Gran Canaria gets the Phantom treatment for USA vs Slovenia +++ TrueHoop breaks down how David Blatt will work with LeBron James +++ FIBA World Cup Preview: Group D +++ BiE’s editor takes the ice bucket challenge, nominates Basketball Ireland boss +++ Žydrūnas Ilgauskas considering a comeback? Wow LeBron has power +++ The Dream Team’s children +++ Highlights: Belgium beat Belarus, Germany stay alive +++ EuroBasket 2015: Bosnia, Belgium, Israel, and Latvia lock up spots +++ First Person: Follow the FIBA World Cup through BiE’s eyes +++ Basketball World Cup of Beer: The Final – USA vs France +++

Jaka Lakovic signs with Galatasaray Café Crown (who oughta be in Euroleague…)

BallinEurope was shocked (and is still simmering a bit) when EL officials announced their nomination of Armani Jeans Milano to the single available “wild card” spot on the league table. Why not a runner-up from a more dynamic association, like the Bundesliga’s Alba Berlin or, best of all, Galatasaray Café Crown?

After all, Galatasaray played for the TBL title in 2011 after a hard-fought season in which the team placed third overall – one spot ahead of perpetual big league contenders Anadoule Efes (a.k.a. Efes Pilsen) – at 22-8. Plus, the EL Final Four will be held in Istanbul and, um, it *is* called the “Turkish Airlines Euroleague,” is it not?

In any case, BiE feels further vindication for the argument today, as the FC Barcelona official website is announcing former Blaugrana player Jaka Lakovic’s signing with the Turkish side.

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Kestutis Kemzura names 20 to preliminary Team Lithuania roster

He's baaaa-aaaack!

Team Lithuania coach Kestutis Kemzura this morning named 20 players to his preliminary squad in advance of the Eurobasket 2011 tournament. The home team will be returning seven players from the side that took bronze in the 2010 FIBA World Championship and including one NBAer – but not Linas Kleiza.

Returning from the surprise of 2010 are Robertas Javtokas, Mantas Kalnietis, Martynas Pocius, Tomas Delininkaitis, and Paulius Jankunas of Zalgiris Kaunas, plus Martynas Gecevicius and Simas Jasaitis of Lietuvos Rytas. Also named to Kemzura’s preliminary squad is Zalgiris’ Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who was a reserve for the 2010 Team Lithuania.

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Outside the comfort zone: An interview with John Staudt, Europe’s youngest top-division coach

As a teacher in an inner-city New York high school, John Staudt taught the values of pursuing a dream, even if one must go well outside one’s comfort zone. The 28-year-old recently personally got to opportunity to put both such ideals to the test with the Aalborg Vikings of Denmark’s Ligaen.

That’s right: BiE said “28-year-old.” Staudt’s late season promotion from assistant to head coach made him the youngest top-division head coach in all of Europe – and certainly put him among the most youthful in the world to hold such a position – though an observer might never have noticed with the success Staudt enjoyed in 2010-11.

In an effort to stop the skid, Aalborg management first signed former Lehigh University standout Marquis Hall in January; Staudt was named head coach in mid-February after the Vikings had run up a beyond-dismal 1-18 record and had sunk deep into the two-team Ligaen relegation zone.

But do you believe in happy endings? After losing his first game with the club, Staudt was able to get a 4-3 record out of his team to close the season and took both games of the two-game relegation playoff between Aalborg and BK Amager – season saved and the former Big Apple teacher was suddenly toast of the town in a faraway land.

Staudt recently took the time from managing four of Aalborg’s youth and lower-division teams to answer a few of BallinEurope’s questions. Read on and you might just be so inspired to chase an impossible dream…

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Déjà vu in Ukraine? Proposed role models for Fratello’s new team

When Mike Fratello arrives to head up his national team coaching gig in Ukraine, he won’t see too many familiar faces beyond Sasha Volkov. Volkov played for the Czar’s Atlanta Hawks for a couple seasons way back when; unfortunately, Volkov hasn’t actually played ball at any level since year 2000. Coupled with the fact that Fratello hasn’t coached at any level since washing out of Memphis in 2006 and, wow, the television guy is facing lots of unknowns.

Here’s to thinking Fratello will rely on past experience to guide his new team. His historical preference for grind-it-out defense is sure to mesh well with a big, physical Team Ukraine; the side is also blessed with lots of shot blocking at its disposal. Will the Czar be imagining past glories as he trains in Europe? To when in the past will he look while watching his players in the present? BallinEurope looks at some potential role models for Eurobasket 2011.

• Serhiy Gladyr

Current team: Basquet Manresa

Scouting report: “Gladyr is a 6’5” shooting guard with nice athletic ability … What makes Gladyr intriguing is his shooting: He’s one of the better pure shooters in the draft. His shooting numbers are not overwhelming (36% on three-pointers), but he clearly has a sweet-shooting stroke … [at 19 years old, he] already shows the ability to drill shots coming off screens. … He’s not strictly a shooter thanks to his athleticism and good ball-handling. Pretty nice handle where he loves to use his left hand, and has an effective crossover dribble. Did have some issues when trapped on pick-and-rolls … had some issues in general when a second defender approached him … Solid rebounder for a 2-guard … Sergiy is a pretty good athlete by Ukrainian League standards, but how he rates as a NBA athlete is hard to gauge. If he was a Top 10 scorer in Spain or Italy then I’d feel more assured of his potential.” (The Painted Area, June 2009)

What he’s doing in 2010-11: So now Sergiy is 21 and, while averaging 9.1 points per ACB game – second-highest on his team to Uros Slokar – doesn’t put him onto Spain’s top 10 scorers list, BiE thinks The Painted Area must be pleased with Gladyr’s progress. It seems Gladyr’s three-point shooting still underwhelms, as he averages 1.6-for-4.7 shooting beyond the arc per ACB game, good for right around – you guessed it – 35%. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for this Ukrainian; could an NBA draft selection be in his future…?

Role model: Dan Majerle, who Fratello himself may barely remember, as Deadly Dan played just a single season with the Cavaliers and started only 15 times. Like Majerle, Gladyr is noted for his ball-handling skills and is particularly difficult to stop (or to stop from shooting) anywhere on the floor if single-covered. As Majerle is today one of the relatively unsung heroes of those Charles Barkley-led Phoenix Suns teams of the 1990s, so would a sharpshooting Gladyr should Team Ukraine surprise.

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Official BallinEurope Euroleague Power Rankings: Post-week seven

Apologies for the tardiness of this column, dear readers, but the Official BallinEurope Euroleague Power Rankings are just as fun and informative on Sundays as they are on Saturdays! With four teams through into the Top 16 round and several more on the bubble, who’s cruising and who’s losing? BiE says the two dozen squads stack up this way…

Top of the Table
1. (↑) Maccabi Tel Aviv (6-1 in Euroleague; 6-1 in Ligat HaAl) – We’ll just keep running this blurb until the star-studded Yellow-and-Blue shows any signs of serious vincibility: Forget the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers even (heresy); the best offseason was had by Maccabi Tel Aviv, which once again underwent a complete reboot, as the kids these days might say.

2. (↑) Fenerbahçe Ülker (6-1; 8-0 in TBL) – No. 1 in scoring, no. 2 in defensive rebounds, no. 3 in rebounding, no. 3 in fewest turnovers allowed … it’s tough to deny these guys the top spot, particularly in a season of oddities; wouldn’t a surprise team in the Euroleague finals like Fenerbahçe be fitting?

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Official BallinEurope Euroleague Power Rankings: Regular-season halftime

BiE still can’t claim to totally understand what’s going on in Euroleague basketball in 2010-11 (Real Madrid lost by how many? To *who*?) but at least some of the cream is rising to the top. This latest edition of the official BallinEurope power rankings should probably wait ‘til after some key games over the weekend – expect an update early in the week – so below runs a slightly brief rundown ranking ‘em all from 1 to 24.

¿By the way, how do you say “WTF” in Spanish?

1-2. Olympiacos (4-1 in Euroleague; 4-0 in EΣAKE)
Panathinaikos (4-1; 4-0 in EΣAKE) – Incredible to think that a season that began with what appeared to be a league-endangering strike has turned into (at least for now) a statement of Greek supremacy in European basketball. To think these teams won’t meet until January 8th at the earliest…

3. Maccabi Tel Aviv (4-1; 5-0 in Ligat HaAl) – Forget the Miami Heat, the Boston Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers even (heresy); the best offseason was had by Maccabi Tel Aviv, which once again underwent a complete reboot, as the kids these days might say. Considering that these guys haven’t lost since opening day in Baskonia (and they’ve got a better-suited coach than Erik Spoelstra), you gotta love Maccabi’s chances right now.

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Official BallinEurope Euroleague Power Rankings: Week Three

As we head into week three of EL play, things haven’t quite normalized to preseason expectations, but BallinEurope’s Official Euroleague Power Rankings are looking a tad more normal. Well, except CSKA Moscow’s placement, that is. Rankings are based on current Euroleague record, plus play in other leagues and intangibles (like, for instance, this writer’s preconceived notions).

Enjoy the games this week and let the debates begin!

1. (↔) FC Barcelona (2-0 in Euroleague; 4-1 in ACB). How does Barça respond to (as far as detractors are concerned) a rare one-point defeat by Zaragoza? First by spoiling Cholet Basket’s EL homecoming, then utterly torching Menorca in a weekend ACB game, 84-44. The Spaniards continue their Continental domination.

2. (↑) Panathinaikos (2-0). Repeat after BiE: 2009-10 never happened. At least as far as PAO is concerned, it seems, after simply toying with Valencia and CSKA Moscow. Could we be in store for a Euroleague finals featuring the last two champions? Sweet.

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Euroleague week three talking points (part I)

How good is Bogdanovic? Discuss.

Seven Euroleague games go off tonight as the season rounds into form a bit. The marquee match tonight has got to be the Khimki-Baskonia showdown to establish early supremacy in that tough Group A; Olympiacos-Unicaja will surely be worth the viewing as well, although the way the Reds have dominated on their home floor lately will make things difficult for the Spanish side.

In preparation for the festivities, then, BallinEurope presents some talking points: facts, stats, oddities, history and video relating to the games. Enjoy!

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The Frank Euroleague roundup, week two

Maric a true big man

Francesco Cappelletti’s regular column with BallinEurope is back as our man in Italy takes a look at the after-effects of Euroleague week two action. This time out, Francesco sees European basketball history returning to the old days on the Continent while Balkan squads fight economic problems but dispatch Western European teams anyway. And early on, what have proven to be the better Euroleague transactions involving big names and bigger contracts? Read on!

The *big* problem
The recent history of European basketball shows an amazing evolution to starting fives full of dynamism and athleticism, but not weight – even in the 5 position, originally land of real big men limited in the paint. We were used to having pick-and-rolls, then pick ‘n’ pops. Now it seems it’s time to go back to the old traditions.

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Frank answers to four burning Euroleague questions

He’s back! Emerging out of hiding (or perhaps digging himself out of work with youth squads plus Italian-language sports media) is BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Francesco Cappelletti. As the season progresses, Cappelletti will be opining as to what really went down in a week’s worth of Euroleague matches. Today, four key themes that will be threading their way through the 2010-11 season – and the frank take on ‘em.

Welcome back Euroleague … erm … Turkish Airlines Euroleague! Someone just said you look like the poorest edition in recent years and that your groups are less competitive than Eurocup’s, but we love you just the way you are anyway.

What do you offer for 2010-2011? Yeah, the unbeatable Regal Barcelona and the usual group of pretenders, divided between those for whom spending money is no problem even amid civil disorder (for information, phone Athens) and teams able to hide behind the justification of cycles coming to an end just to put some money away waiting for financially better times: That’s the case of Montepaschi Siena and CSKA Moscow.

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