Things are progressing meanwhile in Europe’s larger leagues including Spain, Greece, France, Italy, Croatia, Serbia and Germany, and entries for these countries have been updated as well. Plus, new highlight clips and links have been peppered into the list as well; scroll down for BiE’s honorary roll call of European basketball champions.
Below runs news on domestic and pan-European champions from across the Continent – from nearly 50 leagues in all – plus, where applicable, video clips. In cases where playoffs are underway, information on the process of each tourney is noted. Read on to find out who reigns in hallowed corners of European basketball like Iceland, Luxembourg and Albania … while wondering if any story can top Olympiacos’ amazing Euroleague run.
Euroleague: The top level in all of Europe provided one of the Continent’s top-level upsets when Olympiacos topped the highly-favored CSKA Moscow on Georgios Printezis’ runner which exploded the internet with less than two ticks remaining on the game clock. Olympiacos created an instant classic this year, nipping the Red Army, 63-61, after lagging behind for nearly the entire game – utterly subjectively speaking, the marvelous comeback kinda recalled two NBA playoff matches from way-back-when, a.k.a. 2002: this and this.
Wow, we’re really already talking about the 2012-13 free-agency period? And now that Maccabi is up two games to one on Panathinaikos in their playoff series they’re reading to sever ties with a key component?
Apparently, both bylines may be true, as sports talent agency/advisory firm You First Sports announced last night that “Andy Miller, Richard Hendrix’s agent, would like to communicate that from today the negotiations talks between Hendrix, his agent and Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv are broken and that from now on we will evaluate Richard’s options when he becomes a free agent after this season.”
BallinEurope wonders what bridges were burned there…
Spain-based Blog de Basket takes the story and runs with it a bit more, claiming Hendrix has gotten offers from big clubs in Europe, including Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
Not long ago, BallinEurope handed out mid-season grades for NBA players representing The Continent; rookie Nikola Vucevic was awarded a solid 3 out of 5 – a 3.5, really, if only this self-imposing grading system weren’t so harsh. BiE assessed that “subjectively speaking, Vucevic has been particularly impressive for the surprisingly impressive Philadelphia 76ers; if he were getting more playing time, there might be mutters about the former USC Trojan vis-a-vis Rookie of the Year honors.”
Today, Sam Chadwick takes a look at Vucevic in the form of a “draft review” column and, crunching a few numbers, echoes BiE’s contention. Chadwick deduces that the sky’s the limit for this rookie who could in fact become a top-level NBA big. How good is Nikola Vucevic? How about Dwight Howard-level good?
Name: Nikola Vucevic
Country of birth: Switzerland
College: University of Southern California
Height: 7’0” (2.13 meters)
Age: 21 (born October 1990)
Vucevic quietly made a name for himself at the University of Southern California, where he had career averages of 11.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists across three years while shooting 51% from the field and 30% from three-point range. He made the All-Pac 10 second team in his second season and All-Pac first team after averaging 35.0 minutes, 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in his junior year. His junior year also saw him make the Fox Sports All-American third team and become the first player to lead the Pac 10 in rebounds in consecutive years.
Speaking of national cups, Serbia’s tournament also went down this weekend, with Partizan enjoying a 64-51 win over Red Star Belgrade. Win the win, the perpetual Euroleague side once again reasserted its supremacy back home and are on a title run longer than Montepaschi Siena’s. BallinEurope’s man in Serbia, Marko Savkovic, analyzes the keys to victory and of course provides highlight clips. Congratulations to Partizan!
Five in a row! In hard-fought, super emotional finale of the Serbian National Cup, Red Star Belgrade (a.k.a. Crvena Zvezda Beograd) surprised many by staying competitive well until the fourth quarter. Then trusted veteran Dusan Kecman – Who else would it be, after all? – scored his first triple, giving Partizan a 54-44 lead to put them well beyond their rivals’ reach. As an intentional foul was called on Omar Thomas with two minutes remaining, the celebration could begin. And it was well deserved, as Partizan clinched its 15th trophy (yes, you read it correctly) in three years, including Serbian League, Serbian Cup and Adriatic League titles. So what won the game for Partizan?
Welcome to Partizan Belgrade, Dominic James! “Now,” wonders the Grobari fan, “what can he do for us?” BallinEurope’s man in Serbia, Marko Savkovic, takes a look at the former Marquette Golden Eagle vis-à-vis Dragan Todoric’s master plan for the club.
In our praise of Partizan’s system of basketball, we’ve stated how this team’s success has turned it into a hot destination for American players looking to improve their careers. Since Bo McCalebb broke into big time two years ago, quality players from overseas have been offered contracts by Dragan Todoric, the Belgrade club’s perennial sporting director.
Take Lawrence Roberts: He was brought into shape for the first time since his college career thanks to Partizan’s conditioning routine. Or James Gist: a versatile power forward who is now one of players that Fenerbahçe Ülker has built its game around. Both found their game in Belgrade. Todoric has chosen wisely, one might say. Which is why Acie Law’s hiring might be counted as a mistake.
The hottest team in Europe right now (not named CSKA Moscow, that is)? BallinEurope figures Radnički Kragujevac could be in the discussion. After stumbling to a dismal 1-6 start in Adriatic League play, the recently reformed club has enjoyed a complete about-face and is clawing its way back up the ABA table, currently sitting in seventh place at 9-8. Back home in Serbia, they’re considered one of the favorites (behind Partizan Belgrade, that is) in February’s Serbian National Cup tournament.
Marko Savkovic today takes a look at Radnički’s comeback, particularly in light of exciting things from American players David Simon and Michael Scott.
“Until one’s star fades the other does not begin to shine,” goes a well known Serbian proverb. While news of the week depicted Hemofarm’s imminent collapse, the players of Radnički Kragujevac meanwhile reserved their time under the spotlight. After a disappointing start, they have beaten the likes of Red Star Belgrade, Cibona Zagreb and Partizan, to mention just a few, and are a strong – some even argue the strongest – contender ahead of the Serbian Korac Cup.
The ongoing financial crisis in Europe has claimed its first victim in the basketball world in 2012: KK Hemofarm Vrsac officials informed players Nikola Otašević, Alexei Nesovic, John Maras, Mladen Pantic, Marko Šutalu and Mladen Jeremic that they could now consider themselves free agents – though they’re reportedly welcome to stay aboard – as the club dissolves like its Adriatic League chances in a pool of financial problems. Rumor has it that the team’s main sponsor has pulled its financial backing as well.
Even in these days of internationalism, certain constants remain in European basketball vis-à-vis player development. BallinEurope’s Marko Savkovic takes a brief look at the current situation in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, with particular reference to Partizan’s Danilo Andjusic and Nemanja Nedovic of Red Star Belgrade.
Ask any coach what a young player needs to develop, and he will answer: “playing time.” Readiness to open the floor to skinny teenagers in order to gradually turn them into match winners used to be one of defining features of ex-Yu ball. Coaches were not advised only by their instinct. The talent pool was wider and deeper. The league was more competitive. Local teams were built on youth systems and were proud of the talent in store. Due to restrictions, these teenagers were not sold abroad early, while guys with more experience were kept on the roster. What was the end result? When one team that was neither from Belgrade or Zagreb – namely, Jugoplastika Split – achieved its unforgettable threepeat.
Two decades later, things have changed dramatically. There are fewer players to choose from. Many youth systems have collapsed due to lack of funding. Yet, teams still must win in order to attract publicity and sponsorships. In doing this, defense is the key. Points are built on discipline, patience, positioning and calculated aggression: This in turn translates into fewer minutes for the youngsters who must learn fast and impress quickly or leave.
It seems like forever, but Euroleague 2011-12 resurrects itself for Top 16 opening night tonight. What better way to celebrate, reckons BallinEurope, than with some good ol’ power rankings?
Once again, the caveat emptor-ish bit: These ratings are formulated from once source (namely yours truly) and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on performance in the latter bits of the EL season.
To the rankings!
1. CSKA Moscow (10-0 in Euroleague regular season; 8-1 in VTB United League, 7-1 in PBL) – Remember the date December 10, 2011: That’s the last time the scary Red Army lost, in falling to BC Khimki in Russia while getting just seven minutes out of Andrei Kirilenko. The Red Army’s only loss before that was exactly one month prior when they fell in a squeaker at Spartak St. Petersburg in their VTB opener. Considering the starting team alone – an all-star squad of Kirilenko, Milos Teodosic, Nenad Krstic, Ramunas Siskauskas, Viktor Khryapa – BiE has to wonder what non-NBA team could beat ‘em. Even after the star power, the CSKA Moscow bench contributed 43.2 points per game in Euroleague play while the team leads in overall performance rating, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. This has got to be considered the team to beat in 2012.