Admittedly this site is in slight danger of turning into ALS Ice Buckets in Europe but seeing as this is the first Euroleague connection to the challenge we’ve seen, we’ll allow it. Check out CSKA Moscow’s Kyle Hines and Sonny Weems taking the ALS ice bucket challenge.
The withdrawal of the Lithuanian clubs from the VTB United League, following on from the departure of Ukrainian clubs, has left the pan-national league looking essentially like Russia and fodder but this may not be all that bad, writes Emmet Ryan.
From day one money was the main motivation behind the VTB United League and money, or at least one source, has played a key role in its dilution. While the political instability in Ukraine made clubs from their a non-runner for 2014/15, local politics of a far more mundane manner influenced the withdrawal of Lithuania clubs. Vilnius city council threatened to withdraw funding from Lietuvos Rytas if they participated in the league this season, giving the club are rather direct and simple choice. The move effectively left the VTB League with none of the appealing clubs from the LKL on the table, with Zalgiris Kaunas already non-runners and Neptunas following swiftly in the wake of Rytas’ decision. With only lesser lights left, the VTB League opted to contract to a 16 team league, of which 10 sides are Russian.
Jamont Gordon’s season with Galatasaray came to an early end when he tore his ACL. Now the former CSKA Moscow, Cibona, and Bologna player is looking to prove he’s ready to come back and be a force in Europe. BallinEurope caught up with 2013 TBL Finals MVP to find out how his efforts to get back on the hardwood are going.
BallinEurope: What was the toughest part of being out injured with a torn ACL?
Jamont Gordon: Not being able to be on the court and play the game I love was tough. Also not being able to help my teammates in the games.
BiE How has your recovery been going? Do you feel like you’ve got your strength back?
JG: The recovery has been tough but I’ve made great strides. I’m getting strong and stronger every day. When the season starts I will be 100 per cent.
BiE: Have you or your agent heard from any clubs yet?
JG: Yes I have heard from a bunch of different teams. Right now it’s about finding the right situation and the right fit.
BiE: Do you miss playing for Galatasaray?
JG: I will miss my brothers. We accomplished a lot. Good luck to all of my former teammates.
BiE: What do you think you have to prove to convince teams to give you a shot?
JG: I’m sure most teams want to see if I can regain my explosiveness and my strength. When I do come back I will show that I am better player than I was before I got injured.
Gordon has released a video charting his progress which shows the work he is putting in to be ready to contribute again.
This is a great find by the crew over at Project Spurs, a 14 minute video of Ettore Messina explaining his philosophy on coaching basketball
Yeah, when he opens with comparisons to an orchestra you just know this is going to be good. Then when he gets on to discipline a clearly rights free version of The Godfather theme starts playing. Within four minutes it gets unnerving because anyone familiar with Messina gets shocked by just how chilled he is…this was filmed during his CSKA days and he seems content, how does that happen?
While the world still awaits Google Glass hitting the mainstream, Europe’s top basketball league is already finding ways to help it change the game.
Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv took the Euroleague title, basketball’s answer to the Champions League, in thrilling fashion against Real Madrid last month. The under-card game that preceded the epic final may however prove more important for the future of the sport.
The third place playoff, a game widely ignored by fans and with little interest from players, was used as a staging ground for Euroleague’s second in-game test of Google Glass. “We’re always looking for new ways of integrating new technologies in the league. We want to find new ways to get more insight from using new content for our fans and on the other side to find tools for basketball professionals that can be useful for their day-to-day work,” said Alex Ferrer, communications director with Euroleague.
“We have a partnership with the University of La Salle in Barcelona and we learned that they were official testers of Glass in Spain. We started brainstorming to see what we could do with the technology this season,” said Ferrer.
Prior to the third place playoff test, Euroleague had a field test of the technology during an earlier stage of the season in a game between Barcelona and Laboral Kutxa. “We did a couple of tests in a Top 16 game and these tests were mostly related to producing content for the fans. The next step is to see how this can also be used to provide data to professionals to be used in real time to make decisions on the court,” said Ferrer.
“We released a clip that the fans loved for the Barcelona-Laboral Kutxa game. It was with the players and coaches and referees wearing them. It truly provided a different view, a unique view that we couldn’t experience before so we are planning to do more in the future and also to find other ways because it’s not the only thing you can do with this device.”
For the third place playoff last month, Euroleague equipped a referee with Glass for the game between Barcelona and CSKA Moscow. The league also got players to wear the device during practices before their games. The video the players recorded was used as part of two mini-movies released by Euroleague from the finals weekend. Ferrer said the players enjoyed helping to create content for the fans.
“Everybody loves it when you give it to them. Players and coaches love it. It’s a new thing so they like to experiment with it. In the beginning, it’s a little strange because you have something in your eye that you’re not used to but after a few seconds you get used to that and it’s only a very small screen on the top of your vision,” he said.
It’s the game nobody wants to play in and few want to watch but at least it featured a milestone for Juan Carlos Navarro and quality minutes for Mario Hezonja. After the devastation of defeat in Friday’s semi finals, CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona trotted out for the Euroleague third/fourth place decider.
A faint CSKA cheer greeted the opening tip with the drummer trying to rally the supporters in an arena that was at best a fifth full. Sonny Weems nailed his first shot, after his horrible evening on Friday it was of little consolation. CSKA raced into an 8-2 lead, forcing Xavi Pascual to call timeout early. Much to the chagrin of those present, this gave the MC from last year in London a chance to get on the mic. At least he was second fiddle to the main MC and there was comfort in knowing he would be drowned out by Maccabi fans in a few hours. Sasha Kaun was dominating the opening quarter, much as he did against Maccabi, scoring 8 points in the first three minutes of action. The scoring was fast but it was hardly a surprise given how easy both sides were going on defence. Milos Teodosic dropped a Navarro-esque floater, then the Barcelona guard responded in kind following his own introduction. At the end of the first, CSKA led 24-21.
Maciej Lampe opened the second quarter with back-to-back threes to remind us that yes, he is indeed still alive despite sitting the full 40 minutes on Friday night. Barca moved into a 34-28 lead on the back of Lampe’s efforts. Alex Abrines added another three and the Catalan back-ups were having a good frame. CSKA however were still finding plenty of room up the other end of the floor as Kaun moved to double digits on the scoresheet with a dunk. An alley-oop slam by Joey Dorsey drew a gasp from the crowd as Barca stretched their lead to 9. Mario Hezonja entered the game and certainly looked eager but had limited opportunities as the half drew to a close. Barcelona took a 50-47 lead into the break.
This is actually pretty great. Euroleague has put together a short film following all four Final Four teams through Thursday and Friday. Gives a great look inside the game and is really well produced. Take 9 minutes to check it out.
BallinEurope’s Emmet Ryan caught up with CSKA Moscow’s Aaron Jackson at Thursdwy’s practice in Milano to get his thoughts on Friday night’s big game.
“Since we got here it’s all business. This year we communicated much better about the pressure [on us]. We knew who had pressure but we didn’t communicate well. Now we know the people on the team feeling pressure and we let them know we have their back,” Aaron Jackson of CSKA Moscow told BallinEurope.com.
Jackson made the comments at Thursday’s practice session before Friday’s Euroleague semi-final with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Jackson said talk of coach Ettore Messina possibly leaving CSKA for the NBA hadn’t distracted the team.
“He’s still 100 per cent focussed on the team and on what we need to do to win. He’s been really professional in dealing with the rumours he had bern hearing and he’s doing a really good job.”
Jackson said that going the full five games with Panathinaikos and closing the series out in Moscow would stand to his side this weekend.
“That was an elimination game, there was a lot of pressure, we were playing against a legendary team with legendary players. It was just a tough battle going through that series and it showed that, as a team, we can stick through it together,” said Jackson.
“My job is to just do whatever it takes, whatever coach needs me to do. I keep it simple and I’m real proud. It would be real sweet to end it with a championship this weekend.”
For regular updates of all the action in Milan, follow BallinEurope on Twitter.
BallinEurope only went 6 of 8 in picking the teams to make the post-season and one of those sides we didn’t have faith in won’t be happy with how we see the playoffs shaping up. It’s fearless prediction time.
Barcelona vs Galatasaray
Pick: Barca in 3.
So we didn’t think Galatasaray would make it this far and now we’re saying there roll a doughnut in the post-season. Harsh? Perhaps but we’re standing by it. Barcelona’s slump at the end of the Top 16 can’t disguise a 22-0 start to Euroleague this season. This team is going to Milan, the question is how many games it will require. Much as Galatasaray deserve credit for holding their nerve in the wild battle for fourth in Group F, they look to have drawn a pairing suited to exploit them. If it’s any comfort, we seem to have given Pops Mensah-Bonsu some added motivation.
Real Madrid vs Olympiacos
Pick: RMB in 4.
This was a tough call to make and not for the reason you might think. Real Madrid look to have the most complete team in Europe this season. If they weren’t utterly unbackable, I’d take RMB to walk into a 2-0 series lead without blinking. The question in my mind is whether they will be able to finish the Reds off quickly or if it will require them going back to Madrid. In the end I split the difference and called it Real in a 3-1 win.
CSKA Moscow vs Panathinaikos
Pick: CSKA in 5.
Honestly, this was the easiest call of the lot. You could slot in any opponent and I’d have trouble believing this CSKA team would take care of business the easy way. It’s just not been their style all season. If any series goes the max, this will be it. Panathinaikos still look capable of taking care of business back home but neither of the Greek giants looks like final four material this year.
EA7 Milano vs Maccabi Elektra Tel-Aviv
Pick: Milano in 4.
This is about as good a style match-up as Milano could have hoped for. They have the weapons to hurt Maccabi and to do so repeatedly. Home court in the final four isn’t something that comes around every year and that’s plenty motivation for Milano. It could have been a source of nerves but the maturity this outfit showed in the Top 16 makes me think otherwise. For the first half of that phase Milano kept stumbling, not quite doing enough to convince skeptics like me (who said they wouldn’t make the post-season) of their worth and then boom they caught fire. The Barca win is what most remember but the change had already happened. They had evolved from could-bes to probablys.
So where have I gone horribly wrong? Please vent your frustrations in the comments.