If FIBA’s predictions come true, Spain will not reach the semi-finals eurobasketball which begins this Thursday in Tbilisi, Georgia, and whose final phase will be held in Berlin, Germany. In the last power ranking published by the organizer of the tournament, in which it classifies the teams according to their favouritism, Sergio Scariolo’s team occupies seventh place behind Slovenia, France, Greece, Lithuania, Serbia and Turkey. An anomalous situation for a current world champion, to whom the injuries and withdrawals of important figures have pushed to a forced renewal. The coach, Sergio Scariolo, has tried to fit his new pieces in these weeks of preparation, but the truth is that the unknowns are still very much in force.
The balance of Spain in these six preparation matches is three wins and three losses, although there is a big ‘but’. The selection reaped its triumphs against a Greek team that did not have its starGiannis Antetokoumpo, and against weak Iceland teams Y Netherlands in the qualifying matches for the 2023 World Cup. However, clearly fell to the Hellenes at Athenswith the giant of the Milwaukee Bucks destroying the Spanish, and in the double confrontation against Lithuania, far superior both in Las Palmas What in Vilnius. The best news that Scariolo can get is that the common denominator of all those games, both wins and losses, was that the team fought until the end despite being outmatched.
The coach acknowledges that, between some issues and others, the team faces the tournament with less talent and experience than ever in the last 20 years. Llull’s withdrawal just a few days before the start of the tournament It has been the last stab in the heart of a team that has not been able to count on the Gasol brothers, retired from international basketball, or Ricky Rubio, MVP of the last World Cup, injured. Rudy Fernández stands as the spiritual leader of the locker room, but the veteran Real Madrid forward needs teammates who take a step forward. Some have done it these weeks. Others are expected to wake up for good in Tbilisi.
One of those who has raised his hand during these weeks has been Lorenzo Brown, about whom there were many doubts since his express nationalization. The American has established himself as the team’s starting point guard and has gone from less to more in these weeks, assuming more and more responsibilities in attack and with a good defensive intensity. The point guard has averaged 9.8 points and 4.8 assists in these six games, the second player with the best offensive production behind Willy Hernangómez (18.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game). Against Lithuania, in Vilnius, Brown put the team on his back and led the final comeback attempt, achieving his highest score in this preparation phase, 18 points, to which he added five assists. His ability to connect with his teammates has also been growing over the weeks. His best partner has been the eldest of the Hernangómez, but Darío Brizuela has also left good feelings, decisive from the triple with a 47% accuracy, or a very hard-working Pradilla on both sides of the court. However, the team continues to miss Juancho Hernangómez, identified as one of the important players, who in this preparation phase has played a more than discreet role (8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game) and Usman Garuba, that he missed the first preparation matches due to some inconvenience and may lack filming.
Despite the willful spirit of the selection, there are several issues that weigh down the team. The first and bloodiest, the lack of success in the launches. In difficult games, against imposing defenses like the Greek or the Lithuanian, shooting percentages have plummeted even below 40%, making it impossible for Scariolo’s men to keep up with top-level rivals. The second, also serious, is the lack of concentration when entering some games. In the second game against Lithuania, the team had to overcome a 21-6 run that hampered the final comeback attempt. Last Saturday against the Netherlands, the draw was even greater against an inoffensive opponent, who managed to go 18-4 in the blink of an eye.
The group is aware that very few believe in them this time and that they go from covered to a tournament in which favoritism falls on others. Starting with Doncic’s Slovenia, current champions, the always super-competitive France, up to Greece and Serbia, which have Anteto and Jokic, winners of two NBA MVPs each. However, the team insists that what they have achieved in the last 20 years cannot be forgotten. FIBA believes that they will not reach the semifinals, but the last time that Spain did not finish in the top four of a Eurobasket was in 1997. From the shadows, the Scariolo hope to cause a scare.