Credit: Panagiotis Moschandreou - Getty Images, Zuma Press - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration
Credit Panagiotis Moschandreou - Getty Images, Zuma Press - Scanpix | BasketNews illustration

Although EuroLeague's Round 19 was eventually suspended, BasketNews continues the 3x3 EuroLeague edition, where three of our colleagues give three answers to three questions.

This week, Orazio Cauchi, Uygar Karaca, and Giorgos Kyriakidis will discuss EuroLeague's decision to reduce the quarantine period from 14 to 7 days, best signing made during the season, and teams or players from which we can expect the biggest improvement in the second part of the season.

Is reducing quarantine days better than suspending the season for a couple of weeks?

Orazio: If EuroLeague wants to proceed with the season as planned, reducing the quarantine days is definitely a better option than suspending the season for a few weeks.

14 days are probably too much. Of course, every situation is different, but the Omicron variant looks less aggressive than the previous one, and the symptoms are not that bad. So if a player tested positive and has been symptom-free for 4-5 days and then tested negative, I think it's a good decision to let him be available for his team.

At this point, we have to live with Covid. There's not much else that we can do. I don't think suspending the season for 2 weeks or a month will resolve the situation.

Uygar: Without the required medical expertise, it is hard to answer these situations. There is no prior, so there are no absolute rights or wrongs, really.

NBA did the same based on the premise that "if players are cleared to be not infectious". Still, choosing the safer option appears to me as more optimal. We are faced with a virus that mutates constantly, and I think no one could afford to be overconfident about some tests that indicate "non-infectiousness".

Certainly, longer quarantine days cripple the rhythm of the competition to a great scale. But it might also help teams stop the virus from rapidly spreading amongst the players. Ultimately the human health comes first among all things. We should keep in mind that the long-term effects of the virus are still unknown, and the lower number of people who get infected, the better.

If the quarantine period helps to contain the pace of the spread, then we should go for it. If the schedule gets too packed, well then, some alternative solutions could be put on the table like: "Ok guys, looks like our schedule gets pretty complicated so we have to take some other measures. We are canceling these games and introducing some play-in to compensate". Stuff like that. 

Giorgos: Only four out of nine EuroLeague Round 18 games were played last week. This week, this number dropped to zero.

If, for the most part, the COVID pandemic had not affected Europe's premier basketball competition until the second week of December, things changed rapidly, and measures had to be taken.

Although suspending the season was never really a viable option because time is everything but EuroLeague teams' unity, putting an end to the vicious circle of COVID infections would indeed be a good idea.

When shareholders gather to create a protocol that constitutes their compass for the whole season, a number of factors should be taken into account. One basic reality is that players who have been infected can't just jump to an official game without having participated at least in a couple of practices with their teammates.

Arguably, decreasing the number of quarantine days, a practice that the NBA successfully implemented can lead to fewer games being suspended. From now on, a vaccinated team member will sit out for 7 days, in accordance with the guidelines set by the World Health Organization.

As the Omicron variant is far more contagious but significantly less harmful or life-threatening compared to its predecessor, one week is widely considered a sufficient period for someone to recover from it. On the other hand, European countries impose different COVID protocols. If a player gets two negative tests and still can't travel because the recipient country doesn't accept the 7-day recovery period as sufficient time, all discussions will be void of meaning.

Right now, COVID cases are on the rise all over Europe and more so in specific countries like Greece, where both Panathinaikos and Olympiacos have registered almost double-digit cases.

Consequently, since COVID is here to stay, a comprehensive framework for returning to play is needed. Clubs want to save money, players prioritize their health (and rightfully so), while fans want to watch competitive games, not parodies like Khimki going up against Zalgiris with a 7-man squad, as it happened last season.

So far, the integrity and credibility of the competition have been preserved. But for things to stay that way, EuroLeague clubs should also acknowledge that facing a team amidst a COVID spree is a scenario that must be avoided at all costs.

Who was the best signing after the season started?

Orazio: Of the most recent additions, one that I really liked was Tyson Carter to Zenit.

The Russian club is already playing a very good season, they're clearly a playoff team, and they've been able to do all of this without their supposed star player Shabazz Napier, who has been out with an ankle injury since the start of the season.

Carter, in my opinion, is a great addition for them. He's a really good scorer, but he also has the potential to be a solid defensive player on the perimeter. He can help the team right away to fill the void left by Napier, but at the same time, Carter can be a long-term option because he's still very young and could play alongside Napier when he is back.

He's only a rookie at the EuroLeague level, but I believe he will produce right away for Zenit.

Uygar: I think it was Dante Exum. He fits so well in the Barcelona playing scheme, being a hard-nosed defender. He can and actually did, contribute a lot to cover a lot of area in the perimeter, primarily around the top where point guards operate the most.

His drawback is the longevity; he does not plan to stay too long in Europe, which hurts to read his reiterated intention to go back to the NBA to warm benches. Nevertheless, he is valuable for Barcelona currently. 

Giorgos: Since most mid-season transfers have gone unnoticed, it's easy to single out the best signing among them. It's AS Monaco's Dwayne Bacon.

Maybe it should come as no surprise because the 26-year-old forward had a very productive (72 games, 10.9 points on average) 2020-21 season with the Orlando Magic.

Even though his arrival essentially coincided with Monaco's losing streak, Bacon has left his mark in his EuroLeague rookie season, especially if one compares his output with what other former NBAers have done far.

Almost 24 minutes of playing time with 11.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, and decent shooting (33% on three-pointers) don't look bad at all. Most importantly, there was no adjustment period needed. Bacon came in and fitted in right away.

From which player or a team do you expect the biggest improvement in the second part of the season?

Orazio: Regarding the teams, I expect an improvement from Bayern Munich. Andrea Trinchieri is one of the best coaches in Europe, and I believe he can put his team in a better situation in this second part of the season.

Bayern is not a super deep team, but they have a good structure and an excellent combination of younger players and veterans. Their schedule is pretty favorable in the next few weeks, and they're not so far away from the playoff positions.

Darun Hilliard, so far, has turned himself into the top guy of the team, and I believe that his leadership will have an important role for the team going forward. For the players, I believe that Simone Fontecchio might have a great second part of the season.

He has been good already, especially after the first few weeks, but he probably went through too many ups and downs so far - games in which he wasn't really able to contribute that much offensively. So, personally, I expect more consistency from him in the second part of the season.

Uygar: Despite all of their problems with stability, I think Baskonia will make a huge leap in the second part of the season to force their chances in the playoffs. They have a dynamic roster and a proven, experienced coach hungry for success.

They need to sort out this awkward situation with Wade Baldwin (he is underproductive for some reason), but if they can, Baskonia can break a lot of hearts with a run-n-gun style high-tempo basketball.

Credit D.Repečka

Giorgos: Having referred to Dwayne Bacon, I really expected more of another former NBA player with EuroLeague experience - Elijah Bryant.

At first, the ex-Maccabi guard-forward was one of Anadolu Efes's best players, posting double-digits in his first four games with the reigning champs. It all went downhill from there.

Bryant's playing time was reduced from over 20 to 15 minutes or even less, while his outside shooting is simply awful. The 2021 NBA champ didn't make a single 3-pointer in eight straight games, going 6/29 in 14 games with Efes.

Bryant has been more or less invisible so far, but that can change in the second half of the season as Efes will gear up to defend their titles. Overall, the Turkish side has been the living proof of the small distance between underachiever and powerhouse.

They were last in the 2017-18 standings, then made it to their first Final Four in 18 years, and a new era was born. Last season, they had a similar record (8-9) as this year (9-9).

Many were counting them out as valid Final Four contenders. Efes went in-form when it mattered, lifting their first-ever EuroLeague in Cologne. Now, it remains to be seen whether they will prove the recent EuroLeague GM survey wrong and level up. In my opinion, they are clearly the team with the biggest upside.

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