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Former Galatasaray baller Jamont Gordon talks about the road to recovery +++ FIBA Europe Under 20 final highlights and top plays +++ VIDEO: Ettore Messina’s coaching philosophy +++ The 24 must-see regular season games in 2014/15 Euroleague +++ Until it matters, it won’t matter +++ Watch all 40 of Angela Salvadores points against USA +++ LeBron, another sign that David Blatt just keeps on winning +++ Better know a Euro – Alessandro Gentile +++ Better know a Euro – Ioannis Papapetrou +++ Better know a Euro – Nemanja Dangubic +++
Jul
2

The 24 must-see regular season games in 2014/15 Euroleague

Euroleague-Maccabi-Win

Week by week, day by day, we try to forecast the ‘must-watch’ games in the Euroleague Regular season for 2014/15. If you are feeling particularly evil, feel free to bookmark this and come back to mock us after Week 10.

The rules here are pretty simple. I get to pick one game for each night of Euroleague play this year except for Round 10 where I pick one for each group as the dates aren’t decided yet. Priority on how it will affect qualification placing trumps clash of big clubs, and I need to avoid reverse fixtures wherever possible. Let’s do this.

Round 1
16 October – Valencia vs Olympiacos
I was tempted to herald the return of Limoges here seeing as they are taking on the reigning champs but this is a game between an established power in Olympiacos and a team that won EuroCup last season and is trying to establish itself as a legitimate third force in Spain.

17 October – Fenerbahce vs Olimpia Milano
On the one hand we have a team that enters every year with a heap of expectation and tends to under-perform. On the other a team that exceeded expectations, fell away in spring, and just about managed to take its domestic title. Fener have reloaded, as per usual, Milano appear to have done the opposite. This game could set an early tone.

Round 2
23 October – CSKA Moscow vs Maccabi Elektra Tel Aviv
Because, well, duh.

24 October – Limoges vs Cedevita Zagreb
Eugh this was a tough day to call and not because of an abundance of hot match-ups. Limoges make their home return to EL action, Cedevita should prove interesting and a road win would be big for them here.
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Jun
0

Blatt’s Cavs to take on Maccabi in pre-season

David-Blatt-Cleveland-Cavaliers-Maccabi-Tel-Aviv

Euroleague champions Maccabi Tel-Aviv are heading to the US and they’re going to run into an old friend. The Euroleague champions will play the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on 5 October in the Euroleague US Tour. Last week the Cavaliers hired David Blatt, the man who led Maccabi to Euroleague glory this past season, as their new head coach. It may be pre-season but this is bound to be an emotional occasion for Blatt as he takes on his former charges.

Two days later, on 7 October, the Tel Aviv club heads to Brooklyn to take on the Nets at the Barclays Center as the second and final part of their US tour.

The pre-season games will take place shortly after Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s participation in the Intercontinental Cup. The Euroleague champions will take on FIBA Liga de las Americas champions Flamengo in a two-game series on 26 and 28 September at the Gimnasio Maracanazinho in Rio de Janeiro. The competition, which had been idle for almost 30 years, was re-started last season when Olympiacos Piraeus beat Pinheiros Sky.

Jun
0

The All-Seeing eyes

SportVU2
SportVU has changed the way we measure basketball performance. BallinEurope’s Emmet Ryan spoke with the man leading the technology’s charge, Brian Kopp, to find out how its all-seeing eyes are changing basketball.

Statistics and performance analysis are nothing new to team sports. The long-standing problem for analysts has been breaking down individual performances with relatively limited data sets. To paraphrase Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy, anaylsts try to picture clusters of information as they move through the computer. What do they look like? Shots? Tackles? The performance analyst community kept dreaming of a world they thought they’d never see. And then, one day, SportVU arrived.

The technology, now owned by Stats Inc in the US, was developed by former members of the Israeli Defence Forces for soccer. Basketball however has been the sport where the visual technology has come to the fore.

The SportVU team installs computer vision cameras in arenas and stadia. The current NBA season was the first time an entire league agreed to have the system set up. Six cameras are installed in the rafters of each arena in the ceiling. The system tracks the x-y co-ordinates of the players and the x-y-z co-ordinates of the ball 25 times per second. The cameras capture video and data. Algorithms in the software tell the cameras what to track and what not to track. From there SportVU creates new data algorithms and analysis to turn that raw co-ordinate data into usable information for teams.

“We can enhance data they’re already using,” said Brian Kopp, vice president of sports solutions with Stats.

Before if a player won a rebound off a missed shot, teams couldn’t differentiate based on context. SportVU is changing that. “Now we can tell you, if there were a lot of people around, was the rebound in traffic or was it uncontested, how much ground did you cover to get that rebound, how many chances could you have had at rebounds versus how many you came away with, a lot more context around rebounding,” said Kopp.

“Another example for that category is passing. Right now assists only counts the successful passes that led to a successful basket. Now we capture every single pass, even those that you missed the shot or the pass that led to the pass that led to the basket. Teams can get a lot more context around passing the ball around versus the tally mark of just the successful assist.”
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Jun
2

David Blatt smashes the glass ceiling

david-blatt-cleveland-cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers and David Blatt have come to terms, giving the Boston born coach with over 30 years in the European game his first taste of a NBA head coaching gig. Emmet Ryan says this could be a defining moment for European coaches.

You don’t have to go back all that far in history to a time when European players, or indeed any player from outside the USA, was seen as incapable of cutting it in the NBA. It wasn’t until the likes of Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Vlade Divac, and Arvydas Sabonis made their mark that Europeans were truly accepted in the league. Dirk’s MVP season struck another blow. The steps have been taken by players in jerseys, the idea of a player whose formative years were outside of the United States not having what it takes is seen as foolish in the modern era.

Coaches however simply haven’t made the breakthrough. Ettore Messina’s single season as an assistant with the Lakers was a big deal. It opened up the prospect of a coach who had made it to the top in Europe being able to transition to the US. Messina was linked with NBA head coaching gigs less than a month ago and now looks likely to join the Spurs as an assistant. Blatt, who is of course American born, is the breakthrough we have been waiting for.

Much as the Bostonian is a noted Celtics fan, he is very much a Euro in the eyes of the NBA. This isn’t Mike D’Antoni with his flavour of Italy coaching in the bigs. Blatt is a Euro lifer. Nearly his entire professional playing career and his full two decades as a coach have been in Europe. Blatt has enjoyed phenomenal success often when resources said he shouldn’t have. Maccabi Tel Aviv’s win in Euroleague this year was the most obvious example but he has taken care of business in Italy and Russia as well as on the international stage. When Russia beat Spain in EuroBasket 2007 they knocked off the reigning World Champions. That was followed up with a bronze in London 2012.
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Jun
2

A Different Perspective for Euroleague

FC Barcelona Regal v Laboral Kutxa Vitoria - Turkish Airlines Euroleague Top 16

While the world still awaits Google Glass hitting the mainstream, Europe’s top basketball league is already finding ways to help it change the game.

Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv took the Euroleague title, basketball’s answer to the Champions League, in thrilling fashion against Real Madrid last month. The under-card game that preceded the epic final may however prove more important for the future of the sport.

The third place playoff, a game widely ignored by fans and with little interest from players, was used as a staging ground for Euroleague’s second in-game test of Google Glass. “We’re always looking for new ways of integrating new technologies in the league. We want to find new ways to get more insight from using new content for our fans and on the other side to find tools for basketball professionals that can be useful for their day-to-day work,” said Alex Ferrer, communications director with Euroleague.

“We have a partnership with the University of La Salle in Barcelona and we learned that they were official testers of Glass in Spain. We started brainstorming to see what we could do with the technology this season,” said Ferrer.

Prior to the third place playoff test, Euroleague had a field test of the technology during an earlier stage of the season in a game between Barcelona and Laboral Kutxa. “We did a couple of tests in a Top 16 game and these tests were mostly related to producing content for the fans. The next step is to see how this can also be used to provide data to professionals to be used in real time to make decisions on the court,” said Ferrer.

“We released a clip that the fans loved for the Barcelona-Laboral Kutxa game. It was with the players and coaches and referees wearing them. It truly provided a different view, a unique view that we couldn’t experience before so we are planning to do more in the future and also to find other ways because it’s not the only thing you can do with this device.”

For the third place playoff last month, Euroleague equipped a referee with Glass for the game between Barcelona and CSKA Moscow. The league also got players to wear the device during practices before their games. The video the players recorded was used as part of two mini-movies released by Euroleague from the finals weekend. Ferrer said the players enjoyed helping to create content for the fans.

“Everybody loves it when you give it to them. Players and coaches love it. It’s a new thing so they like to experiment with it. In the beginning, it’s a little strange because you have something in your eye that you’re not used to but after a few seconds you get used to that and it’s only a very small screen on the top of your vision,” he said.
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Jun
1

Limoges have use feeling all 1993 again

Limoges-Pro-A-champions-2014
CSP Limoges secured a return to Euroleague by taking the Pro A title in France. Emmet Ryan is feeling awfully nostalgic about the former kings of European hoops returning to the top level.

What were you doing in 1993? I was 12 so not a whole lot but it was a different time. This was pre-Euroleague, back then the top level competition in Europe was the FIBA European League and it looked rather different to the competition we know today. All but three teams (Partizan, Badalona, and Treviso) had to play through qualifying rounds before progressing to the regular season. Limoges began their journey to the European title in the second qualifying round, where they disposed of England’s Guildford Kings 143-129 on aggregate. And right away we’ve found a team Limoges beat that doesn’t exist anymore, the Kings went bust in 1994 and professional hoops didn’t return to Guildford until the Heat were formed in 2005. Amongst the notable teams that joined Limoges in the regular season were Bayer Leverkusen (currently in Germany’s second tier), and RC Mechelen (went bust in 1995).
Limoges-European-Champions-1993
The regular season back then consisted of two groups with 7 in Group A and 8 in Group B. Limoges went 7-5, good enough for second behind PAOK. Those interested in a touch of history will be interested to know that Panathinaikos didn’t make it to the top flight that season. The quarter finals saw PAOK beat Pau-Orthez, Limoges take down Olympiacos, Real Madrid beat Bologna, and Treviso beat Pesaro all in best-of-three game affairs.

The SEF was home to the Final Four that season with Limoges knocking off Real Madrid 62-52 and Treviso beat PAOK 79-77. This set up a final between a French team and an Italian team. Just let that sink in for a moment. These were different times. Limoges took the title with a 59-55 win in the final, ending the European season in mid-April.
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Jun
0

Euroleague season top 10 highlights…plus a few more

It’s been over a fortnight since the season ended but Euroleague has just posted it’s top 10 highlights of the season. For my money I’d flip two and one but I’m just happy they found room to fit in that play by Tyrese Rice in the CSKA game. Press play and enjoy.

May
0

The Ballin After: Blatt, Rice, and Ingles talk about Maccabi’s triumph

Emmet Ryan sends his final video dispatch from Milano as David Blatt, Tyrese Rice, and Joe Ingles talk about Maccabi Tel Aviv Euroleague triumph.

May
1

Final Four: Maccabi beat Real Madrid 98-86 in OT to become champions of Euroleague 2013/14

Maccabi tifo

Rarely has a title game at any level seen so many lead changes as Maccabi Tel Aviv and Real Madrid served up a thriller at the Assago Forum in Milano. Emmet Ryan reports on an all-time classic Euroleague final.

It took them a little longer to fill the arena than Friday night but once again Maccabi Tel Aviv’s supporters made sure this was anything but a neutral site game. Real Madrid’s players were greeted with a chorus of boos for warm-ups and it only got louder when the players were introduced. Once more Maccabi sought to pull off an upset but this time they had to contend with an offensive force that has dominated the continent all season.

Rudy Fernandez kicked off the scoring with a three. Sofoklis Schortsantidis opened Maccabi’s account. Sofo takes down Rudy hard up the other end and the battle was on. Yogev Ohayon gave the Tel Aviv club it’s first lead of the game and it was oh so physical. Maccabi’s plan was to punch Real in the nose and keep punching. Both teams struggled from the field early but Maccabi had no desire for this to be a shootout. At 8-5 with just over 5 minutes gone, the first timeout was called. A chance for Real’s players to catch their breath and re-focus. Ioannis Bourousis immediately ran into a double team. He drew the foul but did it the hard way. Maccabi weren’t letting up. Every stop by Maccabi was cheered like a three up the other end. Devin Smith stretched the lead to 6 with a mid-ranfe jumper before Rudy finally responded from deep. Sergio Rodriguez sat ready to come in as Felipe Reyes put Madrid back in front. Chacho returned to his seat. The Euroleague MVP wouldn’t see any action in the first quarter. Real ahead by the narrowest of margins, 16-15, going into the second frame.

Chacho came in to start the second quarter. Rudy leapt in like a madman for a board. He was nowhere near it but he sent the message, if Maccabi were going to be physical so would he. Fernandez picked up two boards either side of a bucket before Chacho landed a three. Real were now up 6 and Maccabi called timeout. Felipe Reyes started to have his way with Maccabi’s D, the faster pace of the quarter suiting his game. Maccabi’s offence had no answer and Real knew they had a chance to make a dent in the Tel Aviv team’s confidence. Marcus Slaughter pushed the lead to double digits briefly before David Blu finally opened Maccabi’s account in the second quarter after nearly four minutes. Reyes hurt Maccabi again on the inside, pausing to make room before hitting the lay-up, then adding another in similar style on Real’s next possession. Blu was the one man keeping Maccabi in it and the veteran reeled Real in again. It could have been a bloodbath at the break, instead Blu nailed a three on the buzzer that meant Maccabi only trailed 35-33 at half-time.
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May
2

Final Four: Barcelona beat CSKA Moscow 93-78 in third place game

CSKA-Barcelona-third-place-game

It’s the game nobody wants to play in and few want to watch but at least it featured a milestone for Juan Carlos Navarro and quality minutes for Mario Hezonja. After the devastation of defeat in Friday’s semi finals, CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona trotted out for the Euroleague third/fourth place decider.

A faint CSKA cheer greeted the opening tip with the drummer trying to rally the supporters in an arena that was at best a fifth full. Sonny Weems nailed his first shot, after his horrible evening on Friday it was of little consolation. CSKA raced into an 8-2 lead, forcing Xavi Pascual to call timeout early. Much to the chagrin of those present, this gave the MC from last year in London a chance to get on the mic. At least he was second fiddle to the main MC and there was comfort in knowing he would be drowned out by Maccabi fans in a few hours. Sasha Kaun was dominating the opening quarter, much as he did against Maccabi, scoring 8 points in the first three minutes of action. The scoring was fast but it was hardly a surprise given how easy both sides were going on defence. Milos Teodosic dropped a Navarro-esque floater, then the Barcelona guard responded in kind following his own introduction. At the end of the first, CSKA led 24-21.

Maciej Lampe opened the second quarter with back-to-back threes to remind us that yes, he is indeed still alive despite sitting the full 40 minutes on Friday night. Barca moved into a 34-28 lead on the back of Lampe’s efforts. Alex Abrines added another three and the Catalan back-ups were having a good frame. CSKA however were still finding plenty of room up the other end of the floor as Kaun moved to double digits on the scoresheet with a dunk. An alley-oop slam by Joey Dorsey drew a gasp from the crowd as Barca stretched their lead to 9. Mario Hezonja entered the game and certainly looked eager but had limited opportunities as the half drew to a close. Barcelona took a 50-47 lead into the break.

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