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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 +++
Mar
0

Even inaction is political for FIBA in Ukraine

The last thing on most people’s minds when it comes to the crisis in Crimea is basketball. FIBA Europe don’t have that luxury. Emmet Ryan says that whatever call FIBA makes on EuroBasket 2015, they will suffer for it.

The road to EuroBasket 2015 had been rocky enough already before last weekend. The Crimea crisis has escalated matters and there are many furrowed brows in FIBA Europe’s headquarters in Munich right about now. Ukraine is set to host the continent’s premier basketball competition next year, that presents a political nightmare for the basketball body.

Let’s look at the options facing FIBA. Only two really matter, keep the tournament in Ukraine or move it. The former requires no new action from FIBA Europe, the latter most certainly does. Neither is pleasant.

The lone upside to keeping the tournament in Ukraine is that FIBA Europe technically isn’t making a political statement if it proceeds with the plan. There’s just a slight problem, if Russia says it’s a political statement then it might as well be. Russia could pull out of the tournament, removing every Russian eyeball and the TV money that goes with it. More importantly, it’s a blatant opportunity for Vladimir Putin to grandstand. And all of this while FIBA Europe does literally nothing to change its current course of action. The financial hit is one the body could take in the short-term but pissing off a big market isn’t advisable beyond it.

Removing the tournament from Ukraine has obviously negative implications from a face-saving point. It’s basically a continent-wide governing body saying Kthanxbai and leaving a member hanging. Whatever your views on the political administration in Ukraine, their governing body of basketball is hardly one to shoulder the blame here. What no-one else will say is that if Ukraine loses the tournament, the only nation likely to boycott is Ukraine. Many more will cluck but they’ll still show up to ball.

The only way FIBA Europe gets out of this jam easily is if Ukraine becomes unviable as a host for the tournament. There are two ways this could happen. Political instability is the less pleasant option. Should matters escalate, and it’s safe to say that’s not a good thing, then FIBA can cite safety concerns but it would really wish it didn’t have to. The second is infrastructure. Does Ukraine still have the physical infrastructure and financial resources to deliver EuroBasket? It’s not exactly a nice idea either but infrastructural concerns, especially substantial ones, would be by far the easiest option for FIBA Europe to use to abandon Ukraine.

Whatever way it pans out, FIBA Europe is going to take an absolutely beating in the press. There are often fair and reasonable reasons to mock the governing body. This really isn’t one of them but it will be one of the more visible and it will end badly for them.

EuroBasket 2015 isn’t the first potential clash of politics and basketball in this crisis. With Ukraine’s Budvielnik Kiev and Khimik Yuzhne still in EuroCup, along with Russian outfits Khimki Moscow Region, Unics Kazan, and Nizhny Novgorod, the competition could yet deliver a match-up where politics takes precedence over basketball.

There’s also the small matter of the VTB United League. The next game scheduled between teams from both nations is between Triumphy Lyubertsy and Azovmash Mariupol. Given Mariupol’s home game with Russia’s Khimki was postponed on 23 February, it’s safe to say that games between Russian and Ukrainian sides in the league are likely to go unplayed for the foreseeable future.

Sep
0

Preview: EuroBasket Quarter Finals – Croatia vs Ukraine and Lithuania vs Italy

Three more teams will book their place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup on Thursday as the quarter finals of EuroBasket 2013 conclude. Here’s are take and picks on both games as well as the classification game between Slovenia and Serbia where the winner books a ticket to Spain. 

Croatia lost their first game in Slovenia and then rattled off seven straight wins to secure a favourable draw in the last eight. The Croats have power inside and will look to dominate on the glass, where they have averaged 43.1 rebounds per game. After beating Ukraine home and away in the qualification round last year, it’s hardly a surprise to see Croatia as favourites for this game. This is a team however which is almost addicted to making life difficult irrespective of the opponent. Only one of Croatia’s run of victories came in a manner that could remotely be described as comfortable. Every other game was a battle often of the Croats own doing. This will give hope to Ukraine which will rely heavily on three-point shooting to keep the game competitive and make the favourites nervous. Mike Fratello’s team lives and dies by how Pooh Jeter plays. What Croatia do to shut down the world’s biggest fan of borscht could prove decisive. The bookies have Croatia down as -8 favourites. That looks about right to me. Croatia to advance.

The second quarter final today sees Italy take on Lithuania. Raptors Republic is calling this tournament JonasBasket and while there’s an element of insular thinking there, for one evening they may have a point. Lithuania can bang hard with anybody and Jonas Valanciunas will have an important role to play in this game. Italy’s struggles inside hurt them in the second stage and they will need Alessandro Gentile to match his big display against Spain for this game to be competitive. There’s certainly talent on the Italian roster, with Marco Belinelli and Gigi Datome both impressing at this tournament. What the duo needs most is help. I expect a heavy emphasis on defence from Lithuania early to try and frustrate Italy before the favourites look to punch a big hole on the scoreboard in the second quarter. Lithuania are favoured by 5.5 points and again this looks about right. Power inside will make the difference. Lithuania to win.

Before today’s quarter finals take place, the first of the classification games will see Slovenia take on Serbia. The home side lost to France in a contest that took a while to get going last night while the Serbs were swept aside by Spain. The emotional energy spent by Slovenia is a big concern going into this game. While Serbia will have been shocked by the way they were manhandled by Spain, it’s easier to get back mentally after a laugher than the type of draining game Slovenia played. I’m going for the slight upset here and picking Serbia.

Sep
0

EuroBasket: France grind past Slovenia 72-62

The home side exited EuroBasket 2013 after a quarter final that took a while to come to life.

This game started ugly but Slovenia clearly came out the better of the first quarter. Going in 14-10 up at the end of the final frame, there was reason for the home crowd to be hopeful. Neutrals however well already being overcome with a sense of dread. The offence in the first half was terrible. Slovenia shot 11of 33. France went 11 of 34. It gets worse when you dig inside the numbers. The Slovenians were happy to go deep. Unfortunately their accuracy was vile. Going just 1 of 14 from beyond the arc early, the underdogs weren’t getting the big shots they needed to plant the seeds of an upset. The home side’s futility however was balanced by France’s own failure, going a meagre 9 of 28 on 2s. France went in 26-24 up at the break.

Any kind of a run had the potential to blow this game open. It was France who found it. Pushing 36-26 ahead, Les Bleus developed a cushion and from there the pressure was on Slovenia. Had this been a game where either offence was in passable form, the chances of the hosts countering with a run of their own would have been good. The crowd in Ljubiana however knew their men weren’t on tonight. Goran Dragic was trying to be a do everything player for his side, creating and scoring in a spirited performance, but as Slovenia’s effort to cut the deficit kept hitting a wall he looked like he was trying to do too much.

With 3 minutes to go it was a two-possession game, Slovenia had a shot to make the French nervous. Another offensive set failed and France punished them. Trailing 67-60 with time running out a Bostjan Nachbar three was off. Tony Parker hit a lay-up on the next possession. Slovenia’s next run up the court fell short too and now it was time to foul but the French had time on their side. It was anything but a polished performance but France had done enough. After a first half where offence went to die, France came out hard from the locker room and left the home side in their wake.

Slovenia won’t win a medal here but they will need to make home court advantage count to secure their place in the FIBA World Cup next year. France’s place in Spain is now locked up. Their next opponents will be a Spanish side that ran riot against Serbia.

Sep
5

EuroBasket: Spain rout Serbia 90-60 in quarter finals

Spain brutalised Serbia early as they romped to victory in the first quarter final of EuroBasket 2013.

Spain started hot and rarely let off in a rout of Serbia. Everyone knew the Spanish had speed but Serbia weren’t ready for how hard Spain would start the game. A 21-5 first quarter set the tone for the contest. Spain’s guards created opportunities at will as Serbia’s battered back-court struggled to keep up. Nemanja Nedovic bravely tried to compete but the injured Golden State Warrior couldn’t handle the constant pressure being brought by Spain’s offence. The rough start rattled Serbia early and their shot was off, further hampering their cause.

Spain didn’t let up in the second quarter despite Dusan Ivkovic’s best efforts to calm his young charges. Marc Gasol utterly dominated Nenad Krstic, a match-up he was expected to win but one in which the Serbian looked lost throughout. Serbia finally got a dash of success on the other end but with Rudy Fernandez raining threes for fun, it was a case of damage limitation. With Spain 22 points up as half-time neared, Pablo Aguilar put up a three on the buzzer and lead was 48-23.

When it’s going your way, it’s going your way. With 3.38 left in the third quarter Gasol heaved a full court pass to Sergio Llull for an easy lay-up, releasing the ball before he even knew where the Real Madrid man was, and the lead grew to 69-29. There wasn’t an aspect of play where Spain didn’t look in control. On the inside they battered Serbia. Their outside shooting was downright scary. Serbia’s Eagles looked like rabbits in the headlights. The question for Ivkovic was no longer what he needed to win this game. It was what he must do to get his young side refocused on the games ahead that will decided whether they play in the FIBA World Cup next year.

Serbia showed some fight in the final frame but in truth it was as much Spain easing off as the Serbs finally finding their confidence. The Spanish now await the winner of tonight’s second quarter final between the hosts Slovenia, who beat Spain in the first round, and France. The French are hungry for revenge after losing the 2011 final to Spain and then dropping a chippy Olympic quarter final to them last year. Whoever progresses, they will face a formidable opponent in Spain. After taking it easy at times in the early rounds, Spain look hungry for the three-peat.

Sep
1

EuroBasket: Jonas Valanciunas Leads Centres in Points Per Possession

Lithuania may want to consider giving Jonas Valanciunas more minutes after checking out this chart. The Toronto Raptors big man leads all centers in points per possession (PPP).

jonas-valanciunas-possession-chart

This chart by Simon Jatsch of In-the-game.org shows, unsurprisingly, that Valanciunas does most of his work around the rim. The “Rest Two” category relates to jump hook shots and other close range efforts that are not strictly jump shooting. Valanciunas has yet to record an assist in the tournament and his total shots per game ranks relatively low among big men. Much of this can be attributed to Valanciunas playing mostly off the bench for Lithuania through the tournament. Serbia’s Nenad Krstic leads all centers in shots created with 5.5 per 28 minutes.

Israel’s Afik Nassim is the only player with a higher PPP than Valanciunas, at 1.226. Greece’s Kostas Papanikolaou, currently with FC Barcelona and whose NBA rights are held by the Portland Trail Blazers, has matched Valanciunas 1.189 PPP.

Goran Dragic is by far the most pass happy point guard in the tournament with 49.6 per cent of his possessions turning into assists.

Simon has produced 50 charts covering the most interesting players in the tournament, including most of the top 10 at every position. Check them out here.

Sep
0

Podcast: Lotsa Eurobasket, including interviews with Mike Fratello, Alexis Ajinca, Robertas Javtokas, more

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #53 (or perhaps that should be “Volume II, Episode 1”) of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

With co-host David Hein “enjoying” the Eurobasket 2013 tournament going down the stretch live in Ljubljana (that “enjoying” is in quotes because we know for a fact that the man’s working like a dog over there), the focus is all on the Continental tournament.

The final round tips off today in lovely Slovenia and we’ve got four short interviews for your listening pleasure with one representative from each of the first four games: Check out the ‘cast for words from young Team Serbia sensation Vasilije Micic; Les Bleus former Charlotte Bobcat Alexis Ajinça; the Czar Himself and current Team Ukraine mastermind Mike Fratello; and Robertas Javtokas of Lietuva.

Naturally, we couldn’t resist the change to offer some Official Fearless Predictions™, including what must be the world’s first championship-game prognostication for Eurobasket 2015.

In our sports movie review of the week segment, we’re looking at an HBO production from 1995 (also known as that time when HBO wasn’t yet HBO) centered on a Rucker Park classic, Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault.

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.

Continue Reading…

Sep
0

Preview: Serbia vs Spain and Slovenia vs France – EuroBasket Quarter Finals

Arguably the two best matched quarter finals of EuroBasket 2013 talk place on Wednesday. Serbia take on Spain in a re-match of the 2009 final while hosts Slovenia take on France.

Serbia vs Spain – 17.30 CET

The young and improving Serbs take on the winners of the last two EuroBaskets. The key match-ups here will come with the guards. Spain has a deep rotation to work with, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez, and Sergio Llull may all prefer playing the 1 but they have the versatility to make for solid pairings. Serbia’s big question is over the health of their guards. Nemanja Nedovic and Stefan Markovic are each nursing injuries, which will put pressure on Bogdan Bogdanovic to deliver big. On the inside Nenad Krstic is going to go to war with Marc Gasol. There’s no question the Spaniard holds the edge here but Krstic has the ability to at least make a fight of it. My big concern here has been Spain’s inconsistency. Countering that however is their defence which remains stout. The bookies say Spain -6.5, I’m going to go a bit closer than that but still a two-possession game at the death. Spain to advance.

Slovenia vs France – 21.00 CET

First things first. Do you feel basketball?

Good stuff. The hosts have benefited greatly from some big time performances from Goran Dragic. With 15.4 points and 4.4 assists per game, the Phoenix Sun has impressed throughout the tournament. Slovenia opted to rest him for much of their game against Finland, with a view to this match-up. On paper it’s hard to see anything but a French win. They have talent, they have depth, and in Alexis Ajinca they have a non-star who is a joy to watch. Believing in this French team is another matter entirely. The eyeball test is dangerous but I’ve watched a lot of France in this tournament and they just look like a team hoping to get everything together by the knockout stages. For all their talent, they are far from refined. Slovenia’s depth can certainly be questioned but in terms of sheer organisation, they look a step ahead of the French. Throw in a partisan home crowd and you’ve got the recipe for an upset. Time to be fearless. Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, y’all are great but I think you’re going to the classification games. Slovenia to win.

Who do you think comes out on top today? Tell us in the comments.

Sep
0

Before we slay each other tomorrow, remember we’re all friends

Our previews of today’s first two EuroBasket 2013 quarter finals will be up early tomorrow. A lot of pride is on the line and it’s going to be tense for most of our readers. That’s awesome and without passionate fans, it just wouldn’t be the same. Before we tear our hair out on Twitter and in the comments, remember basketball is awesome. Sometimes it’s just the results that suck.

Love this ad. Enjoy elimination ball everybody. As a man who’s country doesn’t have a national team, I can at least play the neutral here.

Sep
5

EuroBasket Power Rankings: And then there were eight

Where once there was 12 now stand 8. The quarter finals are set so it’s time to update our Power Rankings.

There are some radical changes but I still expect plenty of you will be upset. Take aim in the comments.

1. Croatia (4-1). It was really tough to decide between first and second here. Three straight wins in the second round, including that unreal 2OT win over Greece on Monday, were just enough for them to get top slot. 

2. Serbia (4-1). So that ranking of 9 was harsh. Serbia still clearly have a lot of work to do but their win over France was particularly impressive.

3. Slovenia (3-2). The home team is really getting the crowd involved in their games. Their win over Italy exposed some of the latter’s failings. Following that up with a heart-stopper over Greece was enough to take third here. We’re not counting what was clearly a nothing game against Finland against them.
Continue Reading…

Sep
3

EuroBasket 2013 Quarter Final pairings set

The last game in stage two has yet to start but the four quarter final pairings for EuroBasket 2013 are set. Here’ are the pairings.

Serbia vs Spain

Lithuania vs Italy

Croatia vs Ukraine

Slovenia vs France

The first two games on Monday set the slate in stone. Greece lost any hope at making the quarter finals with their double overtime 92-88 loss to Croatia. Italy and Spain were left to decide the order of the top two quarter finals, with the loser getting Group E winner Serbia. Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies led the game in stats with 32 points and 10 rebounds but Alessandro Gentile made up for his lacklustre display against Croatia with 25 points and 7 boards. New San Antonio Spur Marco Belinelli had another good outing for Italy, with 16 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out while Marco Cusin, who also fouled out, put up 4 points and 11 boards. It took overtime to decide it but Italy took the win 86-81. Now all they have to do is repeat that success on the inside to lock up a place in the FIBA World Cup next year. Against a Lithuanian team that can bang hard, that’s no easy ask.

We’ll have previews up for the quarter finals later this week but bear in mind that the placement games in this tournament also matter. With Spain already having their place in the World Cup secure, all but one of the other quarter finalists will be making the trip next year. Tell us who you think misses out in the comments.