What is the difference in style of play between European and NBA basketball?
April 21, 2006 8:43 PM   Subscribe

What is the difference in style of play between European and NBA basketball?

I was under the impression that the European game tended to be more fundamental, team-style basketball, based probably simply on commentary that I read surrounding the poor performance of the last two US olympic basketball teams. It seemed to me like the US players had overemphasized attacking the basket, as personified by Allen Iverson's style.

But then I read this article in the New Jersey Record about Nenad Krstic's emergence as a talent on the Nets. A quote:

"He's 10 times better here than in Europe because those guys don't pass the ball a lot," said Nets guard Zoran Planinic, who is Croatian and played against Krstic abroad. "He's unbelievable here, especially with J. Kidd."

So what's the deal? If they don't pass a lot, what do they do?
posted by dammitjim to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
 
NBA players are outstanding passers in the context of the NBA game. But attacking the basket and interior passing is more difficult when the 3-point line is moved in as it is in the international game so the American team looked really awkward in comparison to the teams they were playing, if you ask me.
The Lithuanian team is accustomed to playing with each other and by international rules, with trapezoid lanes. The Lithuanian team could not come close to defeating an American team under NBA rules, IMHO. (It makes me wonder: How would the 2006 NBA all-star team do versus Florida if they were playing by collegiate rules?)
posted by Aghast. at 9:17 PM on April 21, 2006


Keep in mind that in international play, most of the teams play together far, far more than the U.S. teams, which are ad hoc groups thrown together for specific events. So, the commentators' emphasis on "fundamentals" is more reflective of the players' familiarity with each other, as opposed to real "Larry Bird style" fundamentals.

Some random observations (and there are plenty of exceptions, of course):

* European players are notorious for being poor defenders, especially at team-oriented defense.
* European play is not as position-oriented as the NBA game. Where an NBA center would act like a "traditional" 5, a European center might be tasked with something else. See Nowitzski, Dirk.
* Because the European game's goaltending rules are different (i.e. you can interfere with the ball "in the cone"), they don't generally rebound as well.
* European players just don't have the same kind of physical conditioning as U.S. players. You wouldn't believe the number of players who are daily cigarette smokers. This leads to even more defensive breakdowns and shooting contests.
* Because the NBA players are so fast, the NBA game is focused on getting and exploiting mismatches, either in a half-court set or on a break. This leads to lots of isolation play, which lends itself to the criticism of the game being all about one guy attacking the basket while everyone else stands around. The European play is looser and unstructured and reliant on mid-range shooting.

So, why did the NBA all-stars do so poorly last time out? I would place the blame squarely on mental breakdowns. Meaning, nobody cared.

Forget the all-stars -- if you could've gotten any single NBA playoff team to enter the Olympics and have them play with a playoff level of commitment, they'd totally run the table.

How would the 2006 NBA all-star team do versus Florida if they were playing by collegiate rules?

Although you could make an argument that Florida would not be a defensive pushover because of their time playing together, the NBA guys would indeed crush them. Besides being more talented in general, the NBA players would be physically imposing from the start of the lineup to the bottom. And the collegiate three-point line is nothing to NBA guards and forwards.
posted by frogan at 9:44 PM on April 21, 2006


frogan, I agree with much of what you said...but one observation- "Forget the all-stars -- if you could've gotten any single NBA playoff team to enter the Olympics and have them play with a playoff level of commitment, they'd totally run the table."

Foreign players are key contributors on almost every good playoff team...Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli on the Spurs, Nowitzki on the Mavs, Steve Nash on the Suns, Peja on last years Kings, etc...too tired to go through all the rosters but just wanted to remind all that the best teams prominently feature foreigners, so you can't simply remove them for Fantasy League play against international competition...
posted by vito90 at 12:34 AM on April 22, 2006


vito90, I agree with what you're saying, but I can't help but point out that the best team in the league does not rely very much on foreign-born players. The Pistons have one international player, who contributes at times, but spends a lot of time in Flip's doghouse, too, apparently. As posters have mentioned about the Euro game, it's because Delfino doesn't play good defense. The Pistons put the lie to the Euro = fundamental / American = freewheeling, too. They run a terrific textbook, with improvisation, offense (watch Rip Hamilton or Rasheed Wallace for fundamental shooting) with incredible passing (watch Lindsey Hunter or Billups) and just flat-out insane help defense (the Wallaces and sometimes Tayshaun*). There are some really awkward one-dimensional guys in the league who can't shoot very well, but I think it mostly just rubs old white guys the wrong way... Field goal percentage was actually worse at other times in the league's history.

So, the Pistons, if motivated as frogan suggests, would crush any other country's team, using all American-born players. In the future, I think that might change, but for now, the US still has the best players en masse.

* - Would have been one of the first players I would have selected for the new US international team.
posted by Slothrop at 5:11 AM on April 22, 2006


i'm curious - i'm british and know nothing about basketball, but when i read vito90's post i get the impression that americans are better at absolutely everything but then lose games because they don't care.

which raises the obvious question: what's the point of winning, if it's not about deciding who is best?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:24 AM on April 22, 2006


I think he's believing that its because it lies under a certain set of rules designed to help inferior competition defeat superior competition....its like giving them points before the game even begins.
posted by skepticallypleased at 7:58 AM on April 22, 2006


rules designed to help inferior competition defeat superior competition

i didn't see anyone saying that. you seriously think that europe chose its basketball rules so that it could beat americans? to be honest, i'm not sure you're that important.
posted by andrew cooke at 10:14 AM on April 22, 2006


andrew cooke- "when i read vito90's post i get the impression that americans are better at absolutely everything but then lose games because they don't care"

You got that from my post?

Rules are not designed to help an inferior talent team beat a superior talent team. An inferior talent team uses the applicable rules to beat a superior team.
posted by vito90 at 10:36 AM on April 22, 2006


i get the impression that americans are better at absolutely everything but then lose games because they don't care.

Oh heck no. I believe we're all narrowly focused on just basketball here. There's World Cup football coming up, where we're all going to watch a group of highly motivated Americans get spanked. ;-)
posted by frogan at 5:48 PM on April 22, 2006


i get the impression that americans are better at absolutely everything but then lose games because they don't care

Well, Americans (I am one) tend to get bent out of shape if somebody beats us at our own game. Like, we invented basketball and shit, okay? And we're usually quite proud to dominate those things. Take, for example, the auto industry: sometimes we just blow it, and that's that, we're beaten.

But olympic basketball is a different story. Now that there are professionals playing, we field a team from the ranks of the NBA during their offseason, and the players just don't really care as much about winning compared to their performance in the NBA. Many players (not to mention team owners) would rather rest for the next NBA season, and many fans would rather they did, too.

Americans don't care that much about winning olympic basketball gold. We expect to, and everyone got all bent out of shape when the US team did so poorly last time, but there's nowhere near the same amount of glory involved in winning in the olympics compared to the NBA - for the players or the fans - and it was forgotten quickly. Plus, it's easily explained in the minds of the fans and the pundits (those spoiled rich athletes can't get along and only care about themselves), so that we don't get around to examining our own deep disinterest.

So that's some psychographics about losing games because the players don't care. Americans will tend to be better at basketball, though, since we just have more kids playing while young. It's like the Canadians or Scandanavians and hockey.
posted by dammitjim at 7:56 PM on April 22, 2006


By the way, thanks for the info about the European game, guys. Interesting stuff. Anybody know anything about Japanese baseball? I've always been curious about that, too.
posted by dammitjim at 7:57 PM on April 22, 2006


Anybody know anything about Japanese baseball?

Same game, same basic strategies. Until recently (e.g. last 10 years), the players were physically different (i.e. smaller), so there was less of a power game. But the main difference is a totally different mind-set. On this note, there are a few good books:

Slugging It Out in Japan: An American Major Leaguer in the Tokyo Outfield

You Gotta Have Wa

The Meaning of Ichiro: The New Wave from Japan and the Transformation of Our National Pastime

posted by frogan at 8:33 PM on April 22, 2006


You Gotta Have Wa will explain it all.
posted by vito90 at 4:50 PM on April 23, 2006


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