EuroBasket 2015: Romania the odd team out on the final night +++ 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 +++

Forget Rodman, what is Craig Hodges doing?

Craig Hodges
Dennis Rodman is doing something stupid. Matt Cooper isn’t being very smart by joining him. The same can be said for most of the party in Pyongyang for a basketball exhibition. Craig Hodges however is a big outlier. How does a man of such strong political will make such an awful choice?

Most of the gang of Dennis Rodman’s buddies playing hoops in Pyongyang read like a list of guys likely to go to Pyongyang with the Worm for a payday. Vin Baker, Kenny Anderson, and Cliff ‘totally open about making a porno with my wife’ Robinson are just the characters you’d expect to get caught in something like this. The game is being covered by Irish journalist Matt Cooper, who presents drivetime current affairs show The Last Word and fronts TV3’s live GAA coverage. Cooper’s involvement has caught some scrutiny in the Irish media today but given that all news is local, the man about whom we should be asking the most questions is subject to the fewest.

Craig Hodges had a pretty good career for a lifelong NBA back-up. He won the All Star 3-point contest three times, a feat matched only by Larry Bird, and was runner-up twice. He won the NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls in 1991 and 1992. It was that latter win that brought to light something that mattered more than basketball to Hodges. The three-point ace was passionate about the treatment of African Americans. It was an issue he cared deeply for, one he was willing to put his career on the line for. This is a man who backed up his beliefs with actions.

When the Bulls visited the White House after winning the NBA Championship in 1992, Hodges used it as an opportunity for political activism. Wearing a dashiki, he criticized President George HW Bush’s treatment of minorities in America. Hodges never played in the NBA again. Hodges would go on to publicly criticize Michael Jordan for not using his position in the spotlight to do more for African Americans. This was a man who cared about the treatment of others. A man who recognised the influence those in the spotlight could use to cast light and draw attention to those who need it.

So what the hell is Craig Hodges doing in Pyongyang?
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Paddy Power shouldn’t play ball with Kim Jong-Un

Paddy Power pulling marketing stunts is nothing new but there’s something about their plan to stage a basketball match in North Korea that makes Emmet Ryan feel rather uneasy.

Better get the full disclosure out of the way already. For three and a half years I worked in the online betting industry. Paddy Power were not rivals of the company that employed me but it would be remiss of me not to mention this due to any potential conflicts.

Paddy Power will stage a basketball game in Pyongyang in the new year with a team of non-North Koreans taking on the North Korean national team. The PR stunt comes from the people who brought you a pile of headline grabbing but mostly socially harmless escapades over the past decade. Dennis Rodman is likely to be involved because the Worm needs the money. Lots of people will be up in arms and Paddy Power will get the reaction they want.

None of this is surprising. The only issue really left to be decided is whether conventional basketball rules will be used or the freaky ones conceived by the North Koreans back in the 1990s, Kim Jong-Un and Kim Jong-Il were both big fans of the Jordan era Bulls. That’s where the Worm comes in. Rodman went to Pyongyang with Vice magazine earlier this year, generating a ton of publicity for all parties, and Paddy Power later brought him to the Vatican when the papal succession was under way. That didn’t grab as many headlines so the bookmaker is bring the Worm, or at least his game, back to the place he made the most noise in 2013 to get a big reaction.
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Podcast: Talking Euroleague, NBA transactions, Lithuania basketball

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #44 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

This week’s podcast pays homage to the axiom that, when in doubt about what to talk about in European basketball, simply go to Lithuania. And who better to discuss Team Lithuania’s chances in Eurobasket 2013, Linas Kleiza’s release from the Toronto Raptors, Zalgiris Kaunas’ exit from the VTB United League and such topics than Lithuania Basket’s Simas Baranauskas? Few, we think. (Spoiler: Simas is “cautiously optimistic” about Lietuva in the Slovenia tourney.)

Hein and yours truly also bring the speculation and chatter about recent moves and events in European ball and abroad, touching on Kostas Papanikalaou staying with prospective threepeaters Olympiacos; Richard Hendrix staying in his niche on Eurocup champs Lokomotiv Kuban; the success of Milwaukee Bucks draft pick Giannis Antetokounmpo in the FIBA U20 European Championship tournament; Andrei Kirilenko taking a pay cut to join the Brooklyn Nets (which is clearly about kickbacks and not pursuing an NBA title ); Bogdan Bogdanovic eschewing those same Nets for another turn with Fenerbahçe Ülker; and Bobby Brown attempting to crack the New York Knicks roster.

All this and our sports movie review of the week, the so-bad-it’s-marvelous Jean-Claude Van Damme flick Double Team co-starring none other than Dennis Rodman and Mickey “The Wrestler” Rourke. Ever wonder why The Worm has had to resort to bizarre forays into North Korea for HBO in order to stay in the entertainment biz? Rodman brazenly putting his acting “chops” in this flick will explain all. And remember: Offense gets all the glory, but defense wins championships…

Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter into iTunes or any podcast aggregator.

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Dennis Rodman, Benedict XVI team up in NBA Jam-based battle for The Vatican’s future

BallinEurope will leave the questions about just how Dennis Rodman ended up taking his distinct breed of basketball diplomacy to Italy after a less-than-uncontroversial visit to North Korea with a few Harlem Globetrotters

Instead, we’ll just let Taiwan-based Next Media Animation explain things; apparently, The Worm’s mission involves some NBA Jam-esque two-on-two in a match featuring himself and retired Pope Benedict XVI against a roster of priests, evil lawyers, a high-jumping altar boy and possibly a unicorn…

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Podcast: Interviews with Per Gunther, Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia; plus riffs on Rodman in North Korea, the Harlem Shake, Space Jam (P.S. Win a free T-shirt!)

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode 25 in the Taking the Charge podcast series is now available online, and in general this one reflects the wackiness of the week in basketball just gone by. So Bill Simmons’ “B.S. Report” over at Grantland is described as “a free-flowing conversation”? Co-host David Hein of heinnews and yours truly sail our own stream of consciousness this time out, touching upon diverse subjects including the Harlem Shake phenomenon, Dennis Rodman’s basketball diplomacy in North Korea, Tim Ohlbrecht in America, the ever-interesting behind-the-scenes happenings in Greece, and, in our sports movie review of the week, the all-time classic Space Jam.

A bit of gravity – but just a wee bit – infuses the show in an interview with our first guest, Ratiopharm Ulm’s Per Günther. Günther tells us about his club (arguably one of the most notable European underdogs in 2012-13 who currently find themselves near the top of the Bundesliga table and in the Eurocup elite eight) and the prospects for Team Germany in Eurobasket 2013.

Also joining us is Sportando co-founder Emiliano Carchia, who offers some insight into the recent towering success of the European basketball-centric website.

And in the first-ever Taking The Charge promotion, earn a chance at winning a T-shirt absolutely free – tune in to find out (Don’t worry: Details are just a few minutes into the ‘cast).

Finally, we’re pleased to announce that Taking the Charge podcasts are now available through iTunes; subscribe by entering the following into the aggregator: Alternatively, the entire episode may be heard here.

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Now serving as U.S. diplomat to North Korea: Dennis Rodman?

This one has little to do with European basketball but is simply too bizarre to go without reportage – of course it is: Dennis Rodman’s involved.

In a move that’s quite a far cry from U.S. president Barack Obama’s famed “basketball diplomacy” and which may finally redefine the term “reality TV,” Rodman, a trio of Harlem Globetrotters and “a film crew from the Vice media company are visiting [North Korea] to shoot footage for a TV show set to air on HBO.”

Said TV show will feature the activities of a kids’ sport club run by the four ballers and “competing alongside North Korea’s top athletes in an exhibition match they hope will be attended by the leader, Kim Jong-un.”

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Highlights from Dennis Rodman’s Easter weekend in Bulgaria

Former Detroit Pistons/Chicago Bulls/Torpan Pojat power forward and Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman was in Bulgaria this weekend to help that nation’s league celebrate its all-star break and oh yes, he left his mark.

Ireland-based The Score reported somewhat hyperbolically that the appearance was part of a full-on comeback to the game by the financially-troubled Rodman, but such reports may be greatly exaggerated (more on this below). Via the ‘site, though, here’s a YouTube in which a decidedly civilized and erudite Worm thanks the Bulgarian people for the opportunity, somehow finding a comparison between the country and Texas in that both locations are “very raw” and “very cool.”

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Look out, Bulgaria – Here comes Dennis Rodman (and maybe Arvydas Sabonis)!

How do you say “Here comes the Worm” in Bulgarian? Folks in Sofia may just be needing that expression as the Hall of Fame NBA rebound master Dennis Rodman touched down in Bulgaria’s capital last night.

Bulgaria-based Novinite quoted Rodman as stating “I learned a bit about your country on the internet. Your women are very beautiful.”

(Naturally, BallinEurope wonders exactly what kind of sites ol’ Tennis Ball Head was checking out.)

Rodman is slated to appear as part of the Bulgarian domestic league’s all-star festivities which begin on Saturday. Arvydas Sabonis is also scheduled to be there, though as of late has suffered some health problems which may keep him from attending.

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Ron Artest to play in Finland. No, really.

BallinEurope just received word from Hippo Taatila (via BiE pilgrim father Christophe, now of European Prospects) that Ron Artest may have topped himself in wackiness yet again – and this within a week of the announcement of his imminent name change to Metta World Peace. Reports Taatila:

“Finland’s top league Korisliiga will witness some serious NBA talent in September 2011, when Los Angeles Lakers forward/multipersonality Ron Artest will join league newcomer LoKoKo Loimaa.

“The 31-year old Artest has three years left in his Lakers contract, but that doesn’t seem to bother LoKoKo sports director Aleksi Valavuori, who backs up the rumor in Tuesday’s Ilta-Sanomat newspaper.

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Video clips: Championships, cheerleaders, Carroll crushes, Barcelona loses (again)

Happy Monday, everyone. To get that week started right, BallinEurope has compiled a healthy-sized video play list at which you may goggle over morning coffee. From all corners of Europe (and Portland, Oregon) came the action last week as the barrage of title-awarding begins on The Continent.

• First up: BiE offers congratulations to Žalgiris Kaunas, who took the Baltic Basketball League title over VEF Riga, 75-67. Tadas Klimavicius was the stud for the “Green White Boys” with a team-high 15 points to go with nine rebounds; Trevon Hughes was game high scorer, contributing 16 for Riga as well as five boards.

The BBL is infuriatingly short on video coverage – even on YouTube – but, um, here’s a swell clip of some rabid fans in that distinctive mode of European basketball…

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