fibaeurope.com posed the big questions to three of their journalists who will be covering EuroBasket in Slovenia, beginning next week. Check out how they see this tournament unfolding.
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|Dimitris Kontos is a regular writer for fibaeurope.com but made his biggest contribution to basketball on the court, during his teenage years, by positioning himself out of the way of those who could actually play and thus avoiding causing injuries to at least four kids who went on to become international players.||Mark Woods is a UK-based writer and broadcaster who has been covering basketball for over 20 years. In addition to working with FIBA Europe TV, he appears on Sky Sports and the BBC as well as contributing to publications in the UK and United States.||David Hein has used basketball to explore the world for more than a decade, writing for FIBA Europe, FIBA, Euroleague and plenty of outlets along the way. The main man at heinnews - and mastermind behind the Taking The Charge podcast - appreciates the beauty of the international game, digs youth hoops and loves the extra pass. |
|Tony Parker may still have more pressure on him than most may think...|
DK: Nemanja Nedovic of Serbia, Nikola Vucevic and Bojan Dubljevic of Montenegro. If their teams make it far in this tournament, it will be because one of these players has turned into the star of the show in Slovenia.
MW: Strange as it may seem, no-one's got more pressure than Tony Parker. They have enjoyed a golden generation but France remain the nearly men of basketball and we saw in their friendly with Spain last week that they still have a capacity to melt down when victories are close at hand. They have talent and experience but can Parker finally drag them to a title?
TP aside, I want to see what Dario Saric can accomplish. The Croat is only 19, so let's not expect too much. But will we witness a future superstar breaking out?
DH: Alexis Ajinca – Sure it’s easy to look at Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum for France. But Ajinca will be needed to play well in the blocks for a Les Bleus team lacking big men. Also watch Tyrese Rice, who has plenty of weapons to pass to for an up-start Montenegro team. Another guy to watch is Victor Claver, who could be the key to Spain’s chances in Slovenia, given all the missing players for Espana.
UNDER THE RADAR
DK: Poland and Croatia are in danger of not even advancing to the Second Round but paradoxically, if they do, then the sky is the limit. It will largely depend on whether the frontcourt pairs of Marcin Gortat-Maciej Lampe and Ante Tomic-Luka Zoric deliver the goods. No team, except maybe the Miami Heat, plays 'small-ball' out of choice, and if you have quality big men performing according to their potential, you win basketball games.
MW: There are no real under-achievers out there who could come to Slovenia and surprise, like we saw with Serbia in 2009. But a team that deserves greater consideration is Greece, who have had some outstanding results and finally an (almost) full array of talents on board. They're being over-looked in some quarters but they shouldn't be. Elsewhere, don't be shocked if Sweden or Finland make the quarter-finals. Both are profiting from good development ecosystems and can make some noise.
DH: F.Y.R. of Macedonia - They were the darlings of EuroBasket 2011, shocking observers along the way. So, what do they do for an encore? Well, the whole team - full of veterans - is back. It's a defensively sound side which will stay in games late with a great scorer (Bo McCalebb) and two guys who can hit big shots (Pero Antic, Vlado Ilievski). Also, don't forget, Antic and Todor Gechevski will be hanging up their F.Y.R. of Macedonia sneakers after tournament. I'm not saying, I'm just saying...
DK: Tony Parker, despite being consistently overlooked when the discussion turns to the Top-5 NBA point guards, is the most complete playmaker in the world right now. And he really, really wants to win this EuroBasket. But the Dirk Nowitzki phenomenon of 2005, where the best player in the tournament (and the world, possibly) was voted as the MVP despite his team finishing as runners-up, will not be repeated again. So France would really, really have to win this one, for Tony to get the award, even if he averages 30 points and 20 assists-per-game.
|Marc Gasol is going a long way to making up for the absence of his brother|
MW: Marc Gasol has really taken on the mantle of leading Spain in the absence of his brother Pau and he looks every bit the NBA All Star. I watched him against Great Britain and it’s striking how vocal he is now, in addition to his undoubted potency in the paint. But Parker and Vassilis Spanoulis are also potential MVPs if France and Greece shine.
DH: Tony Parker and France know Spain are weakened and this is their chance. And Parker will get it done - and grab his MVP crown.
DK: Spain are the favourites. It's true that Lithuania, Greece and others have stacked up on big bodies that could limit Marc Gasol or even take him off his game completely, and this time around there is no Pau, no Serge Ibaka, no Felipe Reyes. But Spain are still the only team who can keep up the same pace for 40 minutes. Sergio Rodriguez with Jose Calderon (and Ricky Rubio can join the party) have licence to run - and pass, and shoot - relentlessly.
MW: The head says Spain, the heart says France, the money goes on … Greece. With so many A-List players missing, there’s a touch of unpredictability about this EuroBasket. I’d also like to see Serbia fulfil some of their potential but that is a great unknown.
DH: France in the final - tough not to see that happening. Spain still have plenty of weapons. Greece and Turkey look semi-final bound.
DK: Any nation with a population of over 40 million people that is not called Spain, France or Turkey and hopes to make it to the quarter-finals.
MW: Russia looks in real danger of not just failing to contend, but perhaps also in failing to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. 12 months on from claiming Olympic bronze, internal politics have wrecked their preparations. The consequences, I anticipate, will be felt on the floor.
DH: Hard to count out any team coached by Dusan Ivkovic, but Serbia face an extremely tough group and will not advance. And sorry, but Lithuania's Mantas Kalnietis isn't that convincing as a point guard.