Could Europe’s top basketball sides compete with the NBA?
The above question is one that comes up now and again around Europe and my colleagues were at it again after CSKA Moscow beat Partizan Belgrade to reach their seventh consecutive Euroleague Final Four.
A lot of them think CSKA and the like could indeed pose a threat to many NBA teams today because the era of great players in the world’s toughest league is gone.
It was interesting, then, to hear CSKA coach Ettore Messina flatly deny it even after watching his well-drilled do so well.
“We are too slow, not athletic enough and not one of our players is outstanding by NBA standards,” he said. “We have done a good job of playing within our limits in Europe but that’s not enough for the toughest basketball league in the world, so we would find it very difficult to compete.”
Indeed, it is hard to imagine CSKA point guard Jon Robert Holden, who guided Russia to the 2007 European Championship title after adopting the country’s citizenship, stopping even an average NBA rival, never mind someone like Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade, the driving force behind the U.S. team’s gold medal in the Beijing Olympics.
Several national teams have been able to stun U.S. “dream teams” in Olympics and Worlds down the years, fully exploiting the slight differences in NBA and international rules.
But in an NBA environment with an 82-game regular season, 12 minutes instead of 10 in each quarter and the three-point line further back than they would like it to be, CSKA would stand no chance of making an impact.
Still, that won’t bother Messina as the charismatic Italian continues in his quest to win a fifth Euroleague title and make CSKA only the third team in the competition’s history to retain the silverware.