NBA & EuroLeague recap: Shooting guards dominate & Steve Kerr confirmed as USA head coach

It's been the week for international scoring guards in basketball as Dillon Brooks, Patty Mills, and Shane Larkin show off on the offensive end, while there was some major news from USA Basketball with the FIBA World Cup and 2024 Olympics on the horizon.

By William Imbo
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The NBA postponed several games over the course of the past week in accordance with the league's COVID-19 protocols, but there was still plenty of basketball action and news to discuss, including Steve Kerr being announced as the new head coach of the USA men's national basketball team on Monday (20 December 2021).

In addition to Kerr replacing San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich for the upcoming FIBA World Cup in 2023 and Paris 2024 Olympics, we also saw some great guard play from international ballers in both the NBA and EuroLeague.

NB: points per game (ppg), rebounds per game (rpg), assists per game (apg), blocks per game (bpg), steals per game (spg), field goal percentage (FG%)

Dillon Brooks | Canada | Memphis Grizzlies (NBA)

13-20 December stats

24.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.0 apg, .469 FG%

Grizzlies 126-91 76ers | Trail Blazers 103-113 Grizzlies | Kings 105-124 Grizzlies | Grizzlies 100-105 Trail Blazers | Grizzlies 99-102 Thunder

After franchise player Ja Morant went down with a left knee sprain three weeks ago, the jury was out on whether the Memphis Grizzlies could maintain their impressive start to the season, let alone improve upon it.

However, the Grizzlies churned out two separate five-game win streaks to climb to fourth place in the Western Conference standings with a 19-13 record, thanks in large part to the quality play of swingman Dillon Brooks.

Brooks, who was selected with the 45th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, has been an attacking force over the past week, finding the charity stripe 25 times (converting on 84 percent of his free throws). He's also significantly upped his scoring output over that stretch (his career ppg average is 14.4), including a career-high 37 points in a loss against Portland on 19 December.

It will be interesting to see how Brooks' play is impacted with Morant's recent return to the Grizzlies line-up, but if the team keeps up their good form they could become a lock for the playoffs in April.

Patty Mills | Australia | Brooklyn Nets (NBA)

14-18 December stats

22.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, .424 FG%

Nets 131-129 Raptors | Nets 114-105 76ers | Nets 93-100 Magic

Long-time San Antonio Spur Patty Mills signed with the Brooklyn Nets this past offseason, and his acquisition may prove to be one of the most important made by Nets general manager Sean Marks as the team currently sit first in the Eastern Conference standings at 21-9.

Mills, 33, seemingly has an endless motor that enabled him to play 40-plus minutes in two of Brooklyn's games this past week, which is all the more impressive considering the Australian helped lead his national team to its first ever Olympic medal (bronze) at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021.

Mills was shooting 11-for-22 from 3-point range prior to the Nets' loss to the Magic on 18 December (when he fell back to earth with a 2-for-14 brick-fest), and hit a season-high 30 points in the win against the Raptors on overtime on 14 December.

The eventual return of Kyrie Irving (once he clears Health and Safety Protocols) will likely mean that Mills will get a well-deserved reduction in playing time, but until then the savvy point guard will be entrusted to keep running the Nets' offence as they look to solidify their grip on the East.

Shane Larkin | Turkey | Anadolu Efes Istanbul (EuroLeague)

14-16 December stats

21.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.0 apg, 1.5 bpg, .521 FG%

Anadolu Efes Istanbul 87-72 Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz | Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv 78-92 Anadolu Efes Istanbul

Ok, technically Shane Larkin was born in the USA, but he holds Turkish citizenship and is a member of the Turkish national team, so he qualifies for our international round-up.

The 29-year-old showed off the skillset that saw him spend four seasons in the NBA, pouring in 16 and 26 points (including hitting 6-of-7 3-point attempts) in two big wins that saw Anadolu Efes Istanbul climb into the final playoff position in the EuroLeague standings.

Larkin's scoring is vital, sure, but his all-around play (averaging 6.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals in the two wins this past week) has been instrumental in stopping a two-game slide for Istanbul. Their next two games will be tough, however, as they face Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade on 22 December before a trip to UNICS Kazan on 30 December., who are currently fourth in the standings.

Basketball celebrates anniversary

The 21st December 2021 is also the 130th anniversary of the sport of basketball!

FIBA, the International Baskeball Federation who are the governing body of the Olympic discipline, celebrated the birthday on social media.

Things have come a long way since 1891.

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