And FIBA Americas Championship Tournaments

We were standing with new Wolves center Ronny Turiaf in the Clear Channel lobby waiting for the elevator on Wednesday morning when the conversation changed over to EuroBasket hoops. Turiaf, a native of Martinique in the Caribbean, regularly plays for the French National Team and did so in the 2012 Olympics. He did not participate in this year’s EuroBasket tournament, however, and like the rest of us has watched from afar.

And just like everyone else, he was surprised by the parity.

One thing Turiaf mentioned was that anyone really could beat anyone in this year’s tournament, and he’s right. The field was wide open. For instance, Spain is the two-time defending EuroBasket champion and won silver in the past two Olympics. In this year’s tourney, they lost games to Slovenia, Greece, Italy and France. France, who is playing in today’s championship game, lost to Germany, Great Britain, Lithuania and Serbia. There was no running the table this year.

What I enjoyed most about EuroBasket holds true with the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship games that ended earlier this month. There really was no telling who was going to come out on top. It’s no secret the game continues to expand globally, and with that comes a great crop of players all across the world playing for their respective countries for spots in next year’s World Cup, national pride and the chance to put themselves on the map. In both Slovenia and Venezuela, we saw some excellent basketball over the past month.

So what did we take away from it all? I compiled a few notes I thought I’d share before we close the chapter (briefly) on international ball and open up Training Camp in less than two weeks. Just a few tid-bits both near and far that I found to be noteworthy about these tournament.

  • The Basketball World Takes Notice: These tournaments are no longer a mystery outside the respective countries in which they’re played. These were events on the worldwide stage, and they received full-blown coverage by major media outlets. did a fantastic job streaming seemingly every game throughout the tournaments, and NBATV was also right there picking up coverage on television for the later championship rounds. On Twitter, basketball fans and reporters alike followed right along and gave their two cents analyzing plays and putting their spin on how players were performing. In a way, it was an extension of the NBA season. It’s been three months since the playoffs and there is still time before the preseason. People need their hoops fix, and this is a high-level way to do it.

  • NBA Players Did, Too: OK, not every NBA player watched every game from home, but there was significant interest in the FIBA Americas and EuroBasket tournaments because these guys had a lot of teammates and competitors who were playing each night. Just look at Friday’s semifinal between France and Spain: Spain has Rubio, Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon and Victor Claver on its roster, to name a few; France has Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw and Mickael Gelabale. Around here, I already mentioned Turiaf watched his fellow French teammates and gave his take on EuroBasket’s parity. Chase Budinger he tried to tune into games but never could quite find times that matched up with his Wolves teammates, so he followed along on Twitter. Dante Cunningham said he followed Twitter and Instagram to get the most direct updates, and he also looked up results on blogs. I found it interesting the lengths layers went to keep track of their fellow teammates.

  • Alexey Shved Remained Composed: Russia had a tough time in this year’s EuroBasket. After taking Bronze in London last year, Russia struggled to a 1-4 record and bowed out after the preliminary round. The bright spot on the team was Alexey Shved. The Wolves’ combo guard put together a strong performance at this year’s tourney, averaging 16.4 points per game while connecting on 46.5 percent of his field goals and averaging 4.8 assists. He dropped 25 against Finland and added 17 against both Italy and Greece. What impressed President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders most was the way he conducted himself on the court, especially being a leading player on his team at such a young age. “He kept his composure,” Saunders said, adding: “He didn’t get frustrated…I thought his stint there was very beneficial for him in how he played.”

  • J.J. Barea Shined All Summer: J.J. Barea had a stellar summer for Puerto Rico, first earning MVP honors and leading his team to the title in the Tuto Marchand Continental Cup, then continuing the charge in the FIBA Americas Championship. He ended FIBA averaging 15.6 points per game, shooting 50 percent from inside the arc and adding 38 percent shooting from 3-point range. He finished eighth overall in points per game during the tournament. His top game was a 30-point effort against Venezuela, and he also had a 24-point performance against Jamaica. Look for Barea to translate that into this upcoming season—that energy off the bench and scoring punch should be a nice complement to Rubio’s methodical passing precision on a roster far more balanced than in years past. “If they would’ve won [the tournament], he probably would’ve been MVP,” Saunders said. “He looks like he lost a little weight playing as much as he has. He looks in great shape.”

  • Ricky Rubio Wrapping Up Play Today: As this column is being written, Rubio has one last game to play for Team Spain in the third place game against Croatia. That game will be played at 10:30 a.m. CT on ESPN3. Rubio’s numbers have been up and down during this tournament, partially due to the make-up and game plan of Spain. He’s averaging 7.3 points and 3.1 assists per game—he had a personal tournament best seven assists in his first game, and he scored 10, 15 and 16 points in consecutive contests against the Czech Republic, Poland and Georgia in three straight wins at the end of the preliminary round. But he’s also had just one assist in three of his last four games and is averaging 16.6 minutes per game during that stretch. Spain also has point guard Jose Calderon on the roster, and that takes from the time Rubio gets the ball in his hand. “I’ve always said on Ricky, the NBA game really translates better for him sometimes than European or international, just the way he plays,” Saunders said. Still, having Rubio get good run in this offseason is important. He didn’t have a chance to do that last year coming off ACL surgery, and this is the first regular NBA offseason of his career. Rubio said at the end of the season last year that he wanted to work hard this summer since he wasn’t able to do basketball-related activities a year ago.

  • Wolves Still Promoted Internationally: One last note about our international players. They’ll be returning to Minnesota next week, and when they do they’ll start a 2013-14 campaign that includes two pretty significant international contests. The Wolves will play in the NBA Canada Series for the second straight year—they’ll face the Boston Celtics in Montreal during a preseason contest on Oct. 20. And on Dec. 4, the Wolves will play the San Antonio Spurs in Mexico City during a regular season contest. Both are significant, because the Wolves are front and center in the NBA’s initiative to further expand the game of basketball and the NBA in our neighboring North America countries. Given the Wolves’ international marketability—this year’s roster has players from seven different countries—Minnesota continues to increase its popularity around the world.

  • By my estimation, we’ll have the balance of the roster back in Minnesota by Sept. 27. When they get here, they—and the rest of us—will flip the switch to NBA mode. But we’re already pretty primed because of the tournaments we just got done following. Both in Europe and South America, Wolves and other NBA players put on quite a show over the past month. Now it’s time for the next show to begin.

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