Tuesday, September 18, 2007

NBA Preview: FIBA Rapture


I have to admit, my passion for NBA previewing has waned in the past week. With the season so close to commencing, I find myself with nearly nothing intelligent to write. That said, I feel required to at least mention Russia's upset of Spain in the Eurobasket Championship on Sunday. That victory got me thinking about a few things. One was that I wish that David Blatt was hired by the Celtics as lead assistant this summer, as was rumored for a while. Blatt is approximately seven hundred times a better coach than Glenn.

But the more profound thought the Russian upset brought me was about chemistry, international ball, respecting your opponents, and how all that translates to the NBA. Obviously the best NBA teams usually have some of the best chemistry and commitment. There's no need to discuss this presently. What is worth bringing up, though, is how all these FIBA elements correlate to the Toronto Raptors - the one team in the league that is truly international.

Rasho Nesterovic, Andrea Bargnani, Anthony Parker, Jorge Garbajosa, Jose Calderon, Carlos Delfino and Maceo Baston are all international players. That is astounding. I mean that's half their fucking squad. The Raptors at times feel like a FIBA team. The chemistry seems better, the basketball IQ elevated, the flow of the game more sound from a fundamental standpoint. Particularly unusual are those brief moments when Toronto's offensive spacing seems vastly different from any other team in the NBA. It's pure FIBA - excellent passing leading to weird mid range jumpers, inside finesse with little raw strength, and idiosyncratic knowledge of where every player is on the court. In brief, this is not your uncle's Atlantic Division champ.

Further amping up the quirkiness of the Raptors is their best player's qualities. Chris Bosh's game can fit into the FIBA system well, he's feathery and smooth, but his style really could only be made in America. His length and (at times terrifying) athleticism can wreak havoc even on an off night. He is a prototype modern NBA power forward - but the fact he is playing almost exclusively with Internationals is completely new to the NBA. Perhaps nothing argues more strongly for the success of the foreign invasion than this.

Sam Mitchell, meanwhile, did not seem to be the wisest choice to lead such a worldly team at this time last year. He was known as being too much of a screamer, a prodder; the perfect example of a tough love coach. Yet Mitchell's uniquely grouchy American persona proceeded to mesch fluidly with his European pupils, perhaps better than it ever could have with American players. This is because the internationals wanted to leave it all on the court - for guys like Garbajosa or Calderon that was the only way to do it. So Toronto, despite clearly subpar talent, won 47 games. Mitchell deservedly won coach of the year. It was a beautiful union of coach and players pushing each other along.

Bosh and Mitchell, along with T.J. Ford, are the primary American elements on the Raptors. Almost everything else seems cosmopolitan. Guys like Jason Kapono are FIBA players who happen to be in the NBA. What Bryan Colangelo has in mind with all this is still unclear to me. Originally many of us thought Colangelo was gonna bring the run and gun mentality with him from Phoenix. Instead he brought us a Canadian FIBA team, which is kind of awesome - but not necessarily for its effectiveness as much as the originality of product. Colangelo needs Bargnani to turn into a star, or to make other substantial moves. Otherwise all these cool FIBA elements are going to struggle to rise above adequacy. But it's a unique adequacy at least.

To see the entire NBA preview, click here or the label below.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Raptors should trade TJ Ford and start Calderon. He's better, cheaper, and they could get some value in return for Ford.

Anonymous said...

ford makes too much to easily be traded - 9 milion is alot a year.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just got turned on to this site by Simmons, and so far, I like what I see, except . . . for the profanity. Can you guys tone it down? Everything else is great. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

"Blatt is approximately seven hundred times a better coach than Glenn." OMG Timmy that made me laugh so hard there guy. I took about a week off from reading your blogs so I forgot about the whole "Glenn" thing. Amazing. Hey unlike the previous comment, I think you guys use more profanity. But that's just my $.02.

Anonymous said...

what I meant to say was that i think you guys SHOULD use more profanity

JFishSports said...

Good site. Good profanity. It's all good.

http://jfishsports.blogspot.com/

Rav said...

Extremely thoughtful article which is a rarity on most sites. Was recomended his site by Simmons. Great site, solid writing, exceptional analysis. I am a Raptors/Grizzlies/NBA/Basketball-in-general fan and this Raptors article was on of the better team analyses' out there

Rav said...

I've linked this article to the best Raptors site out there.. Check out this site:

http://www.hooplife.ca/raptorshq/

chris said...

Good, insightful article....but you don't explain your reasoning WHY this style of play will result in only adequacy. For the latter 2/3 of last season, the raptors were one of the best teams in the NBA...and with kids and (NBA) rookies.

Further, i genuinely think a huge part of the new strategy has at least something to do with Toronto's international community. To think that the marketing opportunity is serendipitous would be very short-sighted. There's a reason (aside from winning) that the raptors are leading the league in season tickets sales this offseason.

Christopher said...

Colangelo = King Midas. Pure genius. Not only did a field a deep, solid, cohesive, winning squad, he did it with the aforementioned squad of internationals who play beautifully into the hand of Toronto's diverse ethnicity but, more importantly, -want- to be here. Sad to say, but your standard-issue born, bred and schooled American (ahem, VC, TMac) don't really want to spend a whole ton of time north of the border in what they consider virtual basketball obscurity. Don't get to rub shoulders with movie stars like you do in FLA or Cali. Don't get the shoe deal. But the internationals genuinely love it here, as do stand-up guys like Bosh. They like the city and want to play for a successful program. Go Raps!

P.S. Good column. As for too much profanity? Keep it fuckin' real man.

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