Tight knit Iceland too much for Great Britain +++ EuroBasket 2015: Round-up and Highlights from Wednesday’s qualifiers +++ FIBA dropped a sweet promo for the World Cup +++ Basketball World Cup of Beer – Bronze Medal Match +++ Rudy gets iced, the internet rejoices +++ FIBA World Cup Preview – Group C +++ CSKA Moscow’s Kyle Hines and Sonny Weems take the ice bucket challenge +++ Tony Parker does ice bucket challenge but his friend can’t use a camera phone +++ Basketball World Cup of Beer: Semi Finals +++ EuroBasket 2015: Wins for Macedonia, Belgium, and Georgia +++

Fearless FIBA World Cup Wildcard predictions

Tomorrow is the day we find out who the four wild card participants will be in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. BiE’s editor, Emmet Ryan, makes his call on who he thinks will get the tickets to Spain.

First off, I hate the wild card system. Merit should win out but the system is what it is. With that in mind I’m making these picks based on who I think WILL get in not who SHOULD get in. Without further ado, your four FIBA World Cup wild cards will be…

China – FIBA would love to give them a bloody nose but they can’t. They just can’t. They aren’t strong, they could well be the worst team in Spain, yet there is no doubt they get the ticket.

Brazil – They did an awful job at the Tournament of the Americas but the weakness of their roster in Venezuela strongly implied they knew they’d be in Spain either way due to their hosting the next Olympics and being a big market. They’re in.

Turkey – At no point have I flip-flopped on Turkey but to me this is a straight up fight of financial might between Turkey and Greece for the third slot. The Greeks have narrowed it, for most of the time I had Turkey well in front, but I think Turkey gets the ticket.

Finland – Yes, Finland. Their population is similar to Ireland’s, their performance at EuroBasket was good but not ‘there’s no way you can deny them a wild card’ good, and they don’t have the straight up cash money of Greece or Turkey. What they have is 40,000 Finns living in Spain and, far more importantly, the sheer muscle of Rovio. The Angry Birds game developers have promised FIBA a whole lot of mobile advertising space for a tournament that could do with every ounce of advertising exposure it can get. The Angry Birds are the game-changer here. Prior to this week, I didn’t give Finland a prayer. Now I say they take the flight.

Who do you think gets a wild card? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


FIBA Facing World Cup Wild Card Dilemma

Greece’s double-overtime loss to Croatia compounded a problem that has been growing for FIBA since the continental tournament season began. Who gets the four wildcards?

Who says you can’t get too much of a good thing? FIBA has four World Cup wildcard slots to award and plenty of willing suitors. Whatever happens, somebody is going to be upset. The headache for FIBA began at the FIBA Asia Championship where China, went out in the quarter finals to Chinese Taipei. That made on of the big draws in world basketball and immediate front runner for a wildcard spot.

Fast forward a few weeks to the FIBA AfroBasket and two of last year’s Olympic participants, Nigeria and Tunisia, failed to secure a bid for the World Cup. As it stood there was actually a reasonable chance that one of these sides would get a wildcard. There just needed to be no major upsets in the Tournament of the Americas or EuroBasket.

Yeah about that. Brazil went 0-4 in Venezuela, leaving the 2016 Olympic hosts in need of a wildcard to make the World Cup. Canada, with a NBA stacked roster, almost did FIBA a solid. The Maple Leaf nation looked on course to secure an automatic spot but lost its last two games to come fifth, one place short of an automatic ticket to Spain next year. So far so crazy but it took EuroBasket to turn this into a full-on migraine.

The first round saw Germany, Russia, and Turkey, all fall. Turkey hosted the last World Cup and Turkish companies, Beko and Turkish Airlines most notably, provide major sponsorship to the sport in Europe. Russia is Russia and Germany’s Bundesliga has brass across the world excited by its development. Things were pretty bad as they stood before Monday. Then Greece lost in double overtime to Croatia, ending their involvement in EuroBasket. With that defeat, the Greeks joined the list of teams FIBA would like in the World Cup that failed to qualify automatically. Let’s go through these teams in the order they fell to see their shot at earning a reprieve.
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Podcast: On Tracy McGrady, other names in China; bizarre Japanese ball; awesome Hong Kong film

Episode number (sexy and) 17 of the Taking the Charge podcast series is now online. Admittedly, BallinEurope and heinnews deviate a bit from the Continental hoops with this show’s emphasis on Asia. However, our return interview with Jon Pastuszek of China-based NiuBball is certain to be of interest to any fan worth his/her salt. Get the lowdown on the progress of a number of notables playing in or coming from the big country, including:

Tracy McGrady, he who wanted to increase the potency of his brand with the Qingdao Eagles;

• Now three-year CBA veteran Stephon Marbury;

Gilbert “Agent Zero” Arenas (and yeah, BiE’s still using that moniker under the believe that, when one prolifigates one’s own nickname, one is stuck with it forever);

Quincy Douby, formerly of Rutgers, the Sacramento Kings and UCAM Murcia, who recently set the CBA record with 75 points in a single game;

Charles Gaines, who contributed a 60-point, 29-rebound performance for the opposition in Douby’s record effort; Continue Reading…


Podcast: From Euroleague to China to the cinema; plus interview with Garret Siler

It’s Wednesday once again and thus time for another episode in the “Taking the Charge” podcast series presented by heinnews and Yes, it’s another gabfest loaded with topical news and views plus interviews, music and Os Davis’ movie recommendation of the week. The episode program goes something like this.

• Hein and BiE weigh in on a pair of destiny-shaping events in Europe, namely the exit of David Blatt from Team Russia and the sad decision in FIBA’s arbitration of the KK Zagreb/Bilbao Basket contract dispute over Dario “The Next Big Thing Out of Croatia” Saric;

• A brief look at the recent fortunes of four Euroleague contenders – Zalgiris Kaunas, CSKA Moscow, Olympiacos and Real Madrid – and their changing landscapes early on in the 2012-13 season;

• A talk with Chinese basketball-centric NiuBBall editor/Beijing-based American expat Jon Pastuszek about Tracy McGrady, the NBA influence in the big country, Panathinaikos’ machinations to attract Chinese talent last summer and certain oddities within the CBA rulebook;

• An interview with former Augusta State University/Phoenix Suns big man Garret Siler, who recently returned to China and the league which granted him his first top-division job out of college; and

• A review of “Who Shot Mamba?” an independent movie which long-time readers may recall BiE gushing about to Brian Spaeth’s great embarrassment, doubtless.

To hear the entirety of “Taking the Charge,” episode seven, please click here. And talk to you next week!

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Dejun Han: Panathinaikos’ new Chinese hope?

Greece- and China-based outlets aplenty have been speculating about Panathinaikos club president Dimitris Giannakopoulos’ planned trip to China next week in conjunction with that team’s national team Olympic Games warmups. Names like Jianlian Yi and Sun Yue have been bandied about as possible additions to the PAO roster for 2012-13, but today Greece-based Sentragoal claims to have received the name of the Greens’ prospect: 2.16m (7’1”) Dejun Han, a.k.a. “Cyclops.”

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Basketball diplomacy: Obama plagiarizes self in praise of Danilo Gallinari, Marco Belinelli

Hosting dignitaries and politicos from Italy this week, U.S. president/basketball devotee Barack Obama recently gave an interview to the visiting media as well, naturally taking time to praise Italia’s representatives in the NBA. As self-proclaimed scholar of basketball diplomacy – perhaps the only one on the planet – Enrico Cellini has noticed that Obama’s effusive acclaim for Danilo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli is in fact quite similar to the prez’s gushy quotes on Hedo Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur back in 2009…

In a rare interview between an American president and an Italian newspaper, Barack Obama went through a wide variety of topics ranging from the state of the current Euro Crisis, through the turmoil in Syria to the importance of Italian-Americans in US society: “Italy can be proud that its sons and daughters continue to make invaluable contributions to the success of the United States and to our bilateral partnership”.

Of course, Obama didn’t miss the chance to deploy his trademark basketball diplomacy and dropped the following grand finale for the interview: “Of course, I have to add that guys like Danillo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli bring some pretty good game to the NBA, too.

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NBA stars playing in Europe: What are the odds…?

You know Tony's coming over...

First, BallinEurope would like to a couple more American players to The Continent, as Milwaukee Bucks second-round draft pick Jon Leuer has signed with the Bundesliga’s Frankfurt Skyliners to play during the NBA lockout and undrafted Colorado State University forward Andy Ogide has joined the ranks of LEB club Breogán.

But as the BiE schadenfreudometer works overtime, the Euroleague Transfers Table loads up with NBA names (Hello, Mr. Farmar and bienvenue to you, Monsieur Batum!), and the working assumption currently figuring the big league to be playing an abbreviated schedule in 2011-12 at best, BallinEurope admits that he’s becoming spoiled about new news on NBA players jumping the Atlantic to play ball here.

And so, without too much hard fact recently on NBAers, marquee or otherwise, making said leap, BiE today presents odds on some players rumored to be plying their wares in Europe soon. Readers should note that these odds are offered at no bookmaker service and are completely arbitrary (which is to say mostly made up).

Dirk Nowitzki: 3/5. The incredible story of the Bayern München basketball club’s resurrection to primacy would be made complete by signing Dastardly Dirk, hero of the 2011 NBA Finals.

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Practice? Not for Steve Francis, who’s out in China

For all those debating the wisdom and/or point of Allen Iverson’s playing in Turkey, BallinEurope asks you to consider the career of Steve Francis in China, which, according to an early-morning report today, is over after just 13 days and four games.

The Beijing Shougang Ducks will cut Francis today, a day after his second consecutive DNP was recorded and two days after he refused to attend a practice on Christmas Day.

Francis had played a total of 14 minutes for the team and naturally clashed with coach Min Lulei; according to local news Francis became “quickly frustrated with Min over his lack of minutes and felt as if the team was merely using him to sell tickets and merchandise.” Min cited conditioning as a key factor in Francis’ lack of playing time.

“I don’t know if other coaches would give him the minutes he wants, but the whole team has been working hard in practice,” said Min to media. “Actually, I had planned to let him play today but the first quarter we got down by too much.”

Francis’ debut consisted of all of 17 seconds in the fourth quarter. In his second appearance with the Ducks, Francis managed two fouls and two turnovers versus one assist and zero points in four minutes of play against Shandong.

Yao Ming’s long-time former teammate also generated a little controversy in CBA land when he was caught flipping off referees in derision after a technical foul call on a teammate.

A source close to the situation was quoted as saying, “[Francis] didn’t fly all the way out to China to just sit on the bench.”

The disastrous experiment now over, Francis is expected to return to the ‘States before the end of 2010.


Kobe Bryant: “European player development superior to that of U.S.”

In lieu of preparing for the 2010 FIBA World Championship with Team USA (sigh), Kobe Bryant has been visiting China this week as part of a promotional tour the locals are calling “Kobe 24 Live.” (Read: Kobe’s in Asia hocking basketball shoes.)

Putting in an appearance yesterday afternoon at 4.20pm in Changchun, Kobe signed a few autographs and dutifully commented on all things basketball for an adoring public – nothing unusual there.

However, what was unusual – and o so gratifying for fans of European basketball – was Bryant’s shout-out to The Continental method of developing players. From an English-language story running this morning from China’s national press agency Xinhua, Kobe was a bit fancifully quoted through a translator and back again, but the message on several topics was quite clear.

On what other countries need to learn from NBA and American basketball system, Kobe gave a surprising answer, and he said: “I believe that the system works best right now is not the US system, I believe it is the European system. Because they develop basketball players, and they teach them the skills. I think the European system has jumped over US system.”

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Albert Schweitzer youth tourney this weekend

The 25th annual Albert Schweitzer youth tournament tips off this weekend in Mannheim, Germany, with 16 teams from all six continents participating: The countries of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Croatia, France, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Turkey, and of course 10-time champion Team USA join two squads from Germany to comprise the field.

The US military publication this week ran an extensive article on the 2010 boys’ All-Europe basketball team, which is made up mostly of high schoolers living in Europe and chosen by the DODDS; many of these players will see action for Team USA at the Schweitzer tournament. Jamal Tuck and Dillon Wadsack are the headliners for the red, white and blue, with back-to-back All-Europe Team nods for each.

Disappointingly, Team Turkey will not be bringing Enes Kanter, who amazed observers at last year’s FIBA U18 championships by generally just being a man among boys and dominating the tournament. (Perhaps he’ll be on the squad for Turkey in the 2010 FIBA Worlds…?) And the Team Spain roster will be without Miki Servera and Malick Fall in the tournament.

On the positive side, Greece is naturally bringing a truckload of talent, with players like Marios Dermitzakis, Vasileos Kavvadas, Ioannis Molfetas and Spiros Motsenigos among others looking to makes names from themselves on the international stage. Team Germany’s U18 team should makes some waves, too, with Philipp Neumann, Patrick Heckmann and Kevin Bright out there.

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