You’re never going to hear Mike Born, our Director of Scouting, complain about his schedule. The man loves his job. But when I got him on the phone Tuesday afternoon after Spain’s 84-76 victory against Great Britain, he sounded a bit road weary.
“It’s about midnight here,” Born explained. “I went the camp in Johannesburg (read about Born at Basketball Without Borders) at 11:30 pm, flew all night to Amsterdam, got there at 10:30 in the morning, had a four hour layover, then took the flight from Amsterdam to Warsaw. I ended getting in around 5 pm. I had two bags. Got one, didn’t get the other.”
With no time to fill out a claims report, Born left the airport a bag short, took a quick shower at the hotel, then made his way over to catch the start of preliminary play at EuroBasket with the goal of seeing as much Rudy Fernandez, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland as he could. So there was probably no one in the arena more relieved than Born to see those three players on the court at the same time Tuesday in Warsaw. At least it was two hours he wouldn’t have to board a plan or flag down a taxi.
“Spain Was Fortunate To Get Out Of There With A W”
For Born, the final score of the game isn’t incredibly important. He’s here to see players, not teams. But he's a basketball junkie down to the core, and given the choice, he’d much rather see a close game than a blowout. And from a scouting perspective, the information you gather from a tight contest generally tells you more about a player than stats put up in a beatdown. So Tuesday’s game, a blowout-turned-fourth-quarter-barnburner, satisfied both Born the fan and Born the scout.
“I think the first thing with the game is it was a great game,” said Born. “I think Spain was pretty fortunate to be able to come out on top. I thought, other than the start of the game -- I think they were down 12-0 -- Great Britain played pretty inspired basketball through the next 30-plus minutes.”
That inspiration manifested as a 17-3 run by the Brits to start the fourth quarter. Everything Great Britain threw near the basket seemed to go in. But the Union Jack’s couldn’t hold it together up 73-69 with fewer than five minutes to play and with the defending World Champions on the ropes.
“It was a four-point game there,” said Born. “Rudy obviously had a big steal, goes down lays it up. Great Britain comes down, turns it over. Spain gets in transition, Rudy makes another good play to get Navarro a three, and now Spain is up one. Great Britain doesn’t score, then (Pau) Gasol hits the three and all of the sudden it goes from Great Britain up four to down four. You could just sort of feel like the wheels were sort of coming off Great Britain. And shoot, all they had done was go three possessions without scoring.”
Spain ended up outscoring Great Britain 10-3 in the final three minutes of the game, turning what would have been one of the biggest upsets in international basketball history into nothing more than a close call for the Iberians.
“It’s not like Spain has got some no-names out there making plays,” said Born. “That’s part of the reason why Rudy, Navarro and Gasol are such good players: they make plays. I thought Great Britain played really well and I thought Spain was fortunate to get out of there with a W, and I imagine they’d probably tell you the same thing.
“As far as our guys, I felt like all three of them, for the amount of minutes that they played, I thought they all three played really good basketball."
Coming tomorrow: a detailed breakdown's from Born on the play of Fernandez, Claver and Freeland