EuroBasket is such a tease. One second you’re being reminded of exactly why you love basketball so much. The next…poof! It’s gone. But luckily, not for long.
The French National team defeated Lithuania 80-66 on Sunday in the EuroBasket final in Slovenia, bringing a close to the major three-week international tournament. The top-seven finishers in the tournament automatically qualified for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, and while they didn’t exactly do it the easy way, Nemanja Nedovic and the Serbian National team finished their EuroBasket 2013 campaign on a high note, beating Italy 76-64 to secure the seventh and final spot.
So what takeaway, if any, is there for Warriors fans? Well, as far as France walking away with the gold…not much. The Dubs’ faithful are probably tired of watching Tony Parker hit clutch shot after clutch shot on his way to victory, so let’s just spare you the painful flashbacks and not focus on that, shall we? Instead, I offer you this hopefully-pleasing respite: NBA training camp hasn’t even started yet, and Nemanja Nedovic is already in mid-season form.
Better? Yea, I had a feeling.
Listen, almost every NBA player uses the offseason to work on their game. It’s just a matter of the extent and environment that determine how effective that training will be. So while most rookies entering the league have been working with personal trainers and playing two’s with some peers and former teammates, that’s not exactly the same as playing meaningful minutes in one of the major international basketball tournaments throughout the world, which is precisely what Nedovic has been doing. Furthermore, it’s not as if he’s been going up against a lack of talent. Nope, the aforementioned Parker, Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Nicolas Batum, Goran Dragic, Jose Calderon, Nikola Vucevic, Jonas Valanciunas, and others form a collection of NBA talent not often equaled outside of the actual NBA season, and it’s exactly that level of competition that cannot be replicated in simple gym workouts.
Nedovic continues to exhibit the skills and promise that vaulted him into the first round of the June draft, and has even opened some eyes to the possibility that the scouting reports may have missed on a couple details. We’ve gone over this before, but again, his number one attribute is and will always be his athleticism. Including the dunk below, Nedovic accounted for not one, not two, but three “Dunks of the Game” throughout the tournament, which has got to lead the field.
But on top of that, he showed off some shooting range that many people (and opponents, obviously) didn’t know he had. In the game against France, while often being guarded by Parker, Nedovic went 5-of-8 from behind the arc on the way to his tournament-high of 17 points and an impressive Serbian victory over the eventual champs. It’s not as if the Warriors were lacking in the by-no-means-do-you-leave-him-open department prior to Nedovic’s arrival, but if he can add to that arsenal, even with just the occasional contribution, then things just went from bad to worse for the oppositions’ perimeter defenders.
But forget about stats for a second. I said it before and I’ll say it again: for a player like Nedovic in this scenario, it’s more important how he looks than the actual numbers he puts up. Under this frame of logic, Nedovic’s experience at EuroBasket 2013 likely would have been a success even if he had played sparingly. Why, you might ask?
Because, as the Dubs learned in their second-round playoff exit…there is no substitute for experience.
Yes, we can all agree that EuroBasket isn’t entirely the equivalent of the NBA. But after helping lead his national team to an absolutely necessary qualifier in his first major international experience, Nedovic has already made leaps and bounds in one of those areas that you just can’t teach. It’s the exposure to the critical moments in a tournament such as EuroBasket that will serve Nedovic throughout his career, in more ways than one. Let’s put it this way. If Serbia loses that game to Italy, by all accounts, their international performance would have been a failure. But, they came through with a win when they had to. Hmm…where might we have heard that before? I seem to remember a young Warriors squad that endured some of the same kinds of trials and tribulations before reaching new heights in the not-too-distant past. Just as experience can be the element that pushes a team over the top, it too can function as the catalyst by which a player reaches the next level.
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||27||11||4||6||1|
|F.Y.R. of Macedonia||25||11||1||0||1|
This is not to say that Nedovic will make the seamless transition from European international play to the NBA. That’s just not how it works. The talent level will be consistently greater and he won’t be able to get by on athleticism alone. However, what Nedovic has shown and learned playing in EuroBasket should do nothing but speed up the process. At the very least we know he’s already in playing shape. Now comes the introduction to training camp, the preseason, and eventually the fulfillment of his regular season rookie campaign.
It’s hard to know what to realistically expect from the young Serb, but heck, that’s what makes this game so fun to watch. Nedovic’s progression is just one of a plethora of enticing storylines that are sure to persist throughout the season. Here’s hoping that World Cup berth isn’t the only major team accomplishment he experiences this year.