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The BBL experience – Rowdy in Frankfurt +++ Fearless predictions: Euroleague playoffs +++ A Dario triple-double? Now that’s good timing +++ Swee’ Pea needs your help +++ Final Four: What the bookies say when the bookies talk +++ The greatest Eurodance tribute to Goran Dragic ever +++ Swaggy P’s tribute to Os moving back to the USA +++ Help Swee’ Pea make the big screen +++ The Dish: Can I play with Madness? +++ Just point out the bounce +++
Sep
1

Podcast: Tony Parker! Ricky Rubio! New BiE editor!

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #54 (alternatively “Volume II, Episode 2”) of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

But enough with the pleasantries. Let’s get right to the headliners. From the post-games of last week’s Eurobasket 2013 final matches come words from perhaps the biggest names we’ve ever had on the show. First up is 15 minutes’ worth of post-game press conference from the peerless Tony Parker along with Team France coach Vincent Collet in the afterglow of Les Bleus’ triumphant gold-medal win over Lithuania.

Following this is the positively gregarious Ricky “The Human YouTube Highlight Clip” Rubio after Team Spain’s bronze-medal win; in the post-game, hard-working David Hein gets La Pistola to weigh in quickly on his national team’s future as well as the importance of Nikola Pekovic.

But that’s not all: new BallinEurope editor-in-chief Emmet Walsh has introduced himself at length online but gets audio room in which to stretch his wings when he guests on this edition of Taking the Charge. Emmet tells us about his motivations for running BallinEurope.com and his love of the European game before he and Hein face off in a “Fact or Fiction”-like round of Q&A regarding some thematic motifs. What does Emmet think about, say, Olympiacos’ chances for a Euroleague three-peat? Tune in to find out…

Finally, the sports movie review of the week is a documentary set in the world of Emmet’s other sports love, that utterly unique game called Gaelic Football. This Irish national television production is called “Jimmy’s Winnin’ Matches” and is one fantastic look at how important a coach/trainer/manager – in any sport, really – can be.

Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter http://heinnews.com/feed/taking-the-charge/ into iTunes or any podcast aggregator.

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Sep
0

France beat Lithuania 80-66 to finally lift their first EuroBasket title

After being carried into the final by Tony Parker on Friday night, the rest of the French team stood tall as a second quarter run sparked their charge to the title.

Were it not for the golden generation of Spanish talent, this likely wouldn’t be Tony Parker’s first EuroBasket title. Were it not for Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, and Alexis Ajinca, he likely would have suffered a second defeat at the final hurdle.

Parker was a one man army against Spain in the semi final but that was never going to suffice against Lithuania. The breadth of options at Lithuania’s disposal meant there was no way a solo show would suffice. After so-so or worse games against Spain, the rest of the French line up showed up when it mattered most.
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Sep
5

EuroBasket: It all comes down to this

After 11 games and ups and downs, France and Lithuania enter Sunday’s EuroBasket 2013 final with a clean slate. The only thing that matters is who is in front when the final buzzer sounds.

Key man: Tony Parker He is the tournament’s top scorer and unquestionably its biggest star. Whatever else happens in Ljubjana today, you can bet your house that Tony Parker will get buckets and lots of them today. It’s not the array of honours he’s won with the San Antonio Spurs that makes him a marked man today. Parker has done enough in the blue jersey of France to make the continent aware of what he can do. Lithuania will be tempted to overload on Parker but given nobody has been able to stop him so far, there’s a more important area to focus in stifling the French offence.
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Sep
1

EuroBasket: Early run drives Serbia to 2014 FIBA World Cup

A stunning start for Serbia proved decisive as Dusan Ivkovic’s charges won the win or stay home World Cup decider with Italy 76-64.

It took Italy a full quarter to realise the importance of this game and they were left with too deep a hole to get out of. Serbia, who suffered horrible starts in their previous two games, came out hot. Leading by 13 with possession at the end of the first, Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a three at the buzzer to give Serbia a 27-11 lead. It was Serbia’s inside play that pushed them ahead. The Serbs utterly dominated on the boards, with Nemanja Bjelica grabbing 10 rebounds and Bogdanovic 9. With the loser joining the long, looooooong, queue for wild cards at next year’s FIBA World Cup, Serbia had struck a vital blow early.

Italy tried to counter but Marco Belinelli was still suffering from the horrid shooting stretch that plagued him against Ukraine. With Belinelli’s offensive impact limited, Gigi Datome and Alessandro Gentile carried the load as Italy tried to chip away at the deficit. By half-time the gap was down but by just 2 points to 41-27. The Italians were getting the better of Serbia but they weren’t able to put together an extended streak to pressure their less experienced adversaries.

Serbia, who had been shellacked in their last two games, were given the hairdryer treatment by Ivkovic throughout. Duda had to be gentle as his side struggled against Spain and Slovenia but now it was time to get his men hot. The third quarter saw the lead cut down again but once more Italy couldn’t make a significant dent. At 55-44, Serbia could manage the clock and play smart ball. Italy needed to take risks but the options simply weren’t there.

With his side holding a 64-54 lead and just over 3 minutes remaining, Nikola Kalinic landed a three. Stefan Markovic added another to push the lead to 16 points. The game was won and Serbia could look forward to Spain next year. Considering the way in which the previous two games had gone for the young Serbs, with 9 players making their first appearance at a major tournament, the character they showed on Saturday bodes well for the future. Whoever leads this side to Spain will have a battle-hardened and talented outfit at his disposal. Ivkovic isn’t confirmed for the trip but it’s hard to think of a more suitable man for the job.

In addition to missing out on next year’s World Cup, this defeat means Italy must now qualify for EuroBasket 2015.

Sep
0

EuroBasket: Parker, France, finally get the best of Spain

It took overtime, it took Tony time, but France finally got the best of Spain. Now they move on to the final of EuroBasket 2013.

Drama does not mean quality. There were extended periods of fantastic basketball when France played Spain on Friday night. There were equally lengthy spell where the play was horrid. Overtime certainly fit the latter but it followed a fourth quarter of breathtaking ball. After quietly riding to the top of the scoring charts in this tournament, Tony Parker finally made his presence felt when his country needed it most.

In 37 minutes of play Parker exorcised the demons that plagued French basketball, due largely to the Spanish golden generation. Most of them were there and delivering. Marc Gasol had 19 points and 9 boards but he also gave the ball up 6 times. Rudy Fernandez landed alley-oops at the business end of the game, en route to 17 points. Jose Calderon was there in body but he left his shot in the locker room.

Parker however would have to carry most of the load on his own. Nicolas Batum was awful. Alexis Ajinca made some bonehead plays. Boris Diaw and Florent Pietrus gave support inside but for France to win, and avenge 2011 and 2012, it would take something memorable from Parker. In the fourth quarter, it was Tony time. The San Antonio Spur brought France level and then in front. It wasn’t just a momentary spark. The most gifted French baller who ever lived scored 32 and collected 6 rebounds. Like Gasol he had turnover problems but not enough to take him off the floor.

Then came OT. An utter mess of poor offence. Spain struck first, France moved ahead, and then the errors came. It looked like we’d have Sergio Rodriguez and Parker squaring off for five minutes of drama but hero-ball is badly over-rated. The victory would come down to who made the fewest mistakes. Victor Claver’s air ball was one too many for Spain.

So for the third time in their history, France advance to the final of EuroBasket. In 1949 they lost to Egypt in Cairo. Two years ago it was Spain. This time around they face Lithuania. Third time lucky won’t be easy. On paper this isn’t a contest but Lithuania’s depth and organisation means they a far from a straight forward opponent. On the inside they can hurt France. From the outside they have a bunch of options with chips on their shoulders. Parker will be ready. He needs his team mates to be too.

Sep
0

EuroBasket: Huge Q3 lifts Lithuania past Croatia 77-62

It was a battle from the start but only one team could make Sunday’s final. A third quarter burst move Lithuania past Croatia and into the gold medal game of EuroBasket 2013.

Where did that come from? Linas Kleiza had 17 points and 7 boards in just the first half. The former Toronto Raptor delivered his best half of basketball in recent memory as Lithuania took the early advantage. The edge was slight however. Much of the first half was tit for tat. Lithuania pushed to a 9 point lead briefly but Croatia kept drawing them in. Lithuania had a 24-19 lead at the end of the first quarter, it was 40-37 at the half. This game had offence but neither side could pull away. For Croatia is was Bojan Bogdanovic, a man highlighted as a major threat before this game, who kept them competitive on the scoreboard.

For Jonas Maciulis the job was meant to be one of containment, limiting what Bogdanovic did at the other end but the guard didn’t read the script. Going hard from deep, Maciulis start 4 of 5 from three-point range. The fourth three put Lithuania 48-39 up with 7.01 left in the third. Time-out Croatia at a crucial point in the game. Maciulis was having none of it. In the lane, backs up, bucket and the foul. He made the and-one to push Lithuania into a 12 point lead. Draper missed a three on the next play, Maciulis recovered and Mantas Kalneitis delivered a lay-up at the other end. Croatia tried the press. Alley-oop to Robertas Javtokas. Luka Zoric missed a pair of free throws and Kalneitis nailed another from deep. In three minutes Lithuania had broken the game open to lead 58-40. Timeout Croatia with the gap having doubled in the interim.

And what of Jonas Valanciunas? If it’s possible to be quiet when you have 4 blocks in the first three quarters, the Raptors big man certainly was that. Fouls hindered him but Valanciunas was wise to defer on offensive to those around him. He added one more block in the final frame.

With seconds remaining the camera panned to Aryvdas Sabonis. The icon standing proud and tall, always very tall. After a 10 year absence Lithuania had returned to the final of EuroBasket. Kleiza finished with 22 points and 11 boards, Maciulis had 23 and 6, Kalneitis 18 and 4 assists. They get a day off now to recover for the gold medal game. No matter who they play on Sunday, Lithuania will be underdogs and they’ll be fine with that. No team is more than the sum of its parts than Lithuania. Spain and France have their stars. Lithuania will be happy with their multitude of options.

Sep
0

Pooh Jeter, Ukrainian hero

Ukraine’s hopes in EuroBasket 2013 hung on how Pooh Jeter played. When it mattered most, the borsht lover delivered.

Let’s compare two players at EuroBasket 2013.

Player A: 7.25 PPG, 2.75 APG, 2.25 RPG

Player B: 18 PPG, 5 APG, 4.2 RPG.

Unless you didn’t read the title of this column you’ll have guessed that both players are Eugene ‘Pooh’ Jeter. Player A is Jeter’s worst four games in the tournament. Player B is his best six. Both samples are tiny but within them lies the story.

Just like Bo McCalebb’s amazing run with Macedonia in 2011, a nation’s hopes and dreams rested on the shoulders of an import guard. Like McCalebb, Jeter sees Ukraine as more than just a route to a European passport. He has embraced the national team and played his heart out for his adopted home. It’s quite an evolution for the former Portland Pilot.

Jeter never tasted success in NCAA ball. No trips to the big dance or even the NIT. He’s bounced around Europe and China, finding work. Sometimes with big teams, sometimes not so much. It’s the connection he made with BC Kyiv during his career that has brought him to this new height. As Flinder Boyd said in his great column on McCalebb, it’s easy for an American to just take the passport and phone it in with his new national team. It’s entirely on the player if they decide to do something with it.

That’s what we saw from Jeter in EuroBasket 2013. He’s far from the perfect guard but when he is on, Pooh has the ability to dominate. After a quiet start to the tournament he exploded against Germany and France. In stage two it was Jeter who came up big again with 20 points in an upset of Serbia. It was that result that, eventually, put Ukraine into the quarter finals.

Jeter’s off days have made his big outing all the more extraordinary. Latvia shut him down, Great Britain’s rag-tag line-up limited him. When Jeter’s game was off, Ukraine were lost. Jeter didn’t have good days and bad days. He had everything and nothing days. On Friday Jeter didn’t just bring the solo show, he brought the best out of those around him.

Facing Italy for a place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Jeter nailed 20 points on 7 of 16 shooting. The guard grabbed 4 boards, all on the defensive end, as Ukraine restricted their more noteworthy opponents to just 24 points in the second half. Around Jeter there were Ukrainian men standing up and believing. Sergii Gladyr, Maxim Korniyenko, and Viacheslav Kravtsov grabbed 6 rebounds each. Ihor Zaytsev added 5 more. Individually no Ukrainian could deliver on Jeter’s level, collectively they refused to lose. Having never made it passed the first stage of EuroBasket before, Ukraine will finish at worst sixth this year. Pooh Jeter will finally go to the big dance only it won’t be in March. Next autumn in Spain, he’s going to carry his new home’s hopes once again.

Sep
1

EuroBasket Power Rankings: Spain rise to the top

Just in time for today’s semi finals to prove us completely wrong, here’s our updated Power Rankings for EuroBasket 2013 after the quarter final round.

1. Spain. It’s a what have you done for me lately business and nobody has done more than Spain. They leap Croatia on the back of an utter rout of Serbia.

2. Croatia. A second quarter spurt against Ukraine gave the Croats a decisive lead that they never gave up. This team has now won 8 straight.

3. Lithuania. Total coin toss between Lithuania and France following the quarter finals, the Lithuanians greater consistency in round two means they stay ahead for now.
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Sep
0

Preview: Clash of the stars as Spain play France in semi final

It’s a rivalry that’s been bubbling for years. Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, and Boris Diaw lead France against Spain’s Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, and the bearded might of Sergio Rodriguez. Only one will advance to the final of EuroBasket 2013.

Whatever we thought of Spain before the quarter finals was quickly swept aside on Wednesday. They didn’t beat Serbia; they ignored their very presence on the court. Spain played like their roster looked on paper. Deep in the back court, weapons everywhere, and with one of the most imposing presences in the world at center. The Serbs were sent packing in an utterly humiliating 90-60 defeat. France for their part stayed largely to type in the quarter final. The talent was there to see, they picked up the win, but they left the court with questions still abounding. One stood out above all others. Why do they look so beatable?

The stats certainly don’t paint the French as an easy side to conquer. They lead the tournament offensively and have a variety of options, with Parker, Batman, and Alexis Ajinca all proving tough match-ups. Parker leads EuroBasket in scoring but can disappear for minutes at a time. This is unlikely to be an issue today, not against a team France has lost twice to in major tournaments over the past two years. Normally I shun the eyeball test but it’s near impossible to ignore when France play. For all the things they do right, they always look like they need to find another gear.

The most consistent element of this match-up promises to be decisive. Even when their scoring has been off, Spain have been consistent on defence. If any team can corral France, it’s the Spaniards. Scoring will be high but Spain have enough to take the win. Spain to advance.

World Cup spot

Italy and Ukraine clash in Friday’s first game with a place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup at stake. This is a huge game for both sides as neither will want to see Serbia in the match-up for the final spot. Win today and you are on the plane to Spain. Ukraine fought gamely against Croatia and won’t suffer much inside against the Italians. The options for Italy on offence look to be key here. Gigi Datome and Marco Belinelli have been the engines for Italy throughout this tournament and the duo should have enough to pull through. Italy to win.

Sep
4

Preview: EuroBasket drama guaranteed in Lithuania vs Croatia semi final

After booking their places in next year’s FIBA World Cup yesterday, Lithuania and Croatia have their eyes on a more immediate prize. A place in the final of EuroBasket 2013 is up for grabs. Who will take it?

The first semi final of EuroBasket 2013 may lack the star power of Spain vs France but it promises to deliver plenty of excitement on Friday afternoon. There are battles everywhere and both sides have been waiting a long time to play in the final of Europe’s premier international competition. Lithuania is seeking to make it back to the final for the first time since 2003, when they beat Spain in the final. Croatia has never been past the semi-final round since gaining independence.

Guard play will be crucial in this game. Bojan Bogdanovic is the tournament’s second leading scorer, at 17.1 points per game, and Jonas Maciulis faces a tough match-up with the Fenerbahce man. Maciulis will likely be forced to focus on defence and defer to Mantas Kalneitis to impact on the offensive end. Defensively these are both impressive outfits with neither side giving up points easy. The match-up is also even on the inside, with Croatia ranking first and Lithuania third in rebounds for the tournament.

Consistency is going to be the deciding factor in this game. Lithuania have come back well in the business end of the tournament, rolling to four victories in a row after an up and down opening round. Croatia have a tournament leading eight straight wins but have made hard work of almost all of them. The glass looks to be an area where one team can break out. While neither team holds a significant edge in rebounding success or indeed talent on the inside, if one side can establish a presence early on the boards it could set the tone for the game.

As a collective unit Lithuania looks more organised but in terms of individual breakout options, the Croats appear to have the edge. If this game isn’t still in the balance going into the final minute I’ll be surprised. Still, drama and all, Croatia to win.

And…

The line-ups for the Under 18 All Star game, which takes place at 12.00 CET on Saturday, have been announced.Finnish coach Jari Nykanen and Austria’s Andreas Kaineder will coach the Blue team while Slovenia’s Borut Fijavz teams up with Bulgaria’s Ludmil Hadjisotoriv to coach the White team.

Blue team roster: Andrej Magdevski, Kenan Sipahi, Ricardas Verbickas, Dogukan Sanli, Ivars Zvigurs, Domagoj Bosnjak, Yevgen Sakhniuk, Damian Jeszke, Nikola Jokic, Anzejs Pasecniks, and Milovan Draskovic.

White team roster: Rebec Matic, Julian Andrea Gualtieri, Agusti Sans, Alexander Martynov, Alberto Abalde, Axel Bouteille, Rade Zagorac, Vincent Kesteloot, Metecan Birsen, Kerem Kanter, Prokop Slanina, and Georgios Diamantakos