The NBA world was eager to see what would happen on Saturday night.
Everyone was heading to Seattle’s Crawsover pro-am for a mega star event. Joining the Seattle natives in Paolo Banchero, Dejounte Murray and Isaiah Thomas joining in this mega game was LeBron James, Jayson Tatum and Aaron Gordon.
It was something the basketball world in Seattle had been waiting for after the Seattle Supersonics left 15 years ago. The market is hungry for basketball and jumped at the chance to see some of the league’s best pass through their city.
Banchero’s last Crawsover appearance ended in a 50-point loss. His last appearance in the Seattle area saw him grab beef with Murray at the Zeek Weekend pro-am in Tacoma, Washington.
The two appeared to crush that beef with a playful assist, a pat on the back (and a loud smack on Murray’s butt) after Banchero slipped on a drive during their game on Saturday.
But that was about it. Aside from James landing a couple of highlight dunks and Tatum hitting some tough 3-pointers, the pro-am game was decided more cautiously than usual. Condensation in the sold out gym resulted in condensation on the field which they were unable to clean up.
The showpiece game was called off midway through the second quarter due to the dangerous conditions. It became a major disappointment.
Paolo Banchero’s marquee return to the Crawsover ended early thanks to condensation on the pitch. Franz Wagner’s run in FIBA international play has only just begun.
And that will likely be all we see of Banchero for the rest of the summer until training camp begins.
Basketball isn’t over yet. The main event of the offseason has only just begun.
The big basketball event of this off-season begins next week with the launch of Eurobasket in Germany. It is one of the most exciting and best international tournaments around. And there will be a host of NBA players taking part in high-profile games just before camp begins – including MVP candidates Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.
Franz Wagner is already beginning his work with Germany as his side aim to qualify for the round of 16 and hopefully the quarter-finals of their home tournament.
Germany started this preparation last week with some exhibition games. But this weekend they presented their first more serious matches by participating in the SuperCup in Hamburg. It was still a home pre-season tournament but featured their first real challenge.
And perhaps the first real chance for Magic fans to take a look at Wagner and where he is at the start of the season.
He performed well in Germany’s first exhibition game against Belgium (and missed the second exhibition game). Wagner held up a lot in the corner in that game against Belgium, but he still had 23 points, including a late-game 3-point clutch that secured the victory.
Wagner doesn’t disappoint in his run so far either.
In Germany’s 101-90 win over the Czech Republic on Friday, Wagner scored 26 points with a fairly wide range of movement off the dribble as well as his usual on-the-move and off-cut attacks.
Watch for Dirk Nowitzki’s one-legged kickback and clever, creative finishes around the basket. That’s what everyone expects from Wagner.
He can still be a bit of a support player. But Wagner always finds a way to make an impact. He can be the complementary player, moving to the basket off of cuts and finishes around the basket and he has shown an increased ability to work on the dribble and hit backsteps.
Everything was on display there.
Things changed in Saturday’s final against Serbia. With Dennis Schroder and Daniel Theis out, Franz Wagner struggled to get started.
Wagner scored just five points as Serbia beat Germany 83-56. There will be plenty more to do on Wagner if Schroder is unable to play in the near future – for now he is generously listed as questionable and may not join the squad in Sweden for Wednesday’s game.
Serbia is one of the best teams in Europe and among the contenders for Eurobasket. Germany needs a certain size to compete with some of these top contenders. There is no shame in losing. But Germany still have a lot of worries as they prepare for Eurobasket.
If they are going to be without these two key players – in addition to Moe Wagner who has withdrawn from summer competition due to an ankle injury sustained in training camp. And they’re going to need Wagner to step in and take more control.
This will excite Magic fans for the opportunity it will provide. But it can also show some of its limitations.
It should be clear that FIBA basketball is not like the NBA in some key respects – zone defenses are allowed for one and the game can be a bit more physical in addition to the shorter line at 3 points compressing some space. But it’s still a good experience for Wagner.
The games are getting serious this week.
Germany will travel to Sweden this week for the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers. This should be a win for Germany, even in their exhausted state. But it’s still a high-stakes game.
Germany went 5-1 in their first round group game and are well placed for the second round. Germany should comfortably progress to the next round and qualify for the next round – they need to finish in the top three of their group to qualify.
This qualifying window will be tough with teams preparing for Eurobasket. So they will get Sweden this week and then face Slovenia with Luka Doncic on Saturday. Germany will not be able to clinch their place in the World Cup until the last two qualifying windows which will take place during the season.
But they were seminal games leading up to Germany’s Eurobasket appearance. Every big game will put pressure on and be a test for Wagner. Especially if he has to step up and be the team’s top scorer.
That’s all we want to see.
Eurobasket now gets the stage and is the big basketball event for the rest of the offseason. We will see what Wagner will be able to do.