Sports Writing, Aug 30 (EFE) .- Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic stands as the undisputed leader of Slovenia, who will defend the European title against Nikola Jokic’s Serbia -last NBA ‘MVP’- and Greece of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the other two favorites to win the Eurobasket with the permission of Rudy Gobert’s France and a Spain without differential players, which promises to compete.
Georgia, Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic host, between September 1 and 18, an event that presents a luxury poster. The list of names recalls the editions of more than a decade ago, when the Spanish Pau Gasol, the German Dirk Nowitzki and the Frenchman Tony Parker -already retired- shone in the United States and fought for the continental title with their respective teams.
And that despite the casualties due to injury to leading swordsmen such as the Spaniards Sergio Llull and Ricky Rubio, the Georgian Tornike Shengelia, the Serbian Bogdan Bogdanovic or the Italian Danilo Gallinari. Added to these absences are the doubts of Barça’s Czech Tomas Satoransky or Greek Kostas Sloukas, among other players.
Some setbacks that will not tarnish the battle that will take place on the floor with Doncic, Jokic and Antetokounmpo as great attractions. Before facing the final phase of the tournament, which will be held in Berlin from September 10, the favorite teams will check their form in a first phase divided into four groups of six teams each. The top four finishers from each group will advance to the round of 16.
DONCIC’S SLOVENIA, TO GET BACK FROM THE OLYMPIC TROUBLE
The Slovenian team, current champion, maintains the block of the last courses, although with Luka Doncic, its leader, much more mature. At 23 years old, the Dallas Mavericks point guard is the most decisive player in FIBA basketball. He, and only he, directs the reins of his team, being able to improve the performance of all his teammates.
The former Real Madrid player will be accompanied by talented and experienced squires such as the shooter Goran Dragic, now in the ranks of the Chicago Bulls, the Valencia Basket point guard Klemen Prepelic or the Barça center Mike Tobey, with whom he built a great partnership in the last Tokyo Olympics.
Precisely, in the 2021 Olympic event, Doncic’s team was left without the medal prize by losing against Australia (107-93) in the bronze match, so they face the European with the aim of getting even with that last disappointment.
The squad trained by Aleksander Sekulic is paired in group B, the most demanding of the first phase, with the exuberant French team, led by Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert and New York Knicks forward Evan Fournier, as the main rival in the fight for the lead. All this without ruling out the always competitive teams from Lithuania, Germany and Bosnia Herzegovina.
THE ‘MVP’ OF THE NBA WANTS THE GOLD
With the permission of Slovenia, the great favorite for squad and talent is Nikola Jokic’s Serbia. The unique center of the Denver Nuggets, current best player of the NBA regular season, leads a very complete squad that has not won a medal since the 2017 Eurobasket, when he took silver.
The Balkan team did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics and was shipwrecked in the World Cup in China in the quarterfinals against Argentina.
Svetislav Pesic, an old continental basketball fox, directs a varied rotation despite the losses of point guard Milos Teodosic, due to a technical decision, and forward Bogdan Bogdanovic (Atlanta Hawks), due to injury, as well as the doubt of power forward Nemanja Bjelica.
Among Jokic’s squires, forward Nikola Kalinic stands out, signed by Barça this summer, center Nikola Milutinov and Fenerbahce guard Vasilije Micic, best player in the last Final Four of the Euroleague.
Serbia is paired in group D, with the Czech Republic of the azulgranas Tomas Satoranski, doubtful due to an ankle injury, and Jan Vesely as the most competitive rival in the fight to decide the first position.
GIANNIS, GOING FOR HIS FIRST MEDAL WITH GREECE
The reference of the Milwaukee Bucks, franchise with which he won the NBA ring in 2021, faces the European with the challenge of hanging the first medal with his team. To date, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been disappointed with Greece. The last in the 2019 World Cup, when the Greek team finished eleventh.
The explosive game of the two-time NBA ‘MVP’ doesn’t quite fit into FIBA basketball, with regulations different from the American one and defensive systems that often block players with Giannis’s athletic physique.
To accompany his star, the coach Dimitris Itoudis has molded a team with experienced players in the direction such as Tyler Dorsey, from the Dallas Mavericks, and the former Barça player Nick Calathes, in addition to having the Partizan Belgrade forward Ioannis Papapetrou, who in the recent years he has stood out in the ranks of Panathinaikos.
The team commanded by Antetokounmpo is the clear favorite in group C with the permission of Italy, which will not be able to count on its star, Boston Celtics forward Danilo Gallinari, who recently suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in the game of FIBA windows against Georgia.
SPAIN, A PROJECT UNDER CONSTRUCTION
For the first time in the last decade, Spain is not among the favourites. The last time that the team did not win a medal in the European Championship was in 2005. Since then, ‘La Familia’, whether led by the Gasol brothers, Juan Carlos Navarro or Ricky Rubio, has won five metals (three golds, one silver and two bronzes).
From that golden generation, veteran Rudy Fernández is one of the few survivors. Without the injured Ricky Rubio and Sergio Llull, Spain is entrusted to the brothers Willy and Juancho Hernangómez in the paint, to the nationalized Lorenzo Brown in the direction and, above all, to the board of Sergio Escariolo, architect on the bench of the gold won in the last World Cup.
This Spain in transition, which is waiting for young people like Usman Garuba to take a step forward, will seek the ticket to the round of 16 with Turkey, a team led by the nationalized American Shane Larkin, Montenegro and Georgia as the main bones of a group theoretically accessible, completed by Bulgaria and Belgium.
Should they qualify for the final phase, Scariolo’s team will face one of the top four teams in the competitive Group B made up of Slovenia, France, Lithuania, Germany, Bosnia Herzegovina and Hungary.
(c) EFE Agency