|Jeff Taylor has been covering European basketball since 1997, when he first worked on the television program SLAM. He has been a basketball writer and broadcaster since that time, traveling the continent and covering the game in depth for FIBA Europe since its launch in 2003.|
Here are some closing thoughts from what truly was a memorable EuroBasket. Bear in mind I saw all the games in Group C (Warsaw), Group F (Lodz) and the Quarter-Finals, Semis and Finals (gold and bronze-medal games) in Katowice.
Goran Dragic was the best player in Group C in Warsaw and then had to go and suffer a knee injury! That didn't help injury-riddled Slovenia.
Georgios Printezis, man alive! This guy has turned into a monster on defense. Is that because of Greece coach Jonas Kazlauskas? Printezis was especially a beast on D against Turkey. It is a scary prospect for Greece's opponents next year when he teams up with a healthy Dimitris Diamantidis at the FIBA World Championship.
Georgios Printezis was a beast on defense for Greece.
Greece rookie Nick Calathes is better than advertised.
Speaking of D, the best defender at the EuroBasket was Rudy Fernandez. Does it stand to reason, then, that the best defender on the best team that wins because of its defense should get MVP of the EuroBasket? That's what Fernandez gets for being Pau Gasol's teammate. Swat machine Gasol nevertheless deserved the MVP award. Fernandez, by the way, led the EuroBasket in steals while Gasol led the tournament in blocks.
All Defensive Team: Stefan Markovic, Serbia; Nicolas Batum, France; Printezis, Greece; Fernandez, Spain; Pau Gasol, Spain.
The Big Thank You Award: Poland big man Marcin Gortat deserves a pat on the back for being so generous with his time to fans, and media, and for being the face of the EuroBasket (at least through the Qualifying Round before his team was eliminated).
Lithuania edged F.Y.R. of Macedonia and Slovenia for the gold medal in the fan competition. The drums, the number of fans at games, even from the Quarter-Finals on when their national team wasn't there - awesome! The 2010 FIBA World Championship will have a lot better atmosphere if Lithuania receive a wild card this December. If you want atmosphere, give a wild card to the Macedonians, too.
Best play of the tournament: Turkey's attempt to beat Serbia at end of regulation in Group F. Kerem Tunceri changed the play that had been drawn up by coach Bogdan Tanjevic when Serbia boss Dusan Ivkovic put Kosta Perovic guarding the inbounds throw (from Tunceri) on the sideline. Tunceri passed into the backcourt to Endar Arslan and then sprinted towards the basket. With Serbia biting and going for Arslan, he made like a quarterback on a draw play and split the defense with a slick pass that found Tunceri in full stride. The guard missed his lay-up and Hedo Turkoglu's tip-in was deemed a split second after the buzzer. Turkey then won in overtime.
Most Improved Player from 2006 FIBA World Championship: This is a no-brainer - Endar Arslan of Turkey.
Nearly Men: Slovenia finished fourth. They deserved a title considering the resolve they showed despite injuries to captain Matjaz Smodis, Dragic and Uros Slokar.
The Gutsy Call: Flashback to this - Spain coach Sergio Scariolo gives the ball to rookie Sergio Llull in the closing seconds against Turkey. Lull drives into the lane, explodes to the basket and has his shot blocked. Video replays I saw never showed a foul, but later a photograph is produced which shows a Turkey player raking Llull's left arm. I think Scariolo was right, that Llull did get fouled. However, I also believe that non-call helped Spain. It put them into a mini-crisis and helped them sharpen their focus. We all know what happened next - a five-game winning streak to end the EuroBasket.
Biggest Mystery: How did Croatia, a team on the rise with veteran players, lose so many games and also fail to get a medal?
Penthouse to Outhouse: Turkey played better than everyone for the first five days of the competition and then slipped up against Slovenia when Engin Atsur missed a three-ball from the left corner at the buzzer in Lodz. Turkey then lost to Greece in a Quarter-Final overtime heart-breaker. Tanjevic's team then lost the plot. They blew a 19-point lead to France in the Classification Round and ended up falling to Les Bleus. Russia sent Turkey home with a last-day demolition.
Bone-headed Decision Of The EuroBasket: PA Announcer introduced Allen Iverson to the crowd in Katowice at half-time of Spain's Semi-Final with Greece.
Best Decision: Security didn't allow Iverson to walk onto the court.
Best Comment: Colleague said to me, "What does Allen Iverson have to do with European basketball? He is everything that European ball is not."
Best Dunker: Victor Claver caught the ball in mid-air in the final against Serbia, reached back over his head with both hands and dunked with authority in his title-game cameo. The way Nicolas Batum slammed and jammed against Spain and Turkey, though, made him the best dunker.
Most entertaining coach in press conferences: Russia boss David Blatt.
Most philosophical coach in pressers: Russia boss David Blatt
Most honest coach: Sergio Scariolo: "I want to thank my coaching staff for their advice, as well as the Spanish federation for letting me drive this Ferrari."
Funniest Coach Comment: Bulgaria coach Pini Gershon said after loss to Lithuania: "The biggest tragedy would
|Milos Teodosic of Serbia proved that he can come up big in pressure situations.|
Best serious comment: A national team coach watching EuroBasket says reform is needed in qualifying campaigns because basketball is going to all but die for teams stuck in Division B. It's tough to sell the sport to fans when the big boys don't come to town. The lack of competition with the top teams doesn't help, either.
Nicest Move By Coach: Scariolo played reserve Carlos Cabezas big minutes in Spain's Semi-Final win over Greece, and then inserted him into game against Serbia. I've never seen a happier player. He had been eaten alive by Dragic in Group C, but Cabezas proved in his last two appearances that he merited his place in the Spain team. His teammates were even happier that Cabezas played big minutes against Greece and produced. That's what I call a team.
Best Clutch Shooter: Milos Teodosic.
MVP who didn't play for Spain: Erazem Lorbek, Slovenia.
Best coach: Dirk Bauermann gave hope to Germany post-Nowitzki, and really, there were good jobs done by a lot of coaches. For me, Jure Zdovc of Slovenia was the best. He got the maximum out of a team that was nearly destroyed by injuries, and he was pure class from start to finish.
Best rebuilding job: Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic.
Best young player other than Ricky Rubio: This is a close call between 19-year-old Milan Macvan of Serbia and 20-year-old Antoine Diot of France? I think Macvan is better now, but Diot is a big-time player waiting for a major breakout.
Best shot: France guard Nando De Colo's turnaround buzzer-beater against Greece. Had France lost that game, they would have avoided Spain in the Quarter-Finals, and they knew it. But they won anyway. The day a player intentionally tries to lose a game to get a better opponent in the Quarter-Finals is the day I stop watching basketball.