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Less NBA strength for Spain

It is the Eurobasket of the NBA. Partly because it is the first since 2017, when the tsunami of Goran Dragic and Luka Doncic's Slovenia swept thro


It is the Eurobasket of the NBA. Partly because it is the first since 2017, when the tsunami of Goran Dragic and Luka Doncic’s Slovenia swept through. The pandemic and the domino effect of the postponement of the Tokyo Games extended the wait to five years, just after the periodicity was changed from biennial to quadrennial. To a great extent, to give more specific weight to each edition: so that the Eurobasket would stop being the poor brother in the summers of national teams. Said and done: a European arrives with one of the best posters in the history of the championship. One led by three of the best players in the world. Three of the best in the NBA: the aforementioned Luka Doncic and two who have each been MVP twice in the last four years, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nikola Jokic.

Even that NBA fever (to which are added the Rudy Goberts, Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari…) has caught the Spanish National Team off-guard a bit, which arrives at the tournament with a sensation of a change of cycle, almost a period of interwar. And the one that, in general, is not being placed this time among the great favorites to reach the fight for the medals. Of course, the 2019 World Cup is a good reminder of how competitive Sergio Scariolo’s team can be. No one, at this point, is going to stop counting on Spain, at least as an option. Even if it’s from the second row in a tremendous tournament: Serbia, Greece, Slovenia, France…

Spain has three players who come from playing last season in the NBA in a list of fourteen that has the last two discards left for the Eurobasket: the Hernangómez, Juancho and Willy, and Usman Garuba. It is the same number as last summer, in Tokyo 2021 (Willy, Marc Gasol and Ricky Rubio) and the minimum for the Selection for Eurobasket 2015. But with a trick, then. When Spain was European champion in France, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic were there but Ricky, Marc and Calderón stayed out due to injuries or contract problems. Now, only Ricky’s injury is decisive. In the NBA there are six Spanish players. The other two are the veteran Serge Ibaka, who has been out of the National Team for years, and the rising Santi Aldama, who, like Garuba, has completed his rookie season in the US.

The cap for Spain were the six NBA players (half call) of the Eurobasket 2017 or the 2014 World Cup. Since Pau Gasol was the anomaly (the only NBA in the 2002-2004 cycle), the number has been between four and six except accumulation of injuries, scheduled breaks in Europeans… We have seen teams with, for example, almost 100% NBA inside games: Pau, Marc, Ibaka and Claver (in 2014). Now, the call is adapted to an obvious decline in Spanish prominence in the American League. In the 2016-17 season it reached the top with ten Spaniards on the other side of the Atlantic. Pau, Marc, Ricky, Calderón, Ibaka and Mirotic were already there and Willy, Juancho, Abrines and Sergio Rodríguez arrived suddenly.

It’s not just the number, but the Spanish Eurobasket NBA does not have the specific weight in the great League that Pau used to have, first, or Calderón, Marc and Ricky, later. Juancho (26 years old) will play his seventh season with the sixth different team, the Toronto Raptors, where he arrives with a minimum contract of one year after a difficult last season. Between August 2021 and last June he was traded four times (Minnesota-Memphis-Boston-San Antonio-Utah) and finally released by the Jazz. In all, he played 40 games in three jerseys (Celtics, Spurs, Jazz) and averaged 3.3 points and 2.5 rebounds. He will now try to gain momentum in Canada after already dodging many rumors about a return to Europe that, for now, he has postponed.

Willy, one of the pillars of the team for the Eurobasket and who is leaving very good feelings in the preparation, is a substitute in the interior rotation of the New Orleans Pelicans. He plays with a 2.4 million contract and has signed this season and the next, for which his team can do without him before his contract for 2023-24 is secured on June 26. Willy (28 years old) finished with a good feeling last year (9.1 points and 6.8 rebounds), with good moments in the regular phase although very little prominence later, in the Pelicans’ return to the playoffs. Garuba, finally, had a difficult rookie season. With untimely injuries and a laborious adaptation that included stretches in the Development League. At 20 years old and with his whole future ahead of him, the center is working to find a place in the Rockets’ rotation, full of young promises, in his second season in the US. In the first he had minutes in 24 games and averaged 2 points and 3.5 rebounds.