Shades of Vince Carter were shown by Maccabi Rishon’s Willie Warren, who pulled off one of this season’s most incredible dunks anywhere in his team’s 88-82 defeat of Bnei HaSharon on Sunday. Check out the closest approximation to Carter’s infamous “Dunk of Death” we’ve seen since originally pulled off at the 2000 Olympics. Fulfilling the Fred Weis role is Jumaine Jones.
Could David Blatt be panicking? Armed with a retooled roster after last season’s Euroleague disappointment, Maccabi Tel Aviv 2012-13 edition hasn’t overwhelmed in preseason play with little team cohesiveness or incorporation of the Team Russia coach’s patented defensive game plans in evidence. The Israel side washed out in a the four Euroleague-team Domreiter Cup in September before redeeming themselves slightly in Paris, winning the pre-season tourney there last weekend (albeit against lesser competition).
Before topping Galatasaray for the tournament title, Blatt sounded off a bit after his players got by with a win over home team Paris Levallois. “We had two offensive rebounds in 40 minutes,” said Blatt. “You know, I’m 50 and I would have gotten more than two offensive rebounds if I had been on the court.”
But Blatt offered a solution on Saturday which appears to be a matter of fact now, in light of Pops Mensah-Bonsu’s recent release from the club: “Malcolm [Thomas] is exactly the kind of player you need to play a team like Paris Levallois. He is very athletic, fast and plays above the rim. It brings a lot of energy, but also creates a lot of easy baskets … Thomas is very good at offensive rebounding and he will bring what’s missing [on the team].”
Off the wire are a few details from an interview former Team USA/Philadelphia 76ers head coach Larry Brown gave to Israel Sports Radio earlier this week. Hired by Southern Methodist University for the 2012-13 season, Brown revealed that he had considered an offer to coach the Maccabi USA basketball team before the SMU deal came through – and that he won’t be leaving the game any time soon.
For those not necessarily in the know about European basketball, the announcement of Anthony Parker’s retirement from professional hoops today may not have exactly made most sit up and take notice – just another Cleveland Cavalier gone, right?
Except that Parker’s six-year European CV is loaded with team accomplishments and individual accolades, bringing Maccabi Tel Aviv a superpower’s worth of trophies in the mid-2000s. His brief run earned him a spot on the “50 Greatest Euroleague Contributors” list in ’08 – just one of 35 players and one of five Americans – after racking up consecutive EL MVP awards, one EL Final Four nod and three European rings (two EL, the other the 2001 FIBA SuproLeague title).
BallinEurope today posts its traditional tribute to retiring greats, i.e. career rundown plus YouTube clips! To get started, then…
Despite some sordid (and reportedly not exactly consistent) allegations against him, former longtime Syracuse University assistant coach Bernie Fine has found employment in Israel. Marc Stein of ESPN is this morning reporting that Fine has been hired by Maccabi Haifa BC as a consultant to the team. The decision is expected to be announced today.
Fine, whose professional career in basketball coaching goes back to 1970, ultimately specialized in working with big men for Syracuse. Notable names emerging from his tutelage include Rony Seikaly and John Wallace, the latter of whom European basketball fans may recall from his season with Panionios. The coach’s resume also includes a World Maccabiah Games title earned in 1993 with that tournament’s Team USA squad.
Panathinaikos tops Maccabi Tel Aviv, 86-85 to advance; Greens to take on Red Army, history in Istanbul
The 2011-12 Euroleague Final Four field is now filled, as Panathinaikos’ cliffhanger of an 86-85 win against Maccabi Tel Aviv last night sets up a May date with the monsters of CSKA Moscow in Istanbul.
(And now, a slight bit of horn-tooting. Note a few Official BallinEurope Fearless Predictions™ made good, i.e. Dimitris Diamantidis as player of the game and a fairly close call of the final score. Yeah, yeah, BiE knows the drill from White Men Can’t Jump: “The sun even shines on a dog’s ass some days. Anyone can win the lottery.”)
While the bookmakers see the Greens as relative longshots – former Euroleague sponsor Sporting Bet has CSKA at 3/4, FC Barcelona at 12/5, PAO at 4/1 and Olympiacos at 11/1 – one compelling bit of history should be firmly in the minds of the favorites: Since 2001, Panathinaikos has played in five EL Final Fours and they’ve won four, including those three taken in the past five years.
Game highlight clip, a look at the last five seconds of game time, an obligatory YouTube of the OAKA crowd and official league writeup follow.
With the last 2011-12 Euroleague Final Four spot to be decided in tonight’s climactic game five between Panathanikos and Maccabi Tel Aviv, BallinEurope takes a look at some recent prognostications by experts and observers – plus a modicum of analysis as to how well some have done. O, and of course, the official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™ for the game…
• Before the Euroleague Playoffs tipped off, Pini Gershon told Greece-based Eurohoops.net that “[Sarunas] Jasikevicius is the key for the Greens and Sofo is [...] for Maccabi. There is a difference in the playing style of Maccabi when Sofo is the court and a different style when [Richard] Hendrix is playing. Panathinaikos still relies on the pick-and-roll. Hendrix is a better defender than Schortsanitis, but [Schortsanitis] is in very good condition lately.”
At least in terms of the Greek side, Gershon appears dead on: After tormenting Maccabi in the game one win, Saras was indeed crucial in PAO’s stay-alive game four win. Oftentimes sharing the floor with Diamantidis, the pair went 7-of-13 for 25 points. DD racked a nice 19 performance index rating but Jasikevicius was at his best for the nth time in his long championship-laden career in orchestrating the half-court offense.
Wow, we’re really already talking about the 2012-13 free-agency period? And now that Maccabi is up two games to one on Panathinaikos in their playoff series they’re reading to sever ties with a key component?
Apparently, both bylines may be true, as sports talent agency/advisory firm You First Sports announced last night that “Andy Miller, Richard Hendrix’s agent, would like to communicate that from today the negotiations talks between Hendrix, his agent and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv are broken and that from now on we will evaluate Richard’s options when he becomes a free agent after this season.”
BallinEurope wonders what bridges were burned there…
Spain-based Blog de Basket takes the story and runs with it a bit more, claiming Hendrix has gotten offers from big clubs in Europe, including Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
BiE already submitted a Euroleague tournament bracket, but while a chance remains to put forth a few Official BallinEurope Fearless Predictions™ on the EL playoff round, well, BiE’ll take it.
Over at Euro-Step, this writer takes part in the regular “Wiseman Know” column (I know, I know) along with the likes of former EL title-winner Tomas van den Spiegel, Slovenian head coach Luka Bassin, BallinEurope.com pilgrim father Christophe Ney and Euroleague Adventures’ irrepressible Nick Gibson, among others. This week’s assignment for each of us wise guys was to predict the outcome of the four best-of-five EL playoff series – at Twitter-sized length, naturally. The remainder of the prognostications may be found here, while BiE’s run below.
(Incidentally, before the scoffing begins, please note that all four of the teams picked way back in October by BallinEurope to make the Final Four round are still alive – though the Panathinaikos-Maccabi series will take at least one out…)
FC Barcelona vs. Unics Kazan – Kazan’s had a nice run, but no one’s stopping this Blaugrana side yet. FC Barcelona, 3 games to 0.
Panathinaikos vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv – What a matchup of starting 5s, coaching, history … a grind-it-out series goes to the last bucket in game 5. PAO, 3-2.
CSKA Moscow vs. Gescrap Bilbao Basket – Bilbao’s had a nice run, but no one’s stopping this Big Red Machine yet. (Whoa, deja vu…) CSKA Moscow, 3-0.
Montepaschi Siena vs. Olympiacos – Olympiacos might be able to run with Siena, but Montepaschi’s got too many weapons & too much experience for Reds to contend with.
Or, in simplified version: Booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo MC-CAY-LEBB! Montepaschi Siena, 3-1.
Going into what is certain to be a cliffhanger of a Euroleague Playoffs game one between Panathinaikos and Maccabi Tel Aviv, Sofoklis Schortsanitis is outwardly calm – this despite the way Big Sofo and teammate Richard Hendrix were thoroughly beaten at their games by the Greens in last season’s Euroleague championship.
Added to this is the fact that, bizarre as it sounds and due to his no-show for FIBA Eurobasket 2011, tonight’s game at OAKA represents Sofoklis’ very first court appearance in his home nation since joining Maccabi for 2010-11.
Nevertheless, the big man is cool. Jerusalem Post runs extensive quotage from Schortsanitis (well, relatively extensively, anyway) in which he states “I think we have the answers for Panathinaikos. It is time to prove what we can do. We must give our best. I am confident. I do not want to lose. It’s my first game in Greece since I left. I expect a good atmosphere, the fans are very enthusiastic.”