Kiwis end unsuccessful FIBA World Champs campaign
I won’t pretend that, despite being eliminated in the round of sixteen, the Tall Blacks performed well in this world championship. They didn’t. Games that should have been close ended up being heavy defeats; games that should have been comfortable wins ended up being too close for comfort.
They demonstrated the same flaws throughout the tournament: a cold shooting streak and weakness in defensive rebounding. Even shooting guard Phill Jones found himself cold all tournament—all six games—which is, well, what are the chances? Offensive boards too often went against them, and their own offensive boards were somewhat non-existent, leading to a less-than-perfect performance that was, to be fair, worthy of a top-sixteen place and nothing more. It could have been worse, I guess.
Mark Dickel’s three-game suspension, imposed by FIBA for using cannabis recreationally at a party about one-and-a-half months before the tournament, was, well, slightly controversial—not so much the suspension as the fact that FIBA failed to follow accepted procedure in accepting the fully-explained punishment given by the Sports Disputes Tribunal, opting instead to ignore it outright and run its own thing. His suspension was a significant price in that New Zealand was reduced to one point-guard for the first three games—incidentally, against the three best teams in Group B. (Our draw managed to put us against the teams in descending order of ability, excluding us.)
Almost every team we played against, especially Germany, executed a drive in, kick out offense (drive into the key, and pass it out to a three-point shooter), which we never seemed to get our heads around. Our free-throw rate was too low to expect to win any game (free-throws can win games), somewhat reflective of our shooting in general. Well, I could go on, I guess, but I’d be going on about what everyone already knows.
Okay, so well fell a bit short of 2002, failing to make the semi-finals. But then again, so did Australia. From a lighter view, the fact that both Oceania teams played well enough to make it to the second round is something to be hopeful about. The standard of New Zealand basketball is, in my view, decent; the Tall Blacks just played not as well as they’ve played before. Despite having a largely unsuccessful campaign, there’s still the chance to look four years down the line and have a (hopefully) better crack at the championship in Turkey, 2008.