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Jun
10

2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament Preview: FYR Macedonia

Bo knows ... he just knows, OK?

The 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men tips off in Venezuela on Monday. Until then, BallinEurope takes a look at the four European squads competing in turn. Today, an assessment of those Eurobasket 2011 darlings, FYR Macedonia.

Roster: Pero Antic (Olympiacos); Gjorgi Chekovski, Todor Gechevski (MZT Skopje); Vlado Ilievski (Lokomotiv Kuban); Aleksandar Kostoski (Kumanovo); Bo McCalebb (Montepaschi Siena); Kiril Nikolovski, Marko Simonovski, Darko Sokolov (Feni Indistrija); Vojdan Pavlov (?); Predrag Samardziski (Lietuvos Rytas); Damjan Stojanovski (Lukoil Akademik); coach Marjan Lazovski (Torus Skopje)
Notable no shows: Though the name players from the Macedonian Miracle at Eurobasket 2011 – Pero Antic, Vlado Ilievski and of course Bo McCalebb – have not yet played with the team in friendlies, they will apparently be competing in the qualifying tournament.

How they got here: By way of the Macedonian Miracle, of course! *The* dark horse, the surprise, the transcendence of fundamental European-style ‘ball, the whatever-adjective-you-wish-to-apply of Eurobasket 2011, Team FYR Macedonia stunned viewers with their fourth-place finish (and two near-wins against ultimate third-placers Russia). Not even BiE (ahem), whose Fearless Prediction™ had them advancing out of Group C, reckoned the Lions would romp so far into the tournament.

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Mar
33

On the demise of Lithuanian Basketball

Jasikevicius: The long-term leader

BallinEurope is not exactly sure what led our man in Lithuania, the enigmatic Y., to contemplate the fortunes of his country’s national team … but who are we to question a Lietuva hometowner when it comes to basketball? Y. goes back eight years to figure out where things went so terribly wrong and unfortunately finds little hope for Team Lithuania’s future – even with the likes of Jonas Valančiūnas and Donatas Motiejūnas aboard…

Underachievement of a previous generation
The 2004 Olympic Games were a huge disappointment for Lithuania. As EuroBasket 2003 champions, the team was one of main favourites for silver (the fall of the “Dream Team” was still unimaginable). Lithuania, however, that year finished fourth: one step short of the prize it had collected in every Olympiad since the country’s independence.

This was the beginning of the demise of what was a top national team in the world. Players’ refusal to participate, retirements, injuries and an underachieving new generation – all these aspects contributed to Lithuania’s fall from basketball superpower levels to status as a regional great, capable of reaching a medal stage in the right circumstances.

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Feb
28

Shocker (not): FIBA Europe names Dirk Nowitzki player of the year; Navarro, McCalebb runners-up

To no one’s surprise – certainly not BallinEurope’s, in any case – FIBA Europe today announced its men’s player of the year award would go to the longtime Team Germany/Dallas Mavericks superstar. Less than suspenseful, too, were the results of the top five finishers: Behind Dastardly Dirk came Juan Carlos “La Bomba” Navarro, Bo McCalebb, Pau Gasol and Andrei Kirilenko.

Official FIBA Europe press release and highlights follow.

(FIBA Europe) – FIBA Europe announced on Tuesday that Dirk Nowitzki of Germany has been voted the 2011 European Player of the Year.

Nowitzki was the winner of the expert panel vote ahead of Spain captain/EuroBasket 2011 MVP Juan Carlos Navarro, while he placed fourth in the public voting.
It is the second time Nowitzki lands the coveted FIBA Europe award, as he was the winner of the first edition, in 2005. He was also named 2011 Germany’s Athlete of the Year last December.

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Jan
0

11-for-11: BallinEurope’s Most 11 popular stories from 2011

So 2011 may have been few people’s favorite year personally, European basketball fans have certainly got to be taking solace in the fact that the past 12 months featured a seriously great run of Continental-flavored hoops.

To wit, in 2011, we enjoyed:

• an exciting round of Euroleague playoffs which included FC Barcelona’s surprising tournament-round exit and culminated in storied franchise Panathinaikos bagging its third EL trophy in five years;

• in domestic leagues, another weird Bundesliga playoff tournament, another controversial Greek tourney, and from Italy and Spain second-place shockers Bennet Cantù and Bizkaia Bilbao Basket advancing;

• lots of European superstars battling it out in the NBA playoffs, particularly on the Western Conference side, with Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and of course Dirk Nowitzki proving so key to their teams’ successes (or lack thereof);

the Eurobasket 2011 tournament hosted in the world’s basketball-maddest country which ultimately inspired Team Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic to opine that “this has been the strongest European Championship in history…” (and, judging only from the star content alone, BiE would probably agree, despite a general loathing for such hyperbole directly after an event);

• some awesome schadenfreude-laced moments as NBA refugees came to play on the Continent during the player lockout, plus all the incredibly amusing speculation on names beginning with Kobe Bryant; and finally

• the close to the 2011-12 Euroleague regular season with a week 10 that featured some crazy dogfights for entry and positioning in the Top 16 round, including a great do-or-die game between Emporio Armani Milano and Partizan Belgrade.

Olympic Games or no, how can basketball year 2011 be topped? On the first day of the new year, BallinEurope takes a last brief look back at the most popular stories we ran in 2011. Relive one killer 365 days of European roundball once more below.

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Dec
3

Posters absoluts & Monsterdunken: The Eurocentric slam dunk of 2011 – plus 25 others

Before BallinEurope signs off for 2011, let’s give a late Christmas gift to the dunkaholics out there, shall we? Below runs a collection compiled through the year featuring dunks by Europeans, on Europeans or perhaps simply in Continental games.

The first 20 will listed by competition, followed the top five runners-up and the champion jam of the year. Who will be no. 1? Read (and watch) on to find out…

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Dec
13

The official BallinEurope ballot for FIBA Europe Men’s Players of the Year: Nowitzki, Navarro and…?

BallinEurope just loves season- and year-ending polls, and every December FIBA Europe offers hoops devotees the opportunity to participate in the naming the Continent’s Players of The Year. And while the winner of the award for 2011 – a.k.a. the Year of Dirk – is surely a no-brainer, the FIBA ballot calls for electors to award a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place vote from among 10 nominees; BiE is finding that no. 3 spot a real mind-bender. If someone can provide a nice salient argument for the final spot, that person will have BiE’s undying admiration.

The process of elimination went the following way, in reverse order of finish, and garnishing with highlight clips.

10. Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos. Yes, Double-D was the Euroleague MVP and the Euroleague Final Four MVP for 2010-11. Yes, he thus established himself as one of the five or six greatest of the EL modern era. But Diamantidis did not play any international ball, whereas all other nine nominees participated in Eurobasket 2011 and most where instrumental to their team’s successes. Dimitris simply has the shortest CV of a very talented ten.

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Nov
8

FIBA denies EuroBasket doping rumor; Macedonian media trash-talks Lithuanian counterparts

Though Team FYR Macedonia eliminated hosts Lithuania from the 2011 EuroBasket tournament in mid-September, a certain amount of talk-trashing about the match continues in the blogosphere.

Yesterday, FIBA was forced to do a bizarre bit of damage control after Lithuanian media – specifically, who else but powerhouse club sponsor Lietuvos Rytas? – reported that two players competing in EuroBasket had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs; the piece quoted representatives from the Lithuanian Anti-Doping Agency stated abnormalities had been found and that further testing would have to be done by FIBA on the samples of the two players.

FIBA Europe was quick to deny any such claims, however, soon releasing the following tersely-worded statement on the subject:

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Sep
15

Fallout from Eurobasket 2011: Is Serbian basketball in trouble?

With a quite respectable history over the past 20 years – particularly in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament – Serbia has earned a reputation as one of The Continent’s great basketball powers. A little concern may be justified, then, at Team Serbia’s relatively disappointing eighth-place finish in this year’s European national-team tourney; indeed, at least one news source sees Serbia’s early bouncing as a symptom of greater illnesses affecting the team’s national program.

The English-language version of the Serbia-based Blic online ran a piece on Monday which sought answers under the headline “Basketball stifled by financial troubles and busy calendar.” Writer Tatjana Dragojevic investigated some of the woes she (and others) see as dogging Serbia hoops; today BallinEurope takes a closer look at some points of speculation.

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Sep
2

FYR Macedonia players return to experience “joy of a nation”

Sure, the players of Team Spain have been feted for their 2011 EuroBasket championship, but wasn’t that nation kind of … well … *expecting* to be holding those victory parades? On the other hand, there was tournament shocker FYR Macedonia, who received a hero’s welcome in Skopje yesterday for achieving the seemingly impossible again and again in the tourney. The team eventually placed fourth, thereby gaining a spot in the 2012 Olympics Qualifying Tournament.

To show their appreciation, over 5,000 fans greeted the dozen basketballers at Alexander the Great Airport in the capital of FYR Macedonia – not at all bad for a workday in a city of under 670,000 – and many more lined the streets of Skopje to show gratitude for their underdogs. Noted the Macedonia-based MicNews: “The joy of the nation is worth more than a medal. The uniting power of victory is amazing. We returned with a trophy after all.”

(Impressive) video of the celebration runs below.

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Sep
18

Spain 98, France 85: Behind Pau Gasol, Navarro, Ibaka, Spain makes it back-to-back titles

Big congratulations this morning go out from BallinEurope to Team Spain, which defended its European title in besting France in the 2011 FIBA EuroBasket championship game, 98-85.

Particularly brilliant in this final match was Serge Ibaka, who provided five blocks and smothering defense off the bench. Five Spaniards scored in double figures, with tournament MVP Juan Carlos Navarro following up his 35-point barrage against FYR Macedonia with 27, including 12-of-12 from the free throw line, against the French. Pau Gasol put in 17 points to go with 10 rebounds and Jose Calderon also added 17 for the victors.

High scorer for Team France was Tony Parker, with 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting. Nicolas Batum, who many saw as key to Les Bleus’ success in the game, managed just 10 points including a 2-of-8 performance from three-point land. Boris Diaw contributed 12 to go with seven assists.

With the victory, Spain becomes the first team since Yugoslavia of 1997 to repeat as European champions and only the second back-to-back title winner in the post-Soviet era.

Named to the all-tournament team along with Navarro were Parker, Pau Gasol, Bo McCalebb of FYR Macedonia, and Andrei Kirilenko of Russia.

In the bronze-medal game, Russia held off those lovable dark horses of FYR Macedonia, 72-68. These two teams will join Lithuania and Greece in the Olympic qualifying tournament next year, while Spain and France have sealed their bids for the 2012 Games.

The official FIBA writeup follows the break; and if you’ll excuse BiE, a bit of a break may be in order…

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