Those of you lucky enough to watch afternoon basketball on your computer screen were treated to a fun Eurobasket opener for Jan Vesely, Tomas Satoransky and the Czech Republic. They went up against Slovenia, a deeper, bigger team with stronger NBA talent that just so happened to be the host nation. A blowout seemed likely. Instead, the Czech Republic fought every step of the way and nearly came away with the game, falling 62-60 after a last-second hope ended in a travel.
Vesely and Satoransky were the team's leaders in different ways. Both had their moments, and all in all, played well, though I'd say Satoransky was more impressive.
The good news for Vesely was that he was productive. Vesely led the way statistically with 17 points and seven rebounds, showing some nice touch around the basket, particularly in the pick and roll. He was usually the team's biggest player, but he often played on the perimeter in the Czech Republic's Flex system, which often saw them post up their guards or get perimeter players the ball after shuffle cuts and other motion sequences.
The bad news? For one, he missed both of his jumpers and four of his five free throws, so there wasn't much progression there. The free-throw misses were especially frustrating because that was the difference between a win and a loss. For another, while he had his moments inside, I still thought he left a number of rebounds on the table. There were several sequences where the Czech Republic desperately needed him to grab a defensive rebound or at least keep his man from doing so to finish possessions, and he came up empty. Vesely can be breathtaking athletically when he gets a running start, as he showed at times in this one, but he still lacks the lower-body strength to power through from a stand-still position.
Satoransky, though, was excellent. He finished with 12 points, and there was a lot I liked about his game. He was poised in half-court and open-floor settings, only committing one silly turnover. He showed great vision, especially when pitching the ball ahead to set up fast breaks and on some plays where his teammates didn't finish. Unlike in Summer League, when we last saw him, he didn't wilt in the face of pressure. Defensively, he was very good, helping to hold Goran Dragic to 2-12 shooting. I don't know if he's NBA-ready yet given his shooting struggles, but he sure looked like an intriguing prospect to me. (He's still only 21, remember).
Poland's up next at 11:45 a.m. tomorrow. What were your impressions?