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May
0

Highlights: Top five plays from VTB United League quarterfinals

Flawed, top-heavy and not exactly consistent in attendance it may be, but the VTB United League still garners BallinEurope’s attention – particularly come playoff time when ages-old rivalries add new chapters to stories first begun in the days of the Soviet Union.

Besides, who needs an excuse to run another YouTube highlight clip…?

From the VTB folks, then, running below are the top five plays from the recently-completed quarterfinal round, starring Unics Kazan’s Mire Chatman, Zalgiris Kaunas’ Robertas Javtokas, Lokomotiv Kuban’s Mantas Kalnietis, BC Khimki’s Sergey Monya and CSKA Moscow’s Anton Ponkrashov. Three-pointers, blocks, alley-oops – they’re all here. Enjoy!

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Jan
0

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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Jan
17

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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Jan
32

All eyes on Bobby Brown going into Montepaschi Siena-BC Khimki match

“In the future, everyone will be famous for one news-cycle” — that’s how BallinEurope would update Andy Warhol’s well-worn line for the 21st century. Until the story’s been beaten to death (and the public consciousness’ short-term fascination ends) on Friday, everyone gets a turn in the media spotlight: Honey Boo Boo, McKayla Maroney’s face, UFO landing strips in China … the list goes on.

Bobby Brown has enjoyed a nice run this week in his alloted personal media cycle to culminate in his surprising Montepaschi Siena’s game against sharp-looking BC Khimki Moscow Region tonight. Brown went viral thanks his record-tying 41-point teeing off last week against Fenerbahce Ulker, ironically the team for whom Brown’s predecessor Bo McCalebb eschewed Siena. Speculation snowballed until millions of Americans who’d forgotten the NBA journeyman of 2008-10 rediscovered the Cal State Fullerton product thanks to a piece from Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, who recalled the days of 19th-century sports journalism in referring to the “Euro League”.

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Sep
0

Podcast: Peeking at the Euroleague, riffing on Hecking, interviewing The Iran Jobbers

Now up and running is episode two in the Taking the Charge podcast series, a gabfest brought to you by heinnews and BallinEurope. On the menu over there is a nice spread of basketball-related matters, including:

• a look at recently-run tournaments in Germany: the 2012 Domreiter Cup in Nürnberg with defending Euroleague/Greek League champs Olympiacos besting Brose Baskets Bamberg, Maccabi Tel Aviv and BC Khimki; and the Beko BBL Cup, which saw 2011-12 Euroleague runners-up CSKA Moscow top Bayern München, Beşiktaş JK and Žalgiris Kaunas. (In advance, BiE will say that whoa, eight interesting storylines really demonstrates the allure of the big league: fresh, dramatic storylines that change week to week…);

• some riffing on FC Nuremberg football coach Dieter Hecking’s, um, interesting comments of last weekend and the German basketball federation’s response; and

• a lengthy and fascinating interview with Till Schauder and Kevin Sheppard, producer/director and subject, respectively, of the excellent newly-released documentary The Iran Job. (BiE’ll have a bit more on this later for the more textually-inclined.)

Enjoy the podcast and stay informed about our new releases and comment to your heart’s content via our spiffy Facebook page. Like us! We love your likes!

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Aug
2

BC Khimki appeals for return of Vitaly Fridzon’s stolen bronze medal

In the days of the Cold War, a certain type of story would inevitably circulate in American newspapers after the Olympic Games were over; you made have heard it more recently about, say, North Korean athletes. The claim was always that, due to poor performance in such-and-such an Olympics, the sportsmen and –women in question were coldly stripped of certain priveleges, often getting their state-granted cars repossessed along with eviction notices from luxury (relatively) apartments.

Well, it seems in the 21st-century capitalist world, Russian basketballers who finish with the bronze medal have a different obstacle to face.
On Saturday, the home of Team Russia’s Vitaly Fridzon was broken into. Among the items stolen was the 2012 bronze medal just earned in London; today, Fridzon’s professional club, Euroleague side BC Khimki Moscow region, has put out a plea to the perpetrators to return the valuable bit of hardware. The statement runs as follows.

We, the Khimki basketball club and its fans, appeal to the consciences of the [thieves of Vitaly’s home]. Return Vitaly’s Olympic medal! This award is priceless and is the result of years of work by an incredible athlete. For you, an Olympic medal is only an object of gain, but for Vitaly is the memory of a lifetime. We ask you to return to our captain and leader of the Russian team his well-deserved Olympic bronze medal.”

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Jun
39

2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament Preview: Team Russia

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.

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May
8

Euroleague 2012-13: An attempt to deduce the composition (plus Official Fearless Prediction™)

At least this much is clear...

Yesterday, the basketball-centered bit of the Twitter universe was centered in two real-life locales: New York City and Barcelona. Topics in play were the falling of ping-pong balls in New York City and Euroleague’s incipient decision on the construction of Euroleague 2012-13. Hopefully, BallinEurope will get something together on the former later, but for now, BiE’ll attempts a quick look at the roster of teams for the upcoming season.

The three-year A-licenses are currently under review, but you gotta figure Caja Laboral Baskonia, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahçe Ülker, CSKA Moscow, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Montepaschi Siena and Žalgiris Kaunas are in. Asseco Prokom Gdynia is in the second year of its license, making them the 12th of the 24 teams.

Also up for review is Unicaja Malaga. While Spain is still even officially considered *the* best domestic or regional league in Europe (more on this momentarily), the big league could certainly defend a yanking of the license based on the team’s bottom-half finish in the Liga Endesa and consistently better recent performance by Valencia BC.

Virtus Roma is the only original A-license team to have been removed from the EL roll call, getting its placement in Euroleague ball “suspended for having finished in the bottom half of its national competition.” Unicaja might easily find itself on the Eurocup level for 2012-13; let’s just say a *lot* of things would have to happen to even get the team into the EL qualifiers.

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May
4

Ramunas Siskauskas: The BallinEurope video tribute

On Monday, European basketball great Ramunas Šiškauskas announced his retirement from the game: A story that was noteworthy enough for even North Korean sports fans to be notified. In his official statement, Šiškauskas said that he’d “made my choice in the middle of the season. It was not connected with anything specific – I just feel I should stop. I can only be excited about my career” and that “I am glad I was able to quit as a significant player, playing for such a great team and organization as CSKA Moscow.”

At 33 years of age, Šiškauskas put together a 16-season career with BC Sakalai Vilnius, Lietuvos Rytas, Benetton Treviso, Panathinaikos and CSKA Moscow plus seven years with Team Lithuania in FIBA and Olympic play – good for a gold and two bronzes.

And in that decade and a half, Šiškauskas amassed just under 1,500 points in seven Euroleague seasons on 49.8% shooting including 42.3% on threes. His back-to-back EL titles earned in 2007 and ’08 are among his many individual-career and team highlights … aw, hell. Let’s dispense with further formalities and get to the Ramunas Šiškauskas career tribute in traditional BallinEurope fashion, i.e. with lots of YouTube clips! We’ll miss ya, Ramunas…

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May
66

On Olympiacos Euroleague championship: From crises emerge heroes

Printezis: Hero of the day

European basketball fans know that history was made with Olympiacos’ stunning victory in the 2012 Euroleague championship. And so BallinEurope contributor, the self-proclaimed hoops history junkie Uygar Karaca looks back with perspective on the title bid, reaching all the back to the Great Depression of 1929 through the collapse of the Soviet Union and into today’s European Union crises. Whether or not God Himself played a role, the importance of the Reds’ win, as Karaca sees it, is history repeating itself. Gloriously.

This is how things have worked throughout history: From crises emerge heroes. And heroes create the losers. Sometimes underdogs have more advantages simply because they have nothing to lose. It’s not unusual that we see situations like a 10-man football team winning against a stronger side. Sometimes having options confuses minds, creates problems in concentration and ambiguity in methodology. Those who have no real options perhaps have just one way and they become focused on the goal, which brings about greater optimization and efficiency.

I was thinking like this before the match: “If CSKA wins, there will be not many stories but in case of Olympiacos winning, there will be a variety of options in exposing the classical underdog story with many different perspectives. I hope Olympiacos wins.”

The day before the Euroleague final, I was at Abdi İpekci Hall to see some action in the Nike International Junior Tournament. There I saw Stevislav Pesic, also one of the greatest coaches in European basketball, the man who famously brought a European title to both Germany and Alba Berlin, who were real underdogs. I thought that it would be a great idea to take some predictions from him. Said Pesic: “I was not suprised when Olympiakos won against Barcelona, because Barcelona changed its game this year and were somewhat inconsistent throughout the season, whereas Olympiakos improved much compared to the beginning of the season.”

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