With Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Chris Kaman (Germany) and Gal Mekel (Israel) all declining invitations to play in EuroBasket 2013, Jose Calderon (Spain) is the only Mavs representative at the tournament, which kicked off yesterday.
Held every two years, EuroBasket determines what countries represent the continent in the World Cup and the Olympics. Calderon is part of a Spanish team going for a third consecutive title, though the cast of characters is a bit different this time around.
Spain still has first names on the back of their jerseys (Marc, Ricky, Rudy), but there's been a changing of the guard. Instead of Pau Gasol (not playing) and Calderon, the offense goes through Marc Gasol and Ricky Rubio. In their first game, a 68-40 drubbing of Croatia, Calderon played primarily off the ball, with 13 points, 3 assists and 0 turnovers on 5-8 shooting.
You can see why the Mavs were so high on him in a game like this. In a secondary role, Calderon can be a monstrously efficient basketball player. He's got a nice two-man game with the younger Gasol and he's dangerous off screens as a shooter and a secondary playmaker. There was one sequence when Calderon drove-and-kicked to Rubio, who drove into the lane and whipped a behind-the-back pass to Calderon, who had cut to the short corner for a spot-up 3. Just beautiful.
You can close your eyes and see him spacing the floor and living off Dirk and Monta Ellis next season. How those guys are going to play defense, I have no idea, but they're going to score a lot of points.
Calderon shouldn't be over-extended minutes wise, which is nice. Spain has two NBA-caliber guards -- Sergio Llull (a second-round pick of the Houston Rockets) and Sergio "Spanish Chocolate" Rodriguez -- coming off the bench. Spanish Chocolate is rocking a full-on Taliban beard these days, which is impressive.
The most shocking result from the first day of action was Germany's 80-74 defeat of France, which has Tony Parker, Boris "pass the baguette" Diaw and Nic Batum. They're easily the second most talented team at EuroBasket, but they can't be letting Dirk's boys beat them.
A lot of European NBA players didn't play this year, but there's still talent all over the place. The majority of the teams in Slovenia have at least 1-2 NBA guys or future prospects. Just to name a few, Lithuania has Jonas Valanciunas, Croatia has Dario Saric (whom the Mavs reportedly loved at #13 last year before he pulled out of the draft) while Russia has Alexey Shved and Sergey Karasev.
Serbia could be a dangerous team. They have two future NBA guards in their backcourt -- Nemanja Nedovic (the "European Derrick Rose" who the Golden State Warriors took at #30 last year) and Vasilije Micic, a 19-year old PG who could be a first-round pick down the line. They also have Nenad Krstic, whose basically a non-garbage version of Chris Kaman. He's only 30 years old and could easily hold down a job in the NBA.
All in all, EuroBasket is definitely worth checking out if you're a basketball junkie. It's high-quality action played at a pretty high level of intensity. You can catch it either on ESPN3, which comes as part of ESPN Insider, or at FIBATV, which costs $10 a month.
If anyone out there is watching, consider this the Calderon and all things EuroBasket thread.