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Forget the All-Star Game. Start Watching Italian Basketball.

3 36 108
16.02.2019

MILAN — As the National Basketball Association plods its way to the 68th annual All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, American hoops fans should take note of how the Italians generate hardwood drama in February.

Since Thursday, the eight best teams in Italy’s Lega Basket Serie A from the first half of the season have been competing for the Coppa Italia, a no-holds-barred, single elimination tournament whose outcome actually matters to fans, players, team owners and corporate sponsors. And while a champion will be crowned at the end of the playoffs later this spring, bragging rights for holding the Coppa’s trophy aloft on Sunday provides a midseason shot of adrenaline.

The N.B.A.’s 82-game regular season, which began in October and will end in April, is a slog. Anyone who has watched a Wednesday night non-marquee matchup in November can attest to that. The action rarely begins before the fourth quarter; coaches rest their superstars.

The first half of the Italian season, by contrast, is an exciting sprint from the opening tipoff. The 16-team league has a 30-game regular season in which each club plays each other twice — once at each other’s home court. If you play in Venice in week one, Venice’s team comes to your arena in week 16. And there’s drama: Turin, seeded fifth in last year’s Coppa, won the trophy, even though they........

© The New York Times