Gasol, Bertans, and Lauvergne will compete to bring home the European championship before returning to the San Antonio Spurs for the upcoming NBA season.
August is just about over, which means the early hustle and bustle of the NBA offseason has mostly come to a grinding halt, including for the San Antonio Spurs. The draft came and went with little fanfare, the NBA Summer league has wrapped, and most of the meaningful free agents are off the board.
At this point, it’s largely a waiting game as the league looks forward to the opening of the 2017-18 season. But while the NBA takes a breather, European basketball is gearing up for FIBA EuroBasket 2017, the bi-annual European championship tournament beginning August 31. As you would expect from a team that features international players as prominently as the Spurs, San Antonio is well-represented at this year’s EuroBasket. Davis Bertans, Pau Gasol, and new signing Joffrey Lauvergne have all returned to their home countries to try to bring home the title.
Pau Gasol and his brother Marc will spearhead the Spanish national team‘s defense of their 2015 EuroBasket championship. Spain, a team loaded with NBA talent as of late, is easily the most dominant team to compete in EuroBasket over last twenty years.
The Spaniards medaled in every EuroBasket tournament since 1999 except 2005, when they lost to Croatia in the bronze medal game, and they’ve and won three of the last four championships in 2009, 2011, and 2015. What happened in 2013? Spain won the bronze medal game against Croatia, while Tony Parker led France to the championship. Pau Gasol has been the anchor of Spain’s team in recent history, and averaged 25.8 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game in the final round of the 2015 tournament. Look for him to be a strong contributor this year as well, as his game is especially well-suited for the international style of play.
While Gasol headlines the odds-on favorite in Eurobasket 2017, new Spur Joffrey Lauvergne will team up with former Spurs Nando de Colo, Livio Jean-Charles, and Boris Diaw for the third-ranked French national team as they try to dethrone the reigning champs.
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The French, however, face an uphill battle. In addition to Tony Parker’s retirement from France’s national team last year, French NBA stars Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum announced that they will not be participating in this year’s tournament. Lauvergne will not play as prominent a role for France as Gasol will for Spain, but with the absence of Gobert, the young center should get a chance to prove his worth. Like Spain, France is historically a force to be reckoned with in EuroBasket. In addition to their 2013 title, France has medaled six times since 1999. They’ll likely be a competitor for the title this year as well.
Finally, Davis Bertans heads up the Latvian national team with his brother Dairis Bertans and Knicks star Kristaps Porzingis. Latvia, put simply, doesn’t have the same type of talent as Spain and France. They’re the fifteenth ranked European team, and unlike France and Spain, likely won’t be in contention for the EuroBasket title – they have not medaled since the country regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Manu Ginobili’s sensational performance during the 2004 Olympics and Tony Parker’s stellar EuroBasket 2015 headlined some of the most memorable international performances in Spurs history. It would be unfair to hold Bertans, Gasol, and Lauvergne to that high a bar, but the trio should get some good reps to keep them warm for the return of the NBA season.