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Sports

Everything You Need to Know About Eurobasket 2022

We’re in the fallow part of the NBA offseason—there have been 73 days since the last real NBA game and there’ll be another 48 days until the next one. With the thrum of free agency rumors and slop having ceased, there are but mere morsels of basketball content left to consume. Nothing is going on besides the vague promise that something will eventually be going on. In the absence of actual stuff, it’s now national news three guys in Brooklyn decide to aggrievedly endure each other’s company or when two guys in Seattle get all red-faced or when one guy in White Plains calls another guy in Utah. Next week, Eurobasket 2022 will mercifully end the drought, promising a level of intensity and quality that won’t be seen again until the NBA playoffs next spring. Here’s everything you need to know about the best sporting event that you aren’t watching.

What is Eurobasket?

As FIBA’s answer to FIFA’s Euros, Eurobasket is a biennial tournament to determine the best international squad in Europe. Outside of the Olympics and the FIBA World Cup, Eurobasket is the most prestigious event on the international basketball calendar, contested by the 24 best teams across the continent. Oddly, this is the first Eurobasket since 2017—it was canceled in 2019 to accommodate the FIBA World Cup and then again in 2021 for the rescheduled 2020 Olympics.

When is Eurobasket 2022?

Eurobasket 2022 begins on September 1st. The finals will take place on September 18th. 

Where is Eurobasket 2022?

The group stages will be scattered between Germany, Italy, Georgia and the Czech Republic. The knockout rounds and finals will be held in Berlin, Germany.

How do I watch it?

ESPN+ will stream every Eurobasket 2022 game. 

What is the format?

For the opening round, the 24 teams are put in four groups of six teams. From each group, the top four teams enter the single-elimination knockout stage, which is seeded based on performance in group play.

What are the groups?

Group A

Belgium

Bulgaria

Georgia (host)

Montenegro

Spain

Turkey

Group B

Bosnia and Herzegovina

France

Germany (host)

Hungary

Lithuania

Slovenia

Group C

Croatia

Estonia

Great Britain

Greece

Italy (host)

Ukraine

Group D

Czech Republic (host)

Finland

Israel

Netherlands

Poland

Serbia

Is there a group of death?

Yes, Group B is a bloodbath.

Who are the best teams?

Serbia (+300 to win Eurobasket 2022)

Nikola Jokic is the best player in the world, so it’s only fair that Serbia is the best team in Europe. While Serbia won’t bring their full complement of NBA players to Eurobasket (Bogdan Bogdanovic and Boban Marjanovic are hurt, Aleksej Pokusevski and Nikola Jovic couldn’t get approval from their teams), Jokic is such a singularly dominant and additive player that it doesn’t matter; surround him with any four ambulant players and he’ll make the offense hum. Defensively, Jokic benefits from FIBA’s slightly different set of rules—namely, that there’s no defensive three-seconds violation. Similarly, the relative paucity of dangerous scoring European guards ensures that Jokic can safely dock himself in the paint without having to huff and puff around the perimeter. 

Beyond Jokic, Serbia teems with elite Euroleaguers—as the 2021 Euroleague MVP and the reigning two-time Finals MVP, point guard Vasileje Micic is the best player in the world who’s not in the NBA; Vladimir Lucic is a sharpshooting wing who made the All-Euroleague team each of the last two seasons. 

Greece (+430)

As the best Greek basketball player of all time, Giannis Antetokoumnpo is ready to move past his puzzling lack of international success. The last time he donned a Greek jersey in real competition, Antetokounmpo seemed oddly cowed, averaging just 14.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 9.2 field goal attempts as Greece staggered to an 11th place finish at the 2019 World Cup. Since then, though, he’s polished away whatever flaws remained in his game and became an NBA champion and Finals MVP in the process. Accordingly, Antetokounmpo once again has looked appropriately Greek Freaky in his two tune-up games before Eurobasket, averaging 33 points and 7.5 rebounds against Serbia and Belgium. 

Although Antetokounmpo is the team’s undeniable star, he’s hardly their only important contributor. On the perimeter, naturalized guards Tyler Dorsey and Nick Calathes provide a necessary counterweight to Antetokoumpo’s interior dominance—the California-born Dorsey is a dynamic shooter and the Florida-born Calathes is one of Europe’s best-ever assist-men. 

Slovenia (+470)

Slovenia and Dallas aren’t really that different, basketball-wise at least. With Luka Doncic at the helm, both Slovenia and the Mavs pair their superstar with a crafty lefty guard as his main sidekick and stretchy forwards dotting the perimeter. The formula works. For evidence, just rewatch the Mavs upset the Phoenix Suns to make the Western Conference Finals for the first time in a decade last season or how Slovenia won Eurobasket in 2017, in large part because of a breakout performance from an 18 year-old Doncic. More recently, Doncic carried Slovenia to the cusp of the gold medal game of the 2021 Olympics, just barely falling short against France 90-89. If NBA players are largely hopeless against Doncic, Euroleaguers are even hopeless-er; against overmatched competition, Doncic led the Olympics in both points and assists last year. Look for him to repeat that feat at Eurobasket 2022. 

France (+550)

At full strength, France is by far the best team in Europe—and maybe even the world. It’s easy to imagine a frontcourt of Victory Wembanyama, Rudy Gobert and the newly naturalized Joel Embiid rampaging through the 2024 Olympics to secure the gold medal. But, in 2022, France is fairly depleted—Embiid, Wembanyama, Nic Batum, Frank Ntilikina and Nando De Colo are all injured. Still, the spine of the 2021 Olympic silver medalists who nearly swept the United States remains—Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert are among the most dangerous one-two punches in the field and France has depth up and down their roster, whereas most countries are either big-heavy or guard-heavy. 

Lithuania (+1200)

Speaking of big-heavy rosters, Lithuania is ready to mash. Led by Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis, Lithuania has a frontcourt that most NBA teams can’t even equal. Despite the fact that both Valanciunas and Sabonis are deficient NBA defenders, luckily, this isn’t the NBA.  To wit, both big men can fluently negotiate the tight spaces and facilitate within the slow tempo of the European game, giving Lithuania a rare level of potency and security that few teams can boast. Granted, Lithuania doesn’t quite have the high-end star power of Serbia, Greece or Slovenia, but they compensate with a deep, well-constructed roster that’ll contend in Europe for years to come. In this sense, the next generation is already here: Michigan standout Ignas Brazdeikas is a smooth bucket-getter who should start on the wing; future Knick Rokas Jokubaitas is a steely lefty guard who will run point. 

Games to watch (all times Eastern Standard Time):

September 1: Lithuania vs. Slovenia, 11:05am

Sabonis versus Doncic! Valanciunas versus, uh, Mike Tobey?

September 2: Greece vs. Croatia, 10:50am

Giannis kicks off his Eurobasket 2022 campaign against a dangerous Croatian team headlined by Dario Saric, Bojan Bogdanovic and Ivica Zubac. 

September 3: France vs. Lithuania, 11:35am

Gobert tussles with Sabonis and Valanciunas—think: Eurobasket’s answer to Godzilla vs. Kong.

September 5: Serbia vs. Finland, 2:50pm

Serbia is in a laughably easy group, but the showdown between Jokic and Lauri Markkanen could offer some intrigue.

September 7: France vs Slovenia, 11:05am

Could this be a preview of the finals? 

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Sports

What’s Next For Devin Booker and Nike?

Even though Devin Booker’s season didn’t end the way he wanted, his offseason has gotten off to a great start. Just minutes after free agency started nearly two weeks ago, the Phoenix Suns All-Star signed a super-max extension worth $224 million. Then he was named the cover athlete of the NBA2K23 video game. And now? Booker has signed another new extension– this time with sneaker giant Nike.

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Having been signed to the ‘Swoosh’ since arriving in the NBA seven years ago, Booker has proven to be a successful investment. Despite what some fans say about him, Booker is well-liked and accomplished–a high-level player who is clutch, hasn’t abandoned his team yet, and is racking up endorsements at the same rate as All-Star (three times) and All-NBA team appearances (Just made his first one this year).

So when considering that and the details of Booker’s latest extension, which is rumored to be six years long, the question is, what’s next for Booker and Nike? Suppose you were to go off the company’s current handlings of their NBA stars (Think LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, for example). Would these following options be the most realistic?

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Nike makes D-Book their go-to player to wear new signature sneakers

Similar to what Jordan Brand recently did with Jayson Tatum and the Air Jordan 36, Nike can make Booker their go-to player/litmus test to unveil new signature sneakers.

In his case, it makes too much sense for Booker to be the player revealing new color aways of the late Kobe Bryant’s sneaker line, given their relationship and similarities in playing style.

Does Booker receives his own shoe and collection?

While this option is closer to unlikely than likely, given his lack of a championship, I wouldn’t rule it out– even if he doesn’t win one within the next few years. Like any other shoe company, Nike is looking to build its following line of superstars, especially with LeBron James and Kevin Durant nearing the end of their careers.

A signature shoe and collection is never out of the question as long as D-Book continues playing at a high level.

Nothing changes (for now)

This option only exists because it could very well be the case. Nike doesn’t have to elevate Booker’s stature within the company. Not with LeBron and KD being their long-time acts, Antetokounmpo’s line getting pushed following his 2021 championship run, and Kobe’s on-court legacy properly preserved through his collection.

It’s going to be a lot of fun watching these two sides continue their relationship! Congratulations to Devin Booker once again.

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Sports Strength

What We Learned From This Year’s NBA On Christmas Games

Amidst all the concerns about rising COVID cases and player entries in their health protocols, the NBA managed to have another star-studded and exciting day of Christmas Day games. Whether it was Kemba Walker achieving a first-time accomplishment to both of the last-minute thrillers that occurred in Phoenix and Los Angeles, here are our three biggest takeaways from this year’s NBA on Christmas games.

Kemba is making the most of his return to action
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There was an ongoing discussion regarding Kemba Walker and his career for three weeks due to his surprise benching by New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau— who attributed Walker’s benching to his lack of aggression. But over the past week, the former All-Star guard is not only playing again, but he’s making history in the process.

During the team’s 101-87 victory against their close rival Atlanta Hawks, Walker produced a triple-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists) and became the first Knick to accomplish that feat on Christmas. “It’s kind of hard to put it into words, to be honest,” Walker said after the game. “It was special, just to be home, with that New York on my chest … a New York City kid, born and raised. It felt amazing.”

Giannis proves why he’s the best player in the world
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Even though the conversation about who is the best player will always exist, there are times where there’s a clear answer. Last Saturday, Antetokounmpo presented an open and shut case for his claim as the best player in the league via his spectacular second-half performance against the Boston Celtics.

When looking beyond the reigning Finals MVP’s stat-line (36 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists), Antetokounmpo’s impact on both ends of the floor became a massive obstacle for the Celtics to overcome, despite leading by double digits throughout the game, including with five minutes remaining in regulation.

The Warriors and Nets proved their toughness in last-minute thrillers
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During primetime matchups such as the Golden State Warriors vs. the Phoenix Suns or the Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, the idea of a measuring test existing between either team comes to life. And while there was much to observe in both of those two games, one thing was for sure. The Warriors and the Nets are the best teams in their conferences.

Even with several key contributors and stars out of action and playing in challenging environments, the Nets and Warriors relied on their toughness and “next man up” mentality to secure a pair of big wins. At this point of the season, speculation could be created for a potential Finals matchup between these two teams.

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Sports Strength

Ranking The Top Five NBA MVP Candidates

With every team having played at least 20 games, the first quarter of the 2021-’22 NBA regular season is over. As the second stage of the season commences, it’s also the beginning of every race that involves awards and honors, most noticeably MVP. And while it’s not a surprise, there’s a large group of early-season MVP candidates, even if only a select few genuinely compete for the award throughout the season.

Down below is our ranking of the top five NBA MVP candidates right now.

1. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
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Curry is aging like fine wine. At 33-years-old, the former two-time MVP’s scoring average of 27.8 points per game places him amongst fine company—Dominique Wilkins, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant are the only players in NBA history to average more points at Curry’s age. Not to mention, Curry is the biggest reason why his Golden State Warriors are off to an 18-3 start, tied for the best record in the league.

2. Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
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The man who’s also known as “Easy Money Sniper,” is not only playing arguably the most efficient ball of his career ever, but he’s the heart and soul of a Nets team that’s reigns first in the Eastern Conference. And remember, Durant is doing this without star point guard Kyrie Irving and former MVP James Harden being inconsistent every night.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
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The reigning NBA Finals MVP has tapped into another level of play as his production (27 PPG, 11 RPG, and 6 APG) is powering the Bucks to an eight-game winning streak, the second-longest across the league. And for those who value a player’s performance in the clutch, Antetokounmpo made the game-winning layup to defeat the Charlotte Hornets in a thrilling 127-125 victory on Wednesday night.

4. Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns
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Ever since his arrival in the desert over a year ago, CP3’s greatest contribution to the Suns has been his play during crunch time. Fewer players, let alone guards, impact the game in every way possible like this future Hall of Famer. Plus, when your team is riding the league’s longest winning streak (17 games) and your latest win is against the previously 18-2 Warriors? Your name is rightfully in the MVP conversation.

5. DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls
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Even though most of the attention has shifted towards the Warriors, Suns, Nets, and Bucks, the noise coming out of Chicago has remained loud, and it’s because of DeRozan. Besides averaging his second-career-best point per game (25), the former long-time Raptor’s production in the clutch and quickly-established chemistry with his star teammate Zach LaVine are why the Bulls have a 14-8 record right now.

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From November 15th-21st

While we’re still at a relatively young point of this current NBA season, just about 20 percent of the season has elapsed and it’s becoming increasingly clear what fate holds for each team. Down below are my four takeaways from the NBA’s latest week in action!

Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are the league’s best duo
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To some, this first takeaway may be absurd, but it’s not if you’ve watched LaVine and DeRozan play consistently. Even in a league where dynamic duos are as common as foul calls and slam dunks, there hasn’t been a better and more impactful duo than the Bulls’ pair of likely 2022 All-Star selections.

Between the two leading the league in fourth-quarter points (DeRozan has 126 and LaVine has 111) and being the fastest duo in 59 years to produce ten games with 25+ points apiece, DeRozan and LaVine have lifted the Bulls’ ceiling from fringe-playoff team to a viable title contender.

The Bucks are beginning to bounce back
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Even though the reigning world champion’s 6-8 start had a few people questioning their chances of repeating, the Bucks have righted the ship after winning three consecutive games. Giannis Antetokounmpo is not only going beast mode as he’s averaging 33 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists per game during the Bucks’ winning streak but so is the rest of their roster as key players recover from injuries.

With the return of fellow All-Star Kris Middleton (COVID-19) and Bobby Portis and Jrue Holiday regaining their productive form, the Bucks have the opportunity to rack up wins during a soft portion of their schedule; until December 8th, the Bucks only face four teams with a winning record (Charlotte, Cleveland, Denver, and Miami), and two of them are battling injuries as we speak (Cleveland and Denver).

Rudy Gay is going to fit in nicely in Utah
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Sure, the 11-5 Utah Jazz already have a plethora of talent, but that doesn’t mean they can’t receive additional help. While receiving reliable and all-around production from their regular cast of contributors, the Western Conference competitor received a sizable bump in scoring and size when veteran forward Rudy Gay made his season debut on Saturday night.

The former San Antonio Spur delivered 20 points in his first game as a Jazz and has added another dimension to the team’s offense. At 6-foot-8, Gay is comfortable playing on the perimeter and is able to create his own shot from any area of the court because of his ability to shoot over defenders. This development is massive for a Jazz team that enjoys having as many shot-creators as possible, especially in the postseason.

The Lakers can’t be any worse than what they just were
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The last three weeks have certainly been a roller-coaster in La-La land, but you know what? Even at 9-9, the Los Angeles Lakers are pretty much at their nadir as a team, and, for them, that’s a good thing. Even while enduring a recent Lebron-less three-game losing streak and randomly getting blown out by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Lakers showed just enough promise of what they could become soon.

And while it’s easy to look at Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook as the primary reasons for such optimism, the most promising development has been the improvement of third-year wing Talen Horton-Tucker. Through his first five games, Horton-Tucker has offered the Lakers a needed jolt of energy and athleticism; head coach Frank Vogel has to keep him involved no matter what.

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Sports Strength

NBA Highlights From the Season’s Opening Week

If there’s anything to accept about the NBA, it’s that there’ll never be a week without action or drama! As we’re officially one week into the 2021-2022 season, fans and media have been left with plenty to discuss. Between this year’s rookie class getting off to a good start, various games having exciting finishes, and the reigning world champion Milwaukee Bucks looking better than ever before, there is a lot to unpack from the NBA’s opening week. So down below are the four biggest takeaways from it! 

The Bucks are clearly favored to repeat

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Minus a rare blowout loss to the Miami Heat last Thursday night (They lost by 42 points!), the Milwaukee Bucks (2-1) have looked and played the part of a team that is becoming increasingly favored to repeat as NBA champion. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Averaging 22 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, and 5 assists per game) is gearing up for another run at league MVP. Right now, the Bucks have six players who are averaging double-digit points, with George Hill or Brook Lopez are on the precipice of becoming the seveneth(both are averaging eight points per game).

And by the way? Don’t sleep on second-year forward Jordan Nwora (11 PPG and 5 RPG). The Louisville product put a lot of people on notice on opening night with his 15-point performance against the Brooklyn Nets. If he continues to find his groove, the reigning NBA champion will have the kind of depth that contenders need to endure the long regular season, especially when the currently-injured Donte DiVincenzo returns. 

LaMelo Ball and the Hornets won’t remain your League Pass Darlings anymore

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With more basketball fans watching games through NBA League Pass or other more illicit forms of streaming, there will always be specific players or teams that become must-watch TV despite their current lowly situation. Although that extra attention may be welcome, it’s often heaped upon teams as a kind of damning praise—the only reason they’re League Pass Darlings is because they aren’t good enough to merit many games on the NBA’s national broadcasts. But in the case of the Charlotte Hornets, this is a good thing. After fighting their way into the play-in tournament last season and being knocked out by the Indiana Pacers, the Hornets have returned wiser, stronger, and somehow more entertaining as they finished opening week with a 3-0 record.

Reigning Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball (22/5/6) and the ultra-dynamic fourth-year forward Miles Bridges (25 PPG and 8 RPG) are taking the leap you want to witness from your team’s brightest stars. Veterans such as Gordon Haywood and Kelly Oubre are providing top-notch on and off the court support. And who would have thought Ish Smith becomes a feel-good story at any point of this season while still proving his ability to get a bucket at any moment? 

We have another stellar rookie class to watch this season

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Fewer things are more exciting than watching the league’s newest members thrive as pros, but when their impact is immediate? Priceless! As this year’s rookie class takes their first action in the NBA, it has become clear these guys will be game-changers for their franchises. Top picks Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, and Scottie Barnes have kicked off the Rookie of the Year race. Davion Mitchell might become the Sacramento Kings’ best two-way player in due time. 

And it isn’t a complete rookie class without those mid-late first-round picks (Indiana’s Chris Duarte) who are surprising everyone with their production too!

Exciting games = near heart attacks but it’s worth it

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Of course, last-second games are expected throughout an NBA season, but what we watched during opening week? Chaotic! Between the double-overtime thriller between the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics and what we experienced on Sunday night with the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies, the league is witnessing teams sharpen each other’s iron and set the tone for what’s ahead in the following weeks.

As the season continues, we’re going to witness the immediate effect of close games on teams regarding their load management and handling of rotations. But to a further extent, that effect could be felt sooner than later.