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Friday, October 06, 2006

Philadelphia 76ers Open NBA Europe Live Tour With a 104-99 Loss to FC Barcelona

The Philadelphia 76ers became the first NBA team to lose a game to a European team in Europe, falling 104-99 to FC Barcelona in the NBA Europe Live Tour. NBA TV telecast the game, with Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel handling the call. Admittedly, the "in Europe" distinction that NBA TV kept stressing* seems a bit irrelevant--for one thing, the Toronto Raptors lost to Maccabi Tel Aviv 105-103 in Toronto less than a year ago. Also, Team USA has lost so many times in recent FIBA competitions that it hardly seems shocking that a FIBA team would beat an NBA team, particularly one that has just opened training camp. In any case, although there had been some close calls, NBA teams had been undefeated on European soil since they started playing exhibition games there in 1987. Here is a history of games played by NBA teams in Europe: NBA.com Europe Live History

Samuel Dalembert led the 76ers with 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Philadelphia shot just 26-48 from the free throw line, while FC Barcelona shot 26-29 on their free throws. Barcelona also shot 10-24 on three pointers, while the 76ers were just 3-8 behind the arc. Juan Carlos Navarro, who plays for Spain's FIBA World Championship team, led FC Barcelona with 18 points. Throughout the game, I kept having flashbacks to the old Keith Olbermann/Dan Patrick Sportscenters, when Olbermann would exclaim "Gianluca Pagliuca"--only this time, it was Gianluca Basile, who you might remember from the Italian team in various FIBA competitions. Basile contributed 17 points.

The 76ers got off to a quick start, taking a 16-6 lead in the first quarter. Guard Jaka Lakovic score nine first quarter points and had two assists to help bring Barcelona back to within one (30-29) by the end of the period. The second quarter was played at a slower pace and the teams were tied at 51 at halftime. Chris Webber led the 76ers with 13 points, while Denis Marcunato had 10 for Barcelona. Lakovic picked up his third foul late in the first quarter and still had nine points at halftime.

Barcelona scored the first basket of the second half on a Fran Vasquez putback; the Orlando Magic drafted him with the 11th pick overall in the 2005 draft, only to be stunned by his decision to remain in Europe. He is a starter for Barcelona and showed some real flashes in this game, including a spin move on the left baseline against Webber, capped off by a dunk that put Barcelona up 68-62. Barcelona led for most of the quarter, but their coach Dusko Ivanovic got a technical foul late in the quarter for arguing a call. The 76ers nailed three straight free throws to go up 73-72 but Navarro countered with two free throws of his own with just five seconds left, putting Barcelona back on top 74-73 going into the final period.

Neither team led by more than four points for most of the fourth quarter and the 76ers pulled within 93-91 after Iverson split a pair of free throws late in the game. Navarro answered with a three pointer and Webber threw the ball away on the 76ers' next possession. Basile sealed Philadelphia's fate with a four point play, pushing the margin to 100-91.

You may be wondering what exactly the NBA Europe Live Tour is. Four NBA teams--Philadelphia 76ers, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns--will be playing games against various European teams. For the NBA teams, these are exhibition games that take place right after training camp has begun; for the European teams--and their fans--these games are an opportunity to compete against the most famous basketball players in the world. The games don't actually count in either NBA or FIBA records but you can be sure that any NBA losses--and we know now that there will be at least one--will be dissected as if basketball in America is coming to an end. NBA play is one thing and FIBA play is another, but what are we to make of NBA preseason games played in Europe at the beginning of NBA training camps?

The NBA Europe Live Tour games are being played with hybrid rules: the NBA's four 12 minute quarters, three point line, new basketball and sixth foul for disqualification but FIBA's trapezoid lane and goaltending rules. The NBA restricted area semi-circle has been painted underneath the basket. What, if any, rules regarding zone defenses are in place was not made clear. The lengthier three point line and longer game might be considered to be advantages for the NBA players, although Barcelona's players certainly did not have much trouble adjusting to either. The trapezoid lane and whatever defensive rules were being applied seemed to have the 76ers confused--but, then again, the 76ers are not a good defensive team under NBA rules, either.

The Philadelphia-FC Barcelona game was officiated by NBA referees Joe Forte and David Jones and Euro League referee E. Viator (his first name was not given). Forte and Jones wore the standard NBA referee uniforms, while Viator wore a neon orange shirt that undoubtedly sent some viewers scrambling to adjust their televisions (or grab sunglasses). I've seen players in various All-Star games wear the jerseys of their regular teams but I've never seen officials in the same game wearing different uniforms. The statistics and graphics were interesting: players' heights were given in meters and shooting statistics were only given in percentages, so unless you kept a running play by play in your head you had no way of knowing if a guy who is shooting 75% has made three of four or six of eight. I would have loved to watch this game in a sports bar with the sound off and listen to people trying to figure out who was playing and what was going on. I imagine it would have sounded something like this:

"Is that the 76ers?"

"Naw, it couldn't be--look at that funny lane. It must be one of them foreign teams."

"Is that guy on fire???"

"No, I think that's just his shirt."

"Did you see that guy drive to the basket and pass off for an uncontested dunk?"

"Yeah. I think that is the 76ers--their defense is in midseason form."

While there are NBA TV correspondents in Europe covering this event and filing reports from the teams' training camps, Spanarkel and Eagle were never shown on camera during the game, so I wonder if they were doing the game from NBA TV studios, just like Jim Durham and Fran Fraschilla did the FIBA World Championships live from Bristol, Connecticut.

*--It may also be inaccurate: According to this AP report, the Soviet National Team defeated the Atlanta Hawks 132-123 in Moscow on July 30, 1988. I guess it depends how you define what Europe is.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:05 AM


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At Friday, October 06, 2006 12:52:00 PM, Blogger alternaviews said...

did Iverson play? what are the odds that he ends up on Philly at season's end?

At Friday, October 06, 2006 4:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Iverson did play. He was not as aggressive as he usually is, shooting 3-12 from the field and scoring 13 points in 38 minutes of play.

The 76ers reportedly tried to trade him in the offseason, did not like the offers that they got and pulled him off of the trading block for now. If the 76ers do poorly early in the season then I think that there is a decent chance that other teams will either slightly raise their offers and/or the Sixers will lower their expectations, allowing a deal to happen. On the other hand, if the Sixers are able to contend for the playoffs and/or there are not sufficiently good offers out there, then Iverson will remain in Philly. The two problems involved with trading an elite player like Iverson are finding a way to make the contracts involved in the deal match and figuring out some way to get equal (or acceptable) value for a great player.


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