Though Team Russia didn’t quite reach the lofty heights BiE had forecast, a hearty congratulations go out to the team today for its 81-77 win over Argentina to take the 2012 Olympics bronze medal in its best showing of the post-Soviet Union era. Wire report runs below.
Right, things will be tipping off shortly in London with eight teams remaining in bids for a podium spot. And with the votes in and brackets fashioned, let’s see what BallinEurope contributors (including David Hein, Enrico Cellini and Sam Chadwick) and readers find in their own crystal balls…
Gold medal: USA (with 86% of votes)
So probably the only surprise here is that it wasn’t unanimous. Dissenting votes were logged for Spain and Russia, though the latter may carry a bit of an asterisk. The sole voice liking the Reds to take it all was commentator El Diablo from Australia (!) who took his home side to win the gold, then backed down, explaining “I still reckon that Russia will beat the US, assuming Shevd doesn’t lose his shit again…”
While we’re a little ways away from actually awarding medals for 2012 Olympic basketball, the first round showed international hoops fans quite a lot. Though the fat lady hasn’t sung yet, reputations have changed over the past five games to cause some individual and/or teams losses beyond these Olympics. BallinEurope today takes a look at those whose stock has risen and those who’ve fallen in the early going of the London Games.
• Lebron James. Yeah, like this guy needs a further upward trend in his already all-time lofty-looking career. Four years ago, ESPN’s Bill Simmons proclaimed (correctly, in BiE’s opinion) that in 2008 ‘Games crunch time, “everyone deferred to Kobe, who made some monster plays to clinch it. Know that in the history of the NBA we have never had the best-player-alive argument resolved so organically.” In 2012, King James has proven himself to be the best player on the best team in this Olympic tournament.
This one goes out by request to BallinEurope’s Lithuanian agent Y. … with Team USA coming together to play the Dominican Republic today – with or without Chris Paul – BiE tries to answer the question “Who [if anyone] can beat Team USA?”
A few gauntlets have been thrown by the Americans already, the least of which is certainly not the roster itself. That roster, one more time, is the following.
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers)
Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks)
With the lengthily-named 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men tipping off in Venezuela on Monday, BallinEurope takes some time this week to catch up on the four European squads in the running for a trip to London and reckon on a brief assessment of each’s chances in the competition. First up is Russia, the Continent’s representative in qualifying group C.
Extended roster: Semen Antonov (BC Nizhny Novgorod); Sergey Bykov, Maxim Grigoryev (Lokomotiv Kuban); Sasha Kaun, Viktor Khryapa, Andrei Kirilenko, Anton Ponkrashov, Alexey Shved, Eugeny Voronov, Andrey Vorontsevich (CSKA Moscow); Sergey Karasev (Triumph Lyubertsy); Timofey Mozgov (Denver Nuggets); Sergey Monya, Vitaly Fridzon, Dmitry Khvostov (BC Khimki Moscow region); and Artem Yakovenko (Unics Kazan); head coach David Blatt (Maccabi Tel Aviv)
How they got here: Last year in Lithuania, the only team that could stop the Russian juggernaut was France. Les Bleus used a single 8-0 run in the third quarter and a career game from Nicolas Batum (19 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two blocks) to squeak past the theretofore undefeated Team Russia in the semifinals.
The BallinEurope All-American Euroleague team (also all-Russian, -Greek and -former Yugoslavian teams)
Below, then, runs four all-star squads based on play in this season’s edition of the big league; for convenience and competition’s (rather than geopolitics’) sake, players from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and FYR Macedonia will be virtually suiting up for the “former Yugoslavia” team.
Right, so who wins this tournament…?
BallinEurope bets that Dimitris Diamantidis didn’t sleep too well last night. In handling the ball of the final play in Panathinaikos’ 66-64 Euroleague Final Four loss to CSKA Moscow yesterday, former MVP DD was stifled by the Red Army defense and poor PAO fans could only watch time run out on the Greens’ back-to-back title bid.
Diamantidis also inadvertently helped redeem his CSKA counterpart, Milos Teodosic, an 88-plus percent free-throw shooter who could’ve iced the game with nine seconds remaining but missed both – and this after referees missed a couple of borderline dragging-the-pivot-foot travels as well.
No matter, though. What everyone tweeted about immediately – and DD is surely contemplating today is what exactly happened on that last Panathinaikos possession. To check out how it unfolded, start at about 3:17 in the video below.
Regular readers of BallinEurope may recall a similarly entitled writeup on Montepaschi Siena on these pages from a long time ago – actually two weeks, but already it *feels* like quite a spell. Contributing writer Enrico Cellini was as surprised as any of us when Olympiacos began Siena’s ejection from the tournament, Facebook-messaging BiE with the note that “Siena is trying its best to prove me wrong…”
But this post doesn’t concern BiE’s now-busted bracket, a frustrating finish to what had been a good-looking campaign for Montepaschi Siena, or even the Final Four surprise Olympiacos. Nope, we’re talking CSKA Moscow and that individual symbol of all of international basketball in 2011-12, Andrei Kirilenko.
In fact, why waste time? BallinEurope gets right down into an even 10 reasons why CSKA and the AK must win the 2012 Euroleague title.
With months to go before the London Olympic Games, some Russian media sources may already be panicking, based on concerns quoted from Alexey Shved vis-à-vis the FIBA qualifying tournament scheduled for July in Venezuela. The CSKA Moscow guard told Russia-based media service RIA Novosti that “Of course we’ll try. But flying for 15 hours changes your whole schedule. It’s very difficult.”
Already, noted Shved, “We’ve had practically no rest since [Eurobasket 2011]. We’ll play out the season, then again training camps and a tournament on the other side of the world.”
The FIBA decision to place the qualifiers in Venezuela was, in Shved’s opinion, “completely mystifying. A long-haul flight, big time difference. Everyone thought that the qualification tournament would be in Lithuania.”
It’s always a good time for some predictions, eh? Sam Chadwick, Ball in Europe’s man in the UK, today dusts off the Official BallinEurope Crystal Ball in looking forward to another year of top-quality basketball in the world’s top competitions. Who does Sammy like in the NBA, Euroleague, college ball and the Olympics? Read on to find out (and see plenty of highlight clips).
This year sees the London Olympic games, a shortened NBA season, another year of Euroleague basketball and the NCAA Final Four – what more could we possibly ask for? Happy new year…