December 25, 2021
The EuroLeague couldn’t escape the pandemic before its Christmas break
One EuroLeague game had to be postponed in Week 10, but other teams played on, producing some standout performances
Of course, it had to happen. Instead of 160 games played through 10 weeks, we’ve got 159 matches played… and one COVID-related postponement. Ugh.
Sports are a thermometer for how the virus is spreading. The news coming from Spain and Italy last Tuesday regarding the Avenida-Reyer Venezia game spoke volumes about that.
The official EuroLeague account dropped the news just one day before the match. A player for Reyer Venezia seemingly had tested positive and thus the whole squad and staff was isolated to prevent further spread. That was a sound, smart and intelligent decision. That is what should be done, in sports and all other scopes of life. It sucks, I know, but we have to do our collective best if we want to defeat this pandemic.
The EuroLeague is entering a three-week break from Dec. 21 to Jan. 11. The only thing we know right now about whether or when the suspended game will take place is that “relevant disciplinary bodies will decide on that at a later stage,” per the EuroLeague official statement. COVID-19 seems to be spreading more by the day, and it’d be a little bit dangerous (and probably logistically inviable, too) to play it in 2021. Flipping the page to 2022, there is a 10-day span from Jan. 2 to Jan. 11 in which the match could maybe take place if the EuroLeague organizers don’t want to delay it further (there are four consecutive weeks of play starting on Jan. 12).
However, the calendar remains packed for both teams during that break: Avenida has national league games on Dec. 29, Jan. 4 and Jan. 9, and Reyer has games on Jan. 2, Jan. 5 and Jan. 9. Tough situation, with no gap longer than three days between those overlapping games. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to be in the league’s shoes.
It’s a shame that a game had to be scrapped from the schedule, at least for now. But we’re entering the Christmas break with two-thirds of the season in the books, so let’s look at what else happened in the EuroLeague this week.
Satou Sabally hasn’t lost a single step
After a 16-game rookie season with the Dallas Wings in 2020, former No. 2 overall pick Satou Sabally went on to play in 17 of the Wings’ regular-season games in 2021. That’s because of an injured Achilles that makes us all fear the worst when it comes to hoopers and prevented her from appearing in more games.
Sabally missed all of the Wings’ regular-season games between mid-July and mid-September, but she made a comeback just before the postseason. Dallas could do nothing to stop eventual WNBA champion Chicago, falling by 17 points in the first round of the playoffs, but Sabally had 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting and four rebounds. Dallas’ brass can lick their chops for a while as Sabally is 1) under her rookie deal for the next two seasons (the second year is a team option that the team will surely exercise) and 2) playing her best basketball for Fenerbahçe in EuroLeague play this winter.
Sabally’s Turkish side was coming off a Week 8 blasting of local rivals Galatasaray, and Week 10 saw Fenerbahçe defeat another favorite in Spar Girona by a score of 78-57. In that game, Sabally played 28 minutes; put up a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double; and added one assist, block and steal. All in all, her efficiency of 24 made her a top-five performer in Week 10.
If you’re not keeping track at home, let me lay out some numbers here. There are six players who have recorded a total efficiency of at least 200 10 games into the season, and all of them have played all 10 games. There are 41 more players with at least a 100 total efficiency mark. Do you know how many of them have appeared in five or fewer games? One: Satou. Freaking. Sabally.
Sabally’s five matches have yielded an average efficiency of 20.2. On a per-game basis, that is a top-10 mark this season. Sabally is one of only four players in the EuroLeague this season averaging at least one assist, one steal and one block. She’s sandwiched between Elizabeth Williams (21.9) and Dragana Stankovic (18.8) in the efficiency leaderboard among players in that select group. Of course, the five-game sample is still small and Sabally will need to keep her game at this level for the remainder of the season if she wants to contend for the MVP trophy. Even then, though, Sabally is definitely at the peak of her game these days and only getting better. Here’s hoping she stays on that same path for many years!
Golden nuggets from Week 10
This is a quick recap of individual performances worth highlighting, unique stat lines, efficient games, bad outings, forgettable outcomes and everything else my data-crunching abilities allowed me to come up with!
- Maria Conde was absolutely delightful in her 30-minute outing for USK Praha last Tuesday against still-winless KSC. Conde put up an efficiency of 38 from a great 26-point, nine-rebound, four-assist, two-steal performance. Conde avoided committing even a single personal foul, only had one turnover, and shot an incredible 11-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. This was, to date, the best indiviudal performance of the season on the efficiency leaderboard.
- Only one WNBA import, Natasha Howard (31), finished in the top three in efficiency this week, just behind Conde and Tina Krajisnik (32). Howard needed just 22 minutes to reach that mark, and all she did was produce 24 points, nine rebounds, and two assists (with no turnovers and just two personal fouls). That’s absolutely ridiculous and a complete outlier of a performance. Nobody else has put up an efficiency in the 30s in 22 or fewer minutes this season.
- Five other WNBA imports posted efficiency tallies of 20+ this week: Elizabeth Williams (28), Sabally (24), Megan Gustafson (24), Kayla McBride (22) and Brionna Jones (21).
- It could have been a historic week for double-doubles in the EuroLeague, but eight (!!!) players fell just one rebound short. That said, four players hit double-digit points and rebounds: Maria Vadeeva, Diamond DeShields, Sabally and Sandrine Gruda.
- Pelin Bilgic, who fell one assist short of double digits last week, broke that 10-dime mark this week and paired that with 13 points for a fantastic double-double. She added five rebounds and three steals and became just the second player this season with two 10-assist games (along with Alina Iagupova).
- While no player posted a season-best six steals this week, two of them (Krajisnik and Cyesha Goree) stole five possessions each.
- Elizabeth Williams (who else?), Jasmine Keys and Kiah Stokes led the last slate of games before the Christmas break with three blocks each. Williams was clearly the best of those three players, pairing those blocks with 19 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals against only one turnover in a healthy 36 minutes.
- DeShields got the full 40-minute treatment last Tuesday for Baretta Famila Schio. Her efficiency of 12 doesn’t really reflect her exploits, as it was clearly hurt by her four turnovers. Other than those giveaways, DeShields was good for a very solid 16 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two steals and even blocked a shot. After a disappointing Week 9 performance (-5 plus-minus), she posted a +11 plus-minus this week in her best game of the season by far.
- On the other end of the same court, Gabby Williams had a game to forget. Williams played 23 minutes but could only put up three points, a rebound, an assist and two steals. It was easily the worst performance by Williams through 10 games. She showed more than enough earlier this year to have us still believing in her talents, so we will definitely be looking for her resounding comeback next year!
- Amanda Zahui B., who I talked about last week, had another confounding game this week. She played just two (!) minutes for Fenerbahçe after logging 29, 17, 21 and 12 in her prior four games.
- Brittney Griner stayed on the sidelines for UMMC. Griner has played three games through 10 weeks of play this season, in Weeks 4, 8 and 9.
- Dana Evans and Griner are the only two WNBA imports with at least one game played in the European competition but no more than three. All of Chelsea Dungee, Kahleah Copper, Stokes, Sophie Cunningham and DeShields are sitting at four games played.
- Michaela Onyenwere already debuted for Spar Girona in the Spanish national league, but she has yet to do so in the EuroLeague. That will happen after the Christmas break, so it’s just a matter of waiting a couple of weeks.