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View from the bench: Analysis on FC Barcelona Regal
Apr 27, 2012
by Aito Garcia Reneses - Barcelona, Spain
World-renowned as a master teacher of basketball, Aito Garcia Reneses holds a place as one of the most prestigious coaches in Europe. He won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics to go with a ULEB Cup, two Korac Cups, nine Spanish Leagues and five Spanish Cup titles, just to name a few of his accomplishments in almost four decades on the benches of basketball powers like FC Barcelona, Joventut Badalona and Unicaja. Aito, as everyone in European basketball knows him, is also a regular contributor to the Mastermind Coaching Seminars of the Euroleague Basketball Institute. He joins Euroleague.net to give his coachs point of view and analysis on Turkish Airlines Euroleague games.
It's curious that the team with the most wins in both the Turkish Airlines Euroleague and the Spanish League this season is not regarded as the top favorite. It's true that FC Barcelona Regal is not playing as flashy as in previous years, and that maybe the roster is inferior also, but that remains to be seen. There's no doubt that the Final Four in Istanbul and the domestic playoffs will either confirm or deny each current of opinion.
The strategy of the team of head coach Xavi Pascual is based, for the most part, on the taking advantage of the great qualities of Juan Carlos Navarro, who is having an irregular season for two reasons. The first one is because he is in the middle of a super long season that started with EuroBasket last summer, in which he had a great performance, perhaps even the best one of his brilliant career. The second reason is because a couple injuries made him lose his best form. Let's hope that he recovers completely for the Final Four and he is in good shape so we can enjoy his game and that of the rest of his teammates, whom Pascual has put together perfectly for good team play.
Navarro's individual technique makes him one of the best shooters in the world, either standing still or stopping and popping after having received on the move. We can see the latter in Clip 1, where he gets the pass from Joe Ingles after receiving a screen from Fran Vazquez.
Navarro reads well how his moves are defended and chooses well among shooting, penetrating or feeding a teammate. In Clip 2, he passes to Erazem Lorbek, who also shows his good skills by scoring on jump hook with his left hand.
After seeing how Navarro shoots and passes as soon as he receives the ball, in Clip 3 we can see how he dribbles and then stops on a dime to shoot a three-pointer without giving his defenders the time to adjust and stop him. In the second shot in this clip, we see him faking toward basket and making a step-back dribble behind his back. He does it so quick that his defender has no time to recover from the fake and challenge him.
Among Navarro's abilities we can also highlight passing. We can see in Clip 3, after he steals by guessing the intended pass of a rival, Navarro running the break and feeding Victor Sada for a nice alley-oop. See how Navarro trusts Sada's powerful jumping ability by giving him the ball over the rim, even when a more 'conventional' pass would have worked. Sada obliges, scoring with ease.
At point guard, Barça has Marcelinho Huertas, who to this point is having a good season, with good shooting percentages, rebounds and assists. However, I think he can still play even better, which would surely help the team get optimal results. He is strong and fast and has great court vision. In Clip 5, we can see him choosing the best moment to use the pick-and-roll and then feed Vazquez for an alley-oop.
Complementing Huertas at point we have Sada, who is, as we have seen above, an example of physical power and attitude on court.
As opposed to last season, perhaps Barça is missing another long-range shooting specialist among the rest of backcourt players, although at the bigger sizes on the perimeter, Ingles, Chuck Eidson and Pete Mickeal are all good players who can also score from downtown. If they are accurate on a given night in that aspect, the team goes up a notch in quality. Young Xavi Rabaseda has also improved his contribution a lot throughout the season.
Mickeal is getting back to his best level after the big injury he had last season. He is a very intense and physically strong player who likes to defend, rebound and attack either facing the basket or with his back towards it.
In the inside game, the team is also versatile, even though these players are probably better when near the basket. CJ Wallace is the only big man shooting further away from the basket, and then we have Boni Ndong and Vazquez. Both are good at blocking shots and they love jumping for alley-oops. Both are quite fast in transition, too.
In Clip 6 we can see Vazquez blocking a shot like he means it after coming to help from behind.
In Clip 7, Ndong scores with ease from middle distance. You cannot sag on him or he punishes you.
Last but not least, Barça also has Kosta Perovic and Lorbek, who can also play with their backs to the basket. His versatility and high basketball IQ make Lorbek the key player in this team. He plays in the low post and scores triples, everything based on good individual technique. He shows this in Clip 8, where he had the skill to grab a difficult pass and score, he does this with more finesse than power despite the two big men defending him.
Pascual has also managed to make this team extremely consistent on defense. I think that Barcelona will reach Istanbul with the pressure to beat Olympiacos in the semifinals, but if they win, I think they would have nothing to lose and everything to gain in the title game.