RT @BBallWorldLTU: Marko Popovic will leave Zalgiris at the end of the season.
RT @sportalas: Marko Popovic will not play vs Cska. Official reason injury
Podcast: What’s up in Kaunas and Bamberg? Interviews with Marko Popovic, Bamberg scouting director Brendan Rooney
Episode #23 — a belated 50th birthday gift to His Airness, then — in the heinnews/BallinEurope-coproduced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online.
David Hein and yours truly feature two interviews this time out, fortuitously timed in the wake of last week’s Brose Baskets Bamberg-Zalgiris Kaunas cliffhanger. First up is Marko Popovic, Zalgiris’ hero in the game for, as coolly as ice, sinking three consecutive free throws with literally 0.0 left on the clock in overtime for the Greens’ win. Popovic speaks candidly on the off-court transactions affecting Zalgiris’ play particularly in the Euroleague Top 16 round and about Team Croatia’s chances in the FIBA Eurobasket 2013 tourney.
Also joining us for some jibber-jabber is Bamberg scouting director Brendan Rooney, who not only tells us exactly what his job is and how a St. Louis native ended up in Germany, but also sheds some light on his team’s woes in the big league this season.
Finally, our sports movie review feature this week is a good ol’ double feature — though both flicks are only marginally related to sport. We look at the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock classic “Strangers on a Train” and the Strangers-inspired “Throw Momma From the Train” starring high-profile Los Angeles Clippers fan Billy Crystal back in 1987.
This entire episode of “Taking the Charge” may be downloaded here. Thanks for listening and talk to you next week!
In the afterglow of the VTB United League final, Unics Kazan’s Marko Popovic briefly spoke with Lithuanian media after his team’s loss to CSKA Moscow in Friday’s third-place game. Popovic thanks the ever-devoted Zalgiris Kaunas fans, who gave him a rousing ovation when announced as a member of the all-tournament team (named so despite a final-game performance of just 10 points and eight turnovers).
Nearly eighteen months after winning a Lithuanian championship with Zalgiris, only to be denied a proper contract offer, Popovic stated that the Kaunas fans tempt him to look beyond difficulties with the front office and consider a return to Lithuania when his contract with Unics in up after 2011.
In his English-language comments, Popovic contended that Zalgiris officials “disrespected me in the media and said I wasn’t a good enough player because they wanted to avoid paying me.”
Concluded Popovic on the matter: “That’s the only thing that hurt me in Lithuania.”
Video runs below the break.
No, wait, strike that. Let’s start over.
The conversations BallinEurope has with peers in the European basketball blogosphere lately tend to drift toward one team: Žalgiris Kaunas, a team that, in spite of a roster chockfull of experienced talent, simply cannot close out games and fall apart in the clutch.
It’s one of the two, anyway. Or maybe not: Perhaps we can lay the blame at Joan Plaza’s feet (though expectations going into the season were long) or on the subpar refereeing (which might be stretching things a bit considering the sum total of questionable calls in game seven of the Euroleague Top 16 round worked out in the Greens’ favor).
Maybe the front-office issues and lack of payment to players have been overwhelmingly distracting (as Marko Popovic told heinnews and BiE in a recent Taking the Charge podcast interview, “We made a deal at the beginning of the season that this team would stay together until the end of the season, no matter what happens. Hopefully people are going to recognize the way that we play for this club, the way that we show on the court and hopefully the financial status is going to change. We are just focused on the court. Of course we hear the rumors going on around the club but we are trying to be focused, which is not easy, I gotta be honest…”
Maybe it’s none of the above, some of the above, or all of the above. But with Žalgiris now looking at a 4-6 record after another heartbreaker to Real Madrid last week, Lithuania’s remaining representative may have already bad-lucked itself out of a Euroleague playoff spot after starting out at a strong 8-2 clip. An examination of crucial moments may give some insight into the Bizarro equivalent of last season’s Olympiacos squad. Or perhaps not.
After watching Žalgiris Kaunas stumble through heartbreakers and possible backbreakers in the Euroleague Top 16 round, BallinEurope’s agent in Lithuania, Y., couldn’t help but confirm his suspicions about the Greens’ performances in crunch time. Y. probably wasn’t, but you may be surprised at the secret culture of losing within the Lithuanian power…
It’s almost unreal, as though the Gods of Basketball had banished one green-and-white soul from Lithuania with no prospect of return, a club that should be grouped with FC Barcelona, Olympiacos Piraeus, CSKA Moscow and other teams who have a long history, produce amazing talents for national teams, lead their respective national basketball, and simply win.
Yet for some reason, BC Žalgiris seems destined to lose.