After a five-year wait, FIBA EuroBasket is back!
Also called the European Basketball Championship, Europe’s flagship event consists of 24 teams divided into four groups and runs from September 1-18. The winner receives a gold medal.
Of special interest to New York Knicks’ fans will be Group B, which includes France, Lithuania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Germany, and Hungary.
For Team France, Knicks’ shooting guard Evan Fournier will play beside the newest Timberwolf, Rudy Gobert. In the previous EuroBasket competition, Evan averaged 15.8 points across six games and turned in this 27-point scorcher against Germany back in September 2017. (France lost.)
Last time, France fell in the round of 16. This time around, the 29-year-old Fournier hopes to lead his team deeper into the tournament.
Evan told FIBA.basketball that he is “so hungry” to win this year’s EuroBasket tournament and wants “to bring so many gold medals and titles back home, you can’t even imagine.”
“Last summer was very nice to win a silver medal, but I also think about the joy that it would be to win a title and to get the gold medal. It’s the ’summum’, the cherry on top of the cake. I am 29 years old, and I want to experience this multiple times before the end of my career. That’s also why I come every summer to play for the national team.”
His “off-season” has been busy, including a 24-point effort last Saturday in a double-overtime loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
On a side note, you may be as surprised as I was to read this on his profile page at the EuroBasket basketball database. Hall of Famer! Who knew? Must not be the Naismith Memorial.
Among the Lithuanian lads in this year’s EuroBasket Group B is another ambassador for the New York orange and blue, 21-year-old guard, Rokas Jokubaitis, fresh off a strong showing in this year’s EuroLeague playoffs.
A draft-and-stash player chosen 34th in the 2021 NBA draft, Rokas will be rostered with NBA players Jonas Valanciunas (New Orleans Pelicans), Domantas Sabonis (Sacramento Kings), Mindaugas Kuzminskas (OAKAAKUYOAK #1), and Ignas Brazdeikis (OAKAAKUYOAK #2).
Group B is a tough bracket and features competitors like Luka Dončić (Slovenia) and Jusuf Nurkić (Bosnia and Herzegovina). Let’s see how young Rokas fares against Luka when Slovenia and Lithuania clash on Thursday. Dončić and his countrymen are the defending champs, having taken EuroBasket gold in 2017.
Also on Thursday, Fournier and the fearless Frenchmen will face Dennis Schröder and the genial Germans. Will you call in sick to stay home and watch these games? Haven’t you been quietly quitting anyway?
Regarding EuroBasket’s five-year hiatus, ESPN reports, “The tournament had previously been staged every two years, but it was moved to a four-year cycle starting with the 2017 tournament. The postponement of the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 forced this tournament to be moved to 2022, marking the longest span between EuroBasket events since World War II.”
This year, the most media attention will be paid to two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will be playing for Greece in Group C. Giannis’s group also includes Croatia, Estonia, Great Britain, Italy, and Ukraine, and such NBA players as Bojan Bogdanovic (Croatia), Dario Šarić (Croatia), and Ivica Zubac (Croatia).
Sharing that global attention will be another two-time MVP, Nikola Jokić, as he anchors the Serbian squad in Group D. Also in his cluster are the Czech Republic, Finland, Israel, Netherlands, and Poland. NBA notables found here are Lauri Markkanen (Finland), Deni Avdija (Israel), and Nemanja Bjelica (Serbia).
Not to be forgotten, Group A includes Spain, Turkey, Montenegro, Georgia, Belgium, and Bulgaria. NBA talent from this quadrant: Juancho and Willy Hernangómez (Spain), Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey), and Cedi Osman (Turkey).
Sadly, my Danish brethren will not appear in this year’s competition. One day we shall come and conquer. You’ll see.
It’s also a bummer that Victor Wembanyama will not suit up for Team France due to a “muscle injury.” (Red flag! Red flag! Woop! Woop!)
As for competition rules, Wikipedia states:
“The current format begins with a preliminary round. The twenty-four qualified teams are placed into four groups of six, and each group plays a round-robin tournament. The top four teams in each group (16 overall) advance to the knockout stage. The knockout stage is a 16-team single-elimination tournament, with a bronze medal game for semi-final losers and classification games for the quarterfinal losers to determine fifth to eighth places.”
Sounds thrilling! Check the official FIBA site for viewing options:
ESPN+ will be streaming every game from group stage through the finals:
Best of luck to Evan and Rokas. And remember…one day…Denmark takes that gold medal. Tyr!