Monday, August 29, 2011
A Beginner's Guide To Viewing EuroBasket 2011
If you have no idea what the hell kind of tournament you're about to watch, because you're starving for some competitive basketball and feel the need to experiment, then I will assist in converting you to the dark side of European basketball. Even if you're on the fence about viewing this 3-week tournament, it's my job to acclimate you.
I'm not going into details over matchup predictions, FIBA's rules, or even how the tournament format works. Not in this piece. You can find all that on the official EuroBasket website or at a million other websites. I'm going into the obscure stuff that's either interesting, fun, or both. Whether you're watching an international online streaming link, or from ESPN3.com, or the few games that ESPN's family of networks will broadcast on television, you will notice these things in due time.
Yes, I feel the FIBA Americas tourney is inferior and I won't cover it (I'll watch some games). Here are ten things you should know off hand before EuroBasket gets underway:
1. These Guys Don't Play Like Pansies
People tend to blame Europe and the Latin American countries for the infusion of flopping, whining, and other theatrics in the NBA. Even though there are plenty of NBA guys in this EuroBasket, you won't see the normal Oscar worthy performances you might see in your usual Association game (unless you're Spain). It seems like Americans have become the bigger culprits now.
In EuroBasket, there's a lot of banging around and the refs tend to let a lot of contact go inside the paint. There are a lot of tactics as well, not much isolation ball (Although Turkey would object). So many pick-and-rolls and a lot of off-ball movement. There is so much cutting that goes on you almost need two extra pairs of eyes to keep up. You'll still see a lot of dunks and alley oops.
The one draw back with the extra contact is the refs could interject and 'slow things down' which hurts any basketball game. Then you get to see coaches and players go berserk, as well as snarky comments from broadcast commentators.
2. Brothers Everywhere!
No, I'm not just referring to Marc and Pau Gasol. Wait a minute, Goran Dragic has a brother, and he's a shooting guard?! If only Mickael Pietrus wasn't hurt, guess Florent will just have to do. Nick Calathes' brother Pat almost made the Greek 12-man roster?! There are more obscure pairings as well. FYROM has brothers in their final squad. Bulgaria had two sets of brothers (including a pair of twins) during their preseason matches. Montenegro also had two sets of brothers during training as only Boris Bakic remains. Latvia has the Bertans brothers. Ksistof is the only healthy Lavrinovic sibling as Darjus picked up a very late injury for Lithuania.
You can potentially make a drinking game out of this. Every time one brother assists another brother for a bucket, take a shot (or maybe for the first week test it out with beer).
3. Adopting A Team Makes The Experience So Much Better
Just like loving the NBA is easier if you have a team affiliation, same thing applies with EuroBasket. If you're a front runner fan who once loved Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James in that order, then you should probably cheer on the favorites Spain. You're an Atlanta Hawks fan, support Zaza Pachulia's Georgia squad. A Houston Rockets fan? Cheer on Goran Dragic's Slovenian team. Denver Nuggets supporters, feel free to go crazy for Kosta Koufos and Greece.
If you're an addicted gambler who needs to bet on games to maintain some type of significance, check out the betting sites and see what team with decent odds can net you some cash (then proceed to pray to God they hoist the cup). Just try to practice saying the players' names before the first game so you can scream them out at the computer screen or television. 'DAMN IT JAGLA, STOP FALLING ON YOUR ASS YOU CLUMSY BUM!'
4A. These Are Not Your Elderly & Decrepit Basketball Fans
Lithuania is hosting and let me tell you, they REALLY LOVE their basketball. This is a nation of 3 million people and it looks like every Lithuanian is a fan of the sport. And yet they have some of the loudest and most energetic fans in the world, and they'll be on display during Lithuania matches (So you kind of hope they make a deep tourney run).
Then you have other countries' fans attending, bringing their own colors, drums, songs, and chants (Luol Deng's chant!). It truly will be one massive party. It also helps when a nation embraces prostitution like the host nation does. Oh yeah, no beer limit either. Drink as much as you desire.
4B. HOT CHICKS (and I'm sure some dudes if you roll that way)!!!
This kind of goes off the whole 'there are no old geezers sitting in the first 10 rows and making zero noise' concept. It won't be like the old ABC days where they had the famous 'boob cam' (though they never called it that), but there will be a lot of eye candy to be had. Like the World Cup, you will see a fair amount of international hot flavor in those seats.
Of course the bonus, THEY CARE ABOUT BASKETBALL! That's immediate wife potential in my book.
5. Random African-American Guards Popping Up
No, that black guy driving to the hole isn't a real FYROMian, he's Bo McCalebb who is a naturalized citizen of FYROM but born in Louisiana. He's being guarded in that photo by Bosnia & Herzigovina's Henry Domercant (From Illinois). Both nations actually have a few Americans in their preseason rosters.
FIBA has very light restrictions on who can play for what country (See Serge Ibaka and Spain). Montenegro has Omar Cook. Earl Rowland is a German playing for Bulgaria. Poland has Thomas Kelati. The list goes on. Most of these guys though not good enough to play in the NBA, are keeping their naturalized countries relevant in this international competition.
This is a growing trend that some nations either shun or accept. Either way, it's a way to increase parity and makes some of these normally weak basketball countries rather decent.
6. The Wave & DJ Music Are Common
I doubt you'll see a beach ball, but you will see a good amount of organized chants and waves without the need for the P.A. announcer to do anything. Don't get me wrong, these spectators LOVE their basketball and won't distract themselves from viewing the game.
During timeouts, DJs whip out all kinds of old school and relatively new music. Some of it is awesome, other times it can be a little quirky. Keeps the fans energized (also the skanky cheerleaders help and give you the strange urge to slip them a few Euros).
7. Whistling Replaces Booing
You will notice pretty quickly that not many Europeans boo, it's usually whistling you hear when there is discontent to be shown. Also on free throws, instead of being quiet for their own player, the fans may clap and cheer the ball through the hole. No, it's not a coincidence I'm slipping in a lot of Greek highlights.
I guess this is perfect for hockey enthusiasts. When two countries hit the basketball floor, there is always some type of rivalry you may hear about. Whether it's political, two players on the same team, two players who have scuffled in the past. You'll see some games become blowouts and you know losing teams get chippy in those situations. Any way, all of those elements (and more) can fuel the high potential for flagrant fouls, ejections, and fisticuffs.
Last year we saw Greece get into a big fight with Serbia in the final tune-up tournament before the World Championships. Then earlier this month we saw Antonis Fotsis and Jan Jagla get into a tussle. I will say that this competition will miss Darko Milicic and Kaspars Kambala's swag.
9. There's Still a Lot of NBA Name Power
I can't remember the last time EuroBasket had this many NBA players taking part in helping their country qualify for the Olympics.
These are just some of the current NBA guys participating: Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, Zaza Pachulia, Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Kaman, Luol Deng, Kosta Koufos, Andrea Bargnani, Danilo Gallinari, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko, Timofey Mozgov, Goran Dragic, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Hedo Turkoglu, Omer Asik, Kyrylo Fesenko, and several more.
Then there are the dozens of players that have the talent and the drive to play on the NBA stage. This leads to some pretty phenomenal endings, games, and tournaments as a whole. Plenty of excitement and drama to be had this year.
10. It's a Great Introduction to EuroLeague Ball
Let's be real folks, considering how the NBAPA and owner meetings have been conducted (or not been conducted at all), the chances of no 2011-2012 NBA season occurring grow higher. David Stern and Billy Hunter don't appear to be in any type of hurry to get anything done. I pray that changes, but there's a lot of stubbornness at the negotiating table.
So if you end up checking out this EuroBasket competition and find yourself enjoying it, I fully recommend watching the club leagues starting in September. After all, so many NBAers are bailing for overseas. Watch EuroLeague action and I promise you won't be at the NBA's mercy come fall, winter, and spring. The other two continental club competitions, EuroCup and EuroChallenge, are more for the diehards (There's also a big quality drop-off).
Anyway, I really hope this piece has been useful to you and that EuroBasket is filling up your free time slots on whatever calendar you may use.