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On the scene at EuroBasket...before final
Veteran journalist Vladimir Stankovic at his 13th EuroBasket, in Poland
Veteran sportswriter and Euroleague collaborator Vladimir Stankovic, who has worked nearly every EuroBasket for almost four decades, is on the ground in Katowice, Poland to give Euroleague.net readers his observations of the tournament's knockout stage. The do-or-die quarterfinals saw Serbia defeat Russia, Spain defeat France, Greece defeat Turkey, and Slovenia defeat Croatia. In the semifinals Spain blasted Greece and Serbia survived in OT against Slovenia, setting up the medal games on Sunday. More than 70 players on Euroleague rosters for next season were among the tournaments 16 teams when it started.
Well, it's like I said: a good Hollywood western only counts its dead at the very end. Here in Poland, some "black hats" won big in the beginning, but the "white hats" saved their strength for the decisive moments. So there are Spain and Serbia in the final. With two losses each, but they don't count because they came at the beginning of the story. In tournaments like this, the moments of truth begin in the quarterfinals, and that's when these two finalists demonstrated their potential: Spain based on its general quality and the inarguable individual value of its stars; Serbia with youth, defensive aggressiveness, fighting character and, now and again, some great individual plays, above all by Milos Teodosic.
In their very first game in Poland, back in the preliminary-round opener in Group C, Serbia surprised Spain. I doubt they can do it again in the final. Even as I say that, I know that any prediction can seem absurd later, but based on a good record until now, I will take the risk of naming Spain the favorite. Spain's "golden generation" has, perhaps, its last chance to with the gold medal in Europe, and if they don't do it now, I don't know when they'll have another. Speaking as someone who has seen all of Spain's previous medals from the press seats - silver in Nantes 1983, bronze in Rome 1991, silver again in both Paris 1999 and Madrid 2007 - this same generation that lost its big opportunity in Madrid has a great opportunity now to correct its "error" of two years ago.
No doubt about it: Duda
Serbia head coach Dusan Ivkovic, back in final
Sergio Scariolo said it at the beginning of the tournament, but few took him seriously. Spain's head coach predicted that "Serbia will fight for a medal", but not even many Serbians believed him. Little by little, however, Serbia arrived in the final, causing - as in old times - euphoria in the country. Now, everyone agrees that Serbia's appearance in the final is the work of a master, Dusan "Duda" Ivkovic, the prestigious head coach who in just a year has managed to turn a chaotic situation into a resounding success.
Tonight, Ivkovic will participate in his fourth European championships final, the other three having been 1989, 1991 and 1995, when he won three golds with a 19-0 record. For me, however, appearing in the final this year is his biggest success with the national team. Simply put, in 1989, he had Divac, Radja, Kukoc, Danilovic, Paspalj, Zdovc and even the incredible Drazen Petrovic. Two years later, the same team, but with Sasha Djordjevic in place of Petrovic. In Athens in 1995, he had Divac, Paspalj, Djordjevic and Danilovic accompanied by Bodiroga, Rebraca, Tomasevic, Sasha Obradovic, Beric (Serbia's current team manager) and others.
Here in Poland, he has formed a team in which the biggest star is 65-year-old Ivkovic himself. The players have an average age of 22.4 years, making Serbia the youngest team in the tournament. Ivkovic was looking ahead to the 2012 Olympics in London, but if along the way a medal falls, so much the better.
As is customary, the last day of the tournament, the media votes for a five-man all-tournament team and an MVP. The result of the gold-medal game always has an influence, but even with no medals given out yet, I am quite clear on my own vote. At point guard, Milos Teodosic of Serbia; at shooting guard, one of the two Spaniards, Juan Carlos Navarro or Rudy Fernandez; at small forward, I would lean toward Ersan Ilyasova of Turkey; at power forward, Erazem Lorbek of Slovenia; and at center Pau Gasol of Spain.
FIBA Hall of Fame
FIBA two years ago inaugurated its own Hall of Fame, and today, before the final, honors its class of 2009. They are: Artenik Arabadjian of Bulgaria, a referee; Jacky Chazalon of France, a famous player of the 1960s and 1970s; Pedro Ferrandiz of Spain, a mythical coach of Real Madrid; Ricardo Gonzales, world champion with Argentina in 1950; Oscar Robertson of the United States, "The Big O", who was 1960 Olympic champion in Rome. Also, being honored posthumously were coaches Pete Newell and Kay Yow of the United States, contributor Luis Martin of Argentina, former player Pereira Ubiratan of Brasil, and former referee Marcel Pfeuti of Switzerland. The ceremony will be repeated on September 22 in Alcobendas, Spain, where FIBA World has an excellent facility dedicated exclusively to the greatest of the sport.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
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