Celtics’ Daniel Theis On Schedule Differences Between Europe And NBA

Photo Credit: Charles Krupa / AP

Celtics’ Daniel Theis On Schedule Differences Between Europe And NBA


Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder had a pre-season Spain tour, and left Russell Westbrook stunned. He admired the way European teams play and gave a bold statement:

“I think one thing people don’t realize is guarding teams in Europe. Their offenses are 10 times better than NBA offense just because they move around a lot. A lot of movement and not as much talent so they have to do different things to be able to score the basketball.”

While there is no doubt that European leagues have less talent, it is hard to believe that their offenses are that superior to NBA offenses. Granted, out of 82 games, more than half of the games aren’t played with 100% of effort. It wouldn’t be possible to do so, considering the intensity and frequency of games.

The frequency of games also is one of the hardest things for European players to adjust to when coming over to the NBA. Adjusting to the schedule, that’s also what Celtics rookie Daniel Theis talked about during an international media conference that was held yesterday. Theis, who succesfully played in Germany, winning three titles and the defensive player of the year award, while also being part of four All-Star games, also believes that the tight NBA schedule makes it harder for players compared to Europe.

“We played almost 70 games last year with Bamberg with the EuroLeague, but we had the chance to rest a lot of players in the German league, too. With the NBA’s schedule, the games are like back to back. We’ve played 40 games right now, and the season is two months old. Especially our schedule was really tough because we only played two games right now the whole season with two days in between. I think that’s the part that makes it harder than in Europe because in Europe, with the EuroLeague, you have Monday to Wednesday for practice or preparing, and then you know you play maybe Thursday, Saturday, like two games a week. And right now with the NBA schedule, we play like four to five games a week.”

I often watch European leagues and while I have to say that the game is played differently in Europe – the team is always more important than a star player, the offense never runs plays for only the star, it is more team oriented and efficient – I don’t think it is far superior. Basketball historians love European basketball, because it is played more traditionally than NBA basketball. The intensity is higher, teams already defend with a full-court press in the first quarter, coaches get mad when a player jacks up a contested shot and the focus is on ball-movement. This could easily also describe the San Antonio Spurs’ style of basketball and that’s one of the main reasons why I have to disagree with Russell Westbrook’s statement I quoted earlier.

I think the main reason why NBA offenses operate differently is the frequency of games. During an NBA season, every team plays 82 games (PLUS Playoffs) while in European leagues teams only play half as much. There are no back-to-back games, and games are played in four ten-minute quarters. In league mode (international leagues are different), teams don’t have to travel as far and have more time to practice. Come playoff time, you see NBA teams change their intensity and also improve ball-movement and efficiency. I think you can’t compare the NBA to Europe in general, because of the different systems.

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