Tricky Ponies and Windmill Tilting

The ingenioso Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616) was the author of Don Quixote, his satire on romance and chivalry. Yet there is a warning within his success, for Cervantes could be viewed as a one-trick pony. That is, despite a lifetime of letters, he is remembered for his single masterpiece.

My hoping is that Spain rides that pony of trickiness. In two of the last three Eurobasket championships, our team has advanced to the finals, only to lose to Lithuania (2003) and Russia (2007). On Monday, we, along with 16 other teams, commence altercations for anew, and many of the games will be visible worldwide due to Internet up-streaming. In the happy event that you see Team España, here are a few thoughts on differences between the American and European styles from one who has most intimate knowledge of both.

The Tallying: It is an immutable algorithm: As the three-point line is closer in international play, one can make more of them. This provides a banquet for me!

Game Time: A FIBA game is 40 minutes in length, not the NBA’s 48.

Defensive Conspiracies: The purest zone defenses, as well as more creative schemings are allowed in Europe. Beware if weakside defenders occupying driving lanes and shadowing the key. To sidestep them, the offense will employ weakside cuts and passes down low and back out to the three-point line, where I will ideally be waiting with bated breath.

Skill Settings: I cannot deny the trope that European players display superior dribbling, passing, and shooting skills. This is a reaction to the fact that few European coaches will enlist players with a 100 centimeter vertical leap but nascent team abilities. This is not necessarily the case in America! This focus on the most athletically gifted explains why many NBA players focus on one-on-one chances.

Respect: In Europe, coaches have greater prestige and typically earn as much or more than even players with the finest pedigree. This is hardly true in the NBA. Further, while Nate McMillan is an exception, I have seen that the typical NBA coach may suffer from a faltado el respeto (a lack of respect). The management will make the coach fall upon his sword if the team performs poorly, and the players know this.

But enough of these gatherings of wool. Let my leg rehab continue apace, so that in the coming matches, Cervantes can nod his approval from some distant heavens!

Top Rudy foto by Paco Martin, fence foto by Casey Holdahl for I Am a Trail Blazer Fan.

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