NBA Sunday: Kicking Off EuroBasket 2011
Kicking off EuroBasket 2011
While we’ve been able to content ourselves reasonably well this summer with Drew League games, charity competitions, and news of international signings (or flirtations), but we’re about to see our first legitimate basketball competition involving NBA players since the Finals ended. EuroBasket 2011 starts on Wednesday, August 31.
This is FIBA’s big biannual event, which alternates between serving as the FIBA World Championships (which Spain won in 2009) and a qualifying tournament for the Olympics. This year it’s the latter, as the top two teams will be guaranteed spots in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. With 28 NBA players involved in the tournament, over a third of which play for either Spain or France, there’s a strong potential for this to be a pretty entertaining couple weeks of basketball.
Not that it wouldn’t be without all the NBA guys, but it’s the NBA names that we know, so those are the ones we (and SportsCenter) are going to be watching most closely.
Spain, the defending champion, has to be considered an early favorite, especially with a frontcourt anchored by the Gasol brothers and Oklahoma City breakout forward Serge Ibaka. New Timberwolves addition Ricky Rubio will run the floor for the Spanish squad, and Rudy Fernandez will supplement him at shooting guard. Toss in former NBA guard Juan Carlos Navarro, and the team looks as unbeatable as any team in the tournament.
The French team, however, also boasts some firepower, especially with the addition this year of Bulls center Joakim Noah. Tony Parker will run the point, and Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, and Kevin Seraphin also are current NBA players representing France. Mickael Gelebale has NBA experience, and Florent Pietrus, while not an American hoops star, did help younger brother Mickael get there. They’ll put up quite a fight in this tournament as well.
Other notable teams include Turkey (Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova, Omer Asik, Enes Kanter, and Semih Erden), Italy (Danilo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli), and Germany (Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman).
The rest of the NBA players slated to appear in the tournament are Luol Deng (Great Britain), Goran Dragic (Slovenia), Kyrylo Fesenko (Ukraine), Andrei Kirilenko (Russia), Kosta Koufos (Greece), D.J. Mbenga (Belgium), Zaza Pachulia (Georgia), and centers Nikola Pekovic and Nikola Vucevic (both for Montenegro).
Usually only 16 teams appear in this tournament, but 2011 marks the first year that 24 teams have qualified to compete. That means the field is bigger and more unpredictable than ever. It will be nice to know that players are involved in real, meaningful competition, and considering how slowly the lockout is moving along (the negotiating session has reportedly been moved from Monday to Wednesday, by the way), this might be our last meaningful hoops for a while.
Drink them up while they’re here. There’s going to be plenty of NBA guys involved to keep us entertained.
Carl Landry’s Best Fit Is…
…the Portland Trail Blazers. Maybe. At least that’s what he told SLAM Magazine a couple of weeks ago.
“I really like Portland,” said Landry. “I’m good friends with Greg Oden, and Wes Matthews is from Wisconsin like me. There are a lot of ties there and I have no doubt that I would blend in fine.”
According to Landry, “They’re in need of a big post presence down low.” He added that he wasn’t trying to insult Greg Oden or Marcus Camby by saying that, just that feels like he’s got enough to offer that he could supplement those guys well.
But he didn’t make any mention of LaMarcus Aldridge, who is coming off of his best season as a pro and seems right on the cusp of transforming into a perennial All-Star. He and Landry both play the same position, which means to the casual observer Landry might not be doing himself any favors by going to a team that already has a really, really good power forward.
Aldridge, however, recently came back at SLAM by saying the fit would, in fact, be a good one.
“I’m glad he spoke out and said he wants to play with us, “Aldridge told SLAM’s Chris Haynes. “He’s a good player and I definitely feel like he can help us immediately.”
From the perspective a Portland fan, the idea of Landry in black and red is pretty polarizing. Either he takes away minutes from the team’s best player, or he’s a huge luxury, bringing that talented a player off of the bench. But Aldridge doesn’t seem to think having Landry around would be an issue.
“Landry’s a really good player and good players know how to fit in,” he said. “Wouldn’t be a problem at all.”
So far in his career Landry has done nothing but split time with other high-level power forwards. First it was Luis Scola in Houston, then later David West in New Orleans, but we’ve seen from his time in Sacramento and his last several games with the Hornets after West’s season-ending injury that he really can be a starting power forward for a number of teams in this league.
That said, is Portland really the best fit?
What about, say, the Indiana Pacers, who have quite a bit of cap space to spend and are in desperate need of some post ability and consistency from the power forward spot? Tyler Hansbrough showed flashes last year, but he wasn’t so good that an upgrade wouldn’t be welcomed at the four, and Carl Landry would be exactly that. Indianapolis would be an easy-breezy market for him much closer to his home state of Wisconsin than any other NBA team he’s ever played for. Pacers fans would love his hard work, and he’s young enough to be part of the great core they’ve assembled in Indy.
Plus, he’d get to start, which is what’s best for him at this point in his career. He’s earned the opportunity to shine, and he may even have a better chance to do that by staying in New Orleans if West leaves.
Portland would love to have him, and that seems to be where he wants to go, but is that really the best fit for him? Even Blazers fans aren’t so sure about that.
Ron Artest’s Name Change on Hold
We’re going to have to wait for World Peace.
Because of old traffic tickets, Ron Artest will have to remain Ron Artest for at least three more weeks while those get paid off, after which he will continue on with his quest to change his name to Metta World Peace.
“It’s just about love, world peace, everybody can relate to that,’’ Artest has said. “Whether it’s in the same community or same state or same country, or whether it’s country to country going to war, it’s just like world peace, you know what I mean? And kids need to know that and they know it now.’’
Artest announced his intentions to go through with this several weeks ago, and the small road block has reportedly not done anything to change his mind. The next best-selling Lakers jersey will still say “World Peace” on the back. And, for some reason, will feature the #70—Artest’s third uniform number since joining L.A. and the eighth uniform number of his career.
In the past he’s worn #23 as an homage to Michael Jordan, #91 as an homage to Dennis Rodman, #37 as an homage to Michael Jackson. Now it’s #70, but why?
“It’s like the universe, something to do with the universe,’’ he said. “Everything kind of repeats itself and the universe is one. It’s the same thing, healthy minds and stuff like that. Keeping the kids positive.”
That makes sense. I guess.
Artest said he would like to wear ten different uniform numbers before his career is over, and goodness knows what those final two will be and why he’ll choose them. But whatever his name and number may be, we’ll never say that Artest wasn’t one of the most colorful players in the history of the league. He certainly finds ways to keep things entertaining, doesn’t he?