Storyline: Eurobasket

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Juan Carlos Navarro wants to play at least one more season, as he said in an interview with El Mundo Deportivo. “I will talk with Barcelona when the season ends. I want to play next season. This year I felt good except the two months I have been injured. I think I can help the team, not like in the past, but in some moments of the game. I see the respect of the opposing teams, how players guard me or try to contrast my shots” Navarro added. “Eurobasket? If I am healthy, I would love to play for Spain. That would be my last summer”.

While Euro rookies Willy Hernangomez (Spain) and Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Lithuania) say they expect to play in the European Championships in late August/September, Kristaps Porzingis has made no decisions for Latvia. Porzingis told The Post he still is debating and wants to talk to the Knicks about it. Last summer, Porzingis decided against playing for Latvia in its Olympic qualifier. Hernangomez and Kuzminskas played for their respective countries in the Olympics in Rio last summer.

Pau Gasol to play at the Eurobasket

“Pau has also told me he’s coming,” Scariolo said. “All of them want to see how they finish the season. For them to say that they’re looking forward to coming and asking what we’re going to do is a first good step, but then we have to wait and see how they end the season – the physical status of those that have to take part in the play-offs. We have to wait until then to have a definite idea but the pre-disposition of all of the players is very good.”

Marc Gasol, Pau’s younger brother, is set to play after a two-year absence. Marc Gasol chose to sit out FIBA EuroBasket 2015 while an injury prevented him from playing last summer in Brazil. “We’ll begin training on 28 July and we’ll have to change our way of playing with respect to the last two years when Marc hasn’t been here,” Scariolo said. “We’ll have to incorporate him. It’s an important readjustment and there are many things that we’re working on.”

The 27-year-old, who is in London with the Pacers as they face the Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on Thursday night is understandably focussing on his club duties but has said that he will make contact with the federation during the season. “I haven’t spoken to the French federation yet but it’s something I am going to do at some point,” Seraphin said. “Being honest, it’s a step-by-step thing but I am hopeful to play for France this summer. However, my focus is with the Pacers and I am waiting to see where I stand in regards to the rotation and where I stand here and see where I might be with the national side moving forward.”

Spain’s opponents in the Group Phase at FIBA EuroBasket 2017 will be Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Montenegro and Romania in Group C. “The European Championship is always hard,” Rubio said. “There are a lot of good teams and it’s not an easy tournament. Sometimes it’s harder than a World Cup. “You just have to play tough. We know the last European Championship, we weren’t favorites but we won. We’re trying to bring the best team so we can win again.”

Eurobasket champions Spain have a favourable draw as they travel to Romania to open their 2017 campaign in Cluj-Napoca. The 2015 winners will face Croatia, Czech Republic, Montenegro, Hungary and hosts Romania in Group C. Eurobasket runners-up Lithuania will be housed in Tel Aviv, where they are drawn with the hosts Israel, Ukraine, Georgia, Italy and Germany. Group D, which takes place at the Ulker Sports Arena on the Asian side of Istanbul looks to be the toughest pool of the four as Turkey hosts Great Britain, Russia, Serbia, Latvia and Belgium.

Nicolas Batum explained what was in his own words a “nightmare”. As he said: “For 15 hours the only thing I have in my head is missing those free throws in overtime. We are living in a nightmare but we have to wake up and finish the job by winning a medal. We have to help Tony Parker, return to him some of the things he gave us. I have the greatest respect of him and I will continue showing him this, even if he averages 2 points per game”. For Pau Gasol he added: “Even if some times his fouls are not called, he have won this because of his career and status”.

Les Bleus, without a single free throw in the opening 20 minutes, felt the calls were not going their way. “It was tough,” Gobert said. “The first half I tried not to foul. Because I knew they were calling everything. Pau had a couple of baskets on me. In the second half, I tried to turn it up but I got called every time. It was tough. The rules are different in Europe. It’s hard to guard on the post. You can only use one arm. I can’t really touch him. It’s hard to guard. When you can’t use your hands, he’s almost unguardable.”

Without him, La Roja would have never made it past the first round in Berlin. Thanks to him, they will play for the gold medal Sunday against Serbia or Lithuania, against all expectations. “I just prepared myself to play at my best level,” said Gasol, now averaging a tournament-high 23.6 points per game. “I was trying to take advantage of the moment I’m going through and the good shape I’m in. Knowing that we have significant players that are not here this year, I knew I would have to carry a little more responsibility. But I try to bring inspiration and motivation to my teammates. That’s what I try to do every single game.”

And, that World Cup experience, coupled with the following NBA season has only made him better going into Eurobasket 2015, where he has wowed the hometown folk in Montpellier and Lille with his defensive work ethic and vast improvement on the offensive end. “It’s been great,” claimed Gobert. “I feel confident, I feel stronger and I’ve got great coaches that are helping me along the way. I’m getting great advice from my French team-mates as well and it helps that we know each other so well. Certainly playing internationals helps me when I go to the NBA season as I’m already in game shape and ready for camp. “

Porzingis didn’t play with the Latvian national team in this year’s EuroBasket tournament but he plans on playing for the team in the future. “Before the draft I was going to play for the national team, especially because the group round was in Latvia. It was a huge event. But once I got drafted by the Knicks, I just felt the pressure,” Porzingis said. “I understood how good the guys were on the team and everything, so I said, ‘If I really want to gain weight and get better in the summer, playing with the national team, I’ll be playing, not gaining weight.’ So that was the best option for me this summer. But in the future, I obviously want to play for the national team. But first I have to establish my career here, in the NBA.”

Nicolas Batum speaking on Greek channel OTE TV he had only good things to say about Giannis Antetokounmpo and about his impressive improvement. According to the French, star the “Greek freak” has already taken the next step: “Antetokounmpo is amazing. His game against Spain was impressive. He is huge and very long. He is almost a 7 footer and he can play like a guard. You see him dribbling on the court and he runs with the ball like great perimeter players do. When he has the ball in his hands, he dribbles like Tony Parker”.

Pau Gasol was in pain just before the start of the game against Poland and he had to run to the locker rooms in order to get medical treatment. However, this was the start of an amazing story. As Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo revealed in the press conference: “The doctors told me that Pau couldn’t play more than five minutes straight. But after the first five minutes, when I asked him to come to bench he told me now. “I will take the risk”, he answered me and he had an amazing game”. Spain’s leader led his team to the quarter-finals with an extraordinary performance, having 30 points on 6/7 from the three-point range. And while Rudy Fernandez is day to day and may miss the next big game versus Greece in the quarterfinals, Gasol is ready to play: “I never jumped off the boat and I will not do that now. We play against Greece, I will play for sure”.

Dirk Nowitzki not finished with international basketball?

By virtue of their early exit here, the Germans cannot qualify directly for Rio 2016. However a recent, belated change to the process to obtain berths in Brazil next summer means that any country taking part in the current round of continental championships can bid to host -– and participate in — one of the three Olympic Qualification Tournaments, to take place early next summer. And with the German Federation understood to be considering a bid, the presumption that this was Nowitzki’s farewell may be mis-placed.
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