On Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Giannakopoulos and the Greek League mess

The history books will forever record Panathinaikos as having won game three of the 2012-13 Greek League championship series over Olympiacos by a score of 76-72 to complete a three-game sweep. The reality, as is sadly so often the case in Greens-Reds match, was more complicated.

With just under a minute and a half remaining, an Olympiacos turnover gave Panathinaikos the ball. At this point, Reds fans unleashed their fury on the Greens’ bench for a scene well-known to those familiar with Greek basketball.

Game three therefore ended with refs calling the match with 87 seconds remaining; a request from the officials to clear the building went unheeded.

While some Olympiacos players admitted in defeat that “We did not play good basketball” (18-of-79 three-point shooting in the three games is one statistic fortifying that opinion) or that perhaps they’d been mentally/physically/emotionally exhausted by the Euroleague Final Four victories, but one cannot deny the assessment that “anything can happen in 87 seconds,” particularly when the side down by four points have proven to be Europe’s comeback kids these past two seasons.

The Red Planet report portrays a team “disrespected” by Greek League referees and, by extension, by league officials. Again, hard to deny, considering reports that Reds players were subject to the Wada Test some 15 times since last year’s playoffs – and with not a single positive result.

Said Kostas Papanikolaou in the post-game presser, as reported by Eurohoops: …we are deeply hurt by the rumors [...] that doping had to do with our Euroleague win. This is something that we didn’t deserve and it affected us.” Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas bitterly stated that “A journalist, who is a joke, started a rumor and the Greek state changes its anti-doping policy. That says a lot about Greece. Nobody around Europe mentioned anything like that about us…”

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BC Khimki crisis update: Strike is on, but players practicing independently until Friday

The plot thickens. With the players apparently not willing to grant the BC Khimki front office another week to sort out its financial mess, the roster is reportedly now officially on strike. Russia-based blogger Vladimir Spivak of YouthHopes.ru provided a few updates on Twitter at about noon CET today. Spivak tweeted word from Zoran Planinic, writing that “It’s a strike, according to Zoran Planinic. He refused to answer if he had any offers from other clubs on the table.

On the other hand, camaraderie still exists among the Khimki players, for though “Khimki’s players haven’t received any financial guarantees and will train on their own throughout the week before facing Maccabi on Friday.” And Spivak summarizes, “Overall the players are ready to wait for some more time because they have amazing chemistry in the team and want to win something this season.

As always, stay tuned…

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On BC Khimki crisis: Desperate plans made; club president meets with players; an ocean without water

BallinEurope was going to run its Euroleague Power Rankings — and perhaps a paean to Dimitris Diamantidis’ deceptively excellent play in Panathinaikos’ win over Unicaja Malaga last week — this morning, but a greater issue calls. BiE feels a rant coming on, so let’s present part one of the power rankings for the week, instead. We’ll do this in reverse order this time, starting the list with…

16 (↓↓↓). BC Khimki Moscow region (2-1 Euroleague Top 16, 7-5 overall; 8-3 VTB United League). Why, despite a solid win against PGE Turow in the VTB yesterday and decent play (at least for 30 minutes) last week against scary-hot Bobby Brown and Montepaschi Siena? Why else but finances, that bane of existence for apparently nearly every basketball club in Europe in the ’10s…?

(image courtesy of VTB United League)

BC Khimki fans at PGE Turow match

Within a few hours, the entire roster of BC Khimki is set to strike, thanks to the club’s failure to pay player salaries for three months; naturally, this paucity points to greater financial realities and the VTB League’s official site brings us to the reality of Khimki’s extinction: “One of the most interesting teams in Russia, and all of Europe, might cease to exist in the near future in the form we know it now.”

The VTB piece diplomatically goes on to note that “According to the press, Khimki’s financial problems arose after they changed presidents.” (More on this below.)

The decision was announced earlier in the week and this morning Eurobasket.com quotes an unnamed player as stating yesterday that “It seems we have reached a deadlock. We still haven’t received notice from the board that we will get the money.”

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Free Marcus! Cyprus-bound American player denied exit from Qatar

So you thought Romain Sato having to spend 24 hours cooling his heels in a Ljubljana airport was serious stuff? Just imagine the same situation, except with the additional headache of not being paid for your services as a basketball player. For nearly two months. In Qatar.

That’s the incredible situation facing former Mississippi State University Bulldog and international journeyman Marcus Campbell this morning.

(Well, okay, maybe not quite as incredible as the headline “Marcus Campbell held hostage in Qatar!” might lead you to believe, but a twisted ballooning of all the worst practices in contract management we’ve seen in Europe through the years nonetheless.)

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Monday hangover: It’s all about Fenerbahçe Ülker

BallinEurope had planned this second edition of the “Monday Hangover” to take a wide look at events in Euroleague play and top European domestic leagues, but the headlines vis-à-vis Continental basketball have been dominated by Fenerbahçe Ülker…

Talk about your roller-coaster weeks: The Istanbul side entered Euroleague week two as the vogue choice for a 2013 Final Four bid before suddenly confronted with a few obstacles on the way through the season. Take a look at a tumultuous four days in Fenerbahçe’s existence.

Thursday: Passport-gate begins. After the team’s charter flight lands at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, Romain Sato is detained on charges of traveling with a forged passport. While Sato is spending just about 24 hours in custody, rumors that the forward could be extradited to the Central African Republic, Sato’s country of origin, arise.

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While Fenerbahce readies for Olimpija, Sato awaits prosecution [UPDATED]

Here’s one way to slow down the fearsome-looking Fenerbahce Ülker: detain a key starter. It seems as though Romain Sato won’t be suiting up for his side’s Euroleague game against Union Olimpija after being detained at Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport yesterday afternoon for an alleged violation it’s a bit difficult to believe…

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Referee scandals in Russia lead to protest, in Italy to suspensions

Zdovc suspicious

A BallinEurope question has been reopened today, to the detriment of Russian professional basketball’s reputation. About two weeks ago, a PBL game which will likely determine the league’s upcoming playoff tournament saw an extremely high number of, let’s say, questionable calls.

According to Spain-based SoloBasket, these were certainly enough oddity for the losing side, Spartak St. Petersburg, to file an official protest in the wake of the 82-73 loss to Triumph Lyubertsy.

At that time, BiE wondered whether this was an “epic display of flopping, personal vendetta or match-fixing conspiracy.” Clearly head coach Jure Zdovc has at least personally eliminated the “flopping” option.

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Report: Maccabi Haifa hires disgraced former Syracuse coach Bernie Fine

Despite some sordid (and reportedly not exactly consistent) allegations against him, former longtime Syracuse University assistant coach Bernie Fine has found employment in Israel. Marc Stein of ESPN is this morning reporting that Fine has been hired by Maccabi Haifa BC as a consultant to the team. The decision is expected to be announced today.

Fine, whose professional career in basketball coaching goes back to 1970, ultimately specialized in working with big men for Syracuse. Notable names emerging from his tutelage include Rony Seikaly and John Wallace, the latter of whom European basketball fans may recall from his season with Panionios. The coach’s resume also includes a World Maccabiah Games title earned in 1993 with that tournament’s Team USA squad.

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Spartak St. Petersburg 82, Triumph Lubertsy 73: Epic display of flopping, personal vendetta or match-fixing conspiracy?

Criticizing the referees is the international pastime for fans of every sport as losses are bemoaned and shortcomings blamed on those unloved (and allegedly) myopic zebras. Nothing new here.

Cynicism and conspiracy theorizing are particularly rife in this part of formerly Soviet-influenced Europe, with anything up to and including Eurobasket losses. Again, nothing new here.

A PBL match of last Wednesday saw playoff-contending Spartak St. Petersburg lose at Triumph Lyubertsy, 82-73, in a crucial match involving a few other clubs. This immediately spawned at least one nicely edited clip of referee miscues from the game which may have cost Spartak the much-needed win. One more time, join in if you know it: Nothing new here.


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A “classic Italian mess”: National basketball federation suspends 15 referees for wearing the wrong uniform

A bit of a weird one from Italy for you this morning … BallinEurope contributing writer Enrico Cellini reports on a symbolic protest within his country’s national basketball league which subsequently saw nearly half the Serie A referees – including the well-esteemed Fabio Facchini, one of two Italians who will be calling games at the 2012 Olympic Games – suspended.

On March 17th and 18th, 19 Serie A referees opted for the orange jerseys they used to wear last season instead of the 2011-2012 grey uniforms. Unlike those NBA teams that go for vintage-style uniforms to reminisce about their roots (and sell some more jerseys at their stores), the old-school fashion displayed by the refs was intended as a clear signal to the Italian Basketball Federation and the basketball world as a whole.

The federation got the signal, did not like it at all, chastised the rebel refs and eventually suspended 15 of them!

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