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May
66

On Olympiacos Euroleague championship: From crises emerge heroes

Printezis: Hero of the day

European basketball fans know that history was made with Olympiacos’ stunning victory in the 2012 Euroleague championship. And so BallinEurope contributor, the self-proclaimed hoops history junkie Uygar Karaca looks back with perspective on the title bid, reaching all the back to the Great Depression of 1929 through the collapse of the Soviet Union and into today’s European Union crises. Whether or not God Himself played a role, the importance of the Reds’ win, as Karaca sees it, is history repeating itself. Gloriously.

This is how things have worked throughout history: From crises emerge heroes. And heroes create the losers. Sometimes underdogs have more advantages simply because they have nothing to lose. It’s not unusual that we see situations like a 10-man football team winning against a stronger side. Sometimes having options confuses minds, creates problems in concentration and ambiguity in methodology. Those who have no real options perhaps have just one way and they become focused on the goal, which brings about greater optimization and efficiency.

I was thinking like this before the match: “If CSKA wins, there will be not many stories but in case of Olympiacos winning, there will be a variety of options in exposing the classical underdog story with many different perspectives. I hope Olympiacos wins.”

The day before the Euroleague final, I was at Abdi İpekci Hall to see some action in the Nike International Junior Tournament. There I saw Stevislav Pesic, also one of the greatest coaches in European basketball, the man who famously brought a European title to both Germany and Alba Berlin, who were real underdogs. I thought that it would be a great idea to take some predictions from him. Said Pesic: “I was not suprised when Olympiakos won against Barcelona, because Barcelona changed its game this year and were somewhat inconsistent throughout the season, whereas Olympiakos improved much compared to the beginning of the season.”

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May
17

Taxi ride in the aftermath: Three Russians, a Turkish driver and the question why

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a YouTube clip worth? Even at tenfold the still image, the figure probably still wouldn’t be high enough for the Tolstoyesque level of descriptive prose necessary to capture the insanity that was the final, say, 12 minutes of the 2012 Euroleague championship final between 17/1 underdogs Olympiacos and heavily-favored CSKA Moscow.

The guys from Euroleague Adventures sure tried while Sinan Erdem Arena rocked and BallinEurope sat in stunned silence at *the* comeback story – regular-season, playoffs and final – that was Olympiacos, 2011-12 edition.

BiE writes this is the hotel following the game after that sort of halcyon taxi ride believed by many to exist only in the movies. Splitting a cab with three Russians loaded with gear and paraphernalia, driven by a Turkish taxi driver and the four armed with far less than 1,000 English words between them, the conversation was mostly about colors and teams. It went something like this.

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May
24

Live chat: CSKA Moscow vs. Olympiacos for 2012 Euroleague championship

Hard to believe it’s open us — this season just flew by, it feels like, but nevertheless the beginning of the end tips off in about 40 minutes. Can Olympiacos win the biggest must-win of all to complete their amazing run? Or will CSKA Moscow, a team of destiny even before signing Andrei Kirilenko, earn the second piece to what’s looking like a unique triple crown year? Chat with us here about the possibilities from now through game’s end right here.

And then Cover It Live blew up, crashed, imploded, etc. As did Twitter and Facebook, probably. Unbelievable. Without hyperbole, simply one of the greatest comebacks in a season and game BiE has ever seen. Maybe 10 minutes of basketball action that summarized Olympiacos’ incredible never-say-die 2011-12 Euroleague season. Words fail me and everyone here. What just happened…? BiE’ll have to sleep on it. If i can, after that.

Just. Incredible.

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May
0

Live chat: Panathinaikos vs. FC Barcelona in Euroleague 2012 third-place game

Right, here comes the live chat! In addition to the witty and pithy comments from BallinEurope and its readers, we’ll also be running some favorite Twitterers during the session as well. Join in the fun throughout the game … we’ll be here for the second game, too.

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May
2

Žalgiris Kaunas dance team (attempts to) Cheer Up Final Four fans

One squad involved in the 2012 Euroleague Final Four is getting a bit of a short shrift in the tournament this time around – namely, the Žalgiris Kaunas “Cheer Up” dance team.

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May
3

Kirilenko on playing for Utah Jazz, CSKA Moscow: “It’s hard to compare”

How Andrei Kirilenko handles reporters – just kidding

Amid a crowd of athletes well-versed in jockspeak, Andrei Kirilenko is a breath of fresh air. Though no controversy-stirrer on the Charles Barkley level (and who is, really, aside from Sir Charles himself), Kirilenko is personable, patient, friendly and fluent in two languages in the interview milieu.

Kirilenko arrived late to “open media” session after yesterday’s CSKA Moscow practice and quickly drew a crowd for the seven or so minutes he spoke to reporters in advance of the Red Army’s title quest tonight.

On the other side of the floor tonight will be Dusan Ivkovic, a man quite familiar with Kirilenko stretching back to the days when AK-47 was not quite the automatic weapon he is today. When asked who wins the battle between player and coach, Kirilenko deferred a bit, stating that “He knows me and Milos [Teodosic], so we won’t surprise him.”

When it was pointed that CSKA had beaten Olympiacos twice this season already, Kirlenko refused to acknowledge his side’s standing as heavy favorites in tonight’s game. “Look at Panathinaikos. We beat them twice this season, too. It doesn’t mean anything” in what is “not a playoff series in which you have a chance to have a mistake.”

Did Kirilenko have expectations going into this season after jumping from the NBA? Would anything less have been a disappointment? Well, said Andrei, “I’m very happy with this season, no matter how the final goes … I’m already happy with this season, because I had a great chance to play for the Russian fans. I had a great chance to play in front of a lot of my friends [and] family. It was a great season; we have a great team.”

Along similar lines, Kirilenko stated only on the inevitable NBA/Euroleague comparison question simply that “It’s a different game” – Perhaps he’s been reading BallinEurope and didn’t seek to start another comment war – and as for playing with the Utah Jazz as opposed to CSKA Moscow, “It’s different. It’s hard to compare. I played 10 years for Utah and I know everyone in that organization … it’s like a second home in the ‘States, but here you get back to the team where you started your career and you still recognize the guy who met you at the train station when you were 19 years old…”

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May
1

Jonas Kazlauskas vs. Dusan Ivkovic: Euroleague history will be made

It’s a trivia question with an expiration date – and that date is tomorrow. To wit: “Which head coach holds the record for longest time between Euroleague titles?”

For the next, what, 26 hours or so, the answer is “Alexander Gomelsky.” Most well-known as the Team USSR coach, the Naismith/FIBA Hall of Famer took the Euroleague title in 1960 with ASK Riga and would return to take the championship with CSKA Moscow in ’71.

But this year’s matchup of CSKA and Olympiacos automatically changes that. Featuring coaches Jonas Kazlauskas and Dusan Ivkovic, the record will be rewritten at tomorrow night’s Euroleague championship. Kazlauskas was handed an all-star lineup with Moscow this year to return to his first EL Final Four – never mind the championship game – since 1999; in that season, he brought a Žalgiris squad which included the likes of George Zidek, Thomas Masiulis, Saulius Štombergas and Tyrus Edney to the top.

And though Ivkovic has been more of a presence in Euroleague play since the 90s, the coach’s title drought is even longer than that of Kazlauskas, having taken the championship with Olympiacos back in the Reds’ only triple crown season of 1997.

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May
5

D-Will meets with Prokhorov in Istanbul, snaps in-game pic of Kirilenko

As has been widely reported, a big powwow in Istanbul is currently going on while the 2012 Euroleague Final Four plays out: The meeting of the minds (and money) features Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, team general manager Billy King and prospective free agent Deron Williams.

While Prokhorov checks out his former charge Andrei Kirilenko during the games – quite probably with the ultimate goal of signing up the AK-47 for the Nets – he and King apparently are attempting to sweet-talk D-Will into reupping with his 2011-12 team. Though Williams has pointedly noted his dissatisfaction with the team and his intention to bolt once the free-agency period has officially begun, at the beginning of this month, CBS Sports quoted a source as stating that he was “leaning toward re-signing with the Nets.”

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May
6

Who’s to blame? Another look at *that* final Panathinaikos play

BallinEurope bets that Dimitris Diamantidis didn’t sleep too well last night. In handling the ball of the final play in Panathinaikos’ 66-64 Euroleague Final Four loss to CSKA Moscow yesterday, former MVP DD was stifled by the Red Army defense and poor PAO fans could only watch time run out on the Greens’ back-to-back title bid.

Diamantidis also inadvertently helped redeem his CSKA counterpart, Milos Teodosic, an 88-plus percent free-throw shooter who could’ve iced the game with nine seconds remaining but missed both – and this after referees missed a couple of borderline dragging-the-pivot-foot travels as well.

No matter, though. What everyone tweeted about immediately – and DD is surely contemplating today is what exactly happened on that last Panathinaikos possession. To check out how it unfolded, start at about 3:17 in the video below.

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May
0

Jonas Kazlauskas: The post-game interview

Here’s a quick one for you: Below the break, an almost giddy Jonas Kazlauskas in the post-game following his CSKA Moscow’s near escape…

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