BallinEurope heads out to Istanbul this morning to join the scene at this year’s Euroleague Final Four and start pumping out four days’ worth of steady reportage, historical stuff, stats, quotes, video, etc. But BiE figured he’d leave you temporarily with some gauntlet-throwing type stuff by EL CEO Jordi Bertomeu.
In what became a widely reported story, Bertomeu held a press conference yesterday in which he had a few scripted remarks to make vis-à-vis his Euroleague’s position in international club basketball.
Said Bertomeu, “We are very proud of that fact and we will stay faithful to our principles because we have proved that we don’t need NBA imports to be a top-quality competition drawing millions of fans across Europe…
Wellllllllll, not to trigger another firestorm here, but while the Euroleague clearly doesn’t *need* NBA players, BiE cannot deny the effect some NBA players – even the short-term lockout refugees – have had in 2011-12. CSKA aside, what about the EL longevity given to Žalgiris Kaunas and Emporio Armani Milano…?
“The NBA does a superb job marketing its product,” continued the CEO, “but our path to success is different, and it’s rooted in the fact that every game in the Euroleague regular season makes a difference…”
Teams that contracted locked-out NBA players, maintains Bertomeu, “did not really benefit from their short-term imports while those who built their rosters consistently are here in Istanbul, challenging for the trophy.”
Welllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll, no argument can be forthcoming regarding three of the Final Four participants, but, um, what about the favorites? Not only is CSKA Moscow pretty heavy on former/future NBA guys like Andrei Kirilenko, Nenad Krstic and Viktor Khryapa, the Red Army retooled for this season by explicitly plunging money into the free-agent market; few would deny that Moscow’s success in 2011-12 is due to key acquisitions who didn’t come up through the system.
This is not to say, however, that the European development method can’t win the big league – far from it: What Bertomeu might call “classically developed teams,” Panathinaikos and FC Barcelona, have won four of the previous five Euroleague titles. But fans of MLB baseball (and some other leagues) know that today there are two roads to a championship: The wheeling-and-dealing route and the moneyball route. CSKA could well win this year’s big prize perhaps in defiance of Bertomeu’s desire.
“The quality of our teams is a result of the superb jobs our coaches are doing and the hard work of our players, so our objective is to improve by using our own resources rather than by becoming a carbon copy of the NBA … Basketball is a team sport in Europe more so than in the NBA, where individual talent and skill is the decisive factor separating the teams.”
Fair enough; for an American, the thing that BiE has always loved the most about Euroleague and European basketball in general is the feeling of peering into an alternate basketball universe, one in which the game is played from the inside-out rather than the outside-in, where nearly every player perfects his jumpshot and defenses are based on team vs. team rather than player vs. player. BiE hopes it never changes.
Finally, BiE digs Bertomeu’s vision of the short- to medium-term future: “The quality of basketball in Europe has never been closer to that in the NBA and we are looking to expand our market in countries like Germany and the United Kingdom, which have a huge potential to improve.”
And now, Istanbul.