Following a second place (to Team USA) finish in the 2010 FIBA World Championships, the Turkish national team had lofty expectations coming into EuroBasket 2011, the qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics. Their high hopes were shattered Sunday in a 68-67 loss to Serbia.
Turkey, which fell to 1-4 in second-round action, needed a victory to have a chance at advancing to the quarterfinals, but lost opportunities -- including an Ersan Ilyasova miss in the final seconds -- and poor free throw shooting, hitting 16-of-29 (55 percent), did them in. Now, instead of participating in the 2012 Summer Olympics, they'll be watching on their couches, like the rest of us.
"We are very sad. We were second at the last World Championship and we had big expectations for this tournament," Turkey coach Orhun Ene said. "We promised the Turkish people that we would try to qualify for the Olympics for the first time, but we lost too many games.
"This was our last chance and we lost the game in only one possession. We didn't show our potential throughout the tournament."
Although his team struggled as the tournament wore on, Bulls center Omer Asik improved and played his best as the competition got better, scoring in double figures in four of his last six games, including a 19-point performance Friday against Chris Kaman and Germany. He added another solid outing against Serbia, posting five points and 10 rebounds.
However, similar to his rookie season with the Bulls, when he shot 50 percent from the free throw line, the seven-footer struggled from the charity stripe, knocking down 18-of-43 (41.9 percent) in eight games for Turkey. Identified as one of his weaknesses long ago, Asik will need to continue working on his free throw shooting if he wants to be in Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau's rotation late in games.
Even so, the 24-year-old Asik averaged nine points, 8.5 rebounds (a team-high), 1.5 blocks and shot 56.3 percent from the field for the tournament.
Meanwhile, fellow Bulls center Joakim Noah and Tony Parker were held out of France's tilt with Spain, as both squads had already qualified for the quarterfinals. Spain took advantage of the predicament and won 96-69, using a 27-4 run in the third quarter to break the game open.
So, why did Noah, who is averaging 9.6 points and eight rebounds for the French, get the day off? Did he tweak the right ankle -- which he injured on March 28 -- he rehabilitated during the start of France's training camp?
"Noah got a hit in the calf and he wanted to play, but the doctor said no," France coach Vincent Collet said. "Tony has played more than 30 minutes in each of the previous games and he needed a rest."
Added Collet: "We know that whatever happened tonight would not change a lot. We want to be ready for the quarterfinal. We are not so deep as Spain is and we wanted Tony to be fresh. Our goal is to go to the Olympics. You can reproach what you want."
The injury isn't deemed serious, though, as Noah is expected to play in France's quarterfinals opener against Greece.
Undefeated heading into Sunday, France had the luxury of benching Noah and Parker to keep them fresh. Although the injury might be a non-issue, France's coach opened up the door for questions regarding his star center's health, especially among Bulls fans.