J.R. Holden: “In 10 years, I see myself possibly being a GM in Europe”

Sure, BallinEurope will promote this one. If you haven’t seen it already, be sure to check out a good long interview with retired Team Russia/CSKA Moscow guard J.R. Holden by Erildas Budraitis over at Real GM. Holden, who BiE believes will someday be enshrined in the FIBA Hall of Fame, manages to touch on just about every single memorable point of his career in the piece, talks about “what if” and the future.

A few highlights … On first arriving in Latvia, he says “My goodness…” (No, really, J.R. Holden says “My goodness”) “…it was a scary time for me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had no idea where Riga, Latvia was located in the world. I was a little worried I wasn’t good enough to be a professional basketball player in Europe. It was so far away from home and my comfort zone…”

On The Shot of 2007, J.R. jokes that “Spanish people love me now and I love them too.”

But the real note of interest to Continental fans is the capper: “In 10 years, I see myself possibly being a General Manager for a team in Europe.”

The entire interview runs here; swell highlight clip runs below. And yes, the shot (seriously remixed).

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2012 Olympics: Five reasons Russia will beat Spain (and one other Fearless Prediction™)

Now that BallinEurope’s personal Olympic bracket has been shot to hell, BiE will revert to the cumulative readers/contributors’ podium picks of USA-Russia-Argentina. Followers know that BiE’s ridden Russia since the opening ceremonies and the quarterfinals, despite a Spain win, only strengthened this convinction. Below, then, are five reasons why Russia will overcome the 4.5-point favorites.

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2012 Olympics: Is Spanish dominance over? (Plus Official Fearless Predictions™)

BallinEurope may be pulling the trigger a bit early on this one, but has to ask: Was the loss to Russia on Saturday a harbinger of things to come from Team Spain? Not to put too fine a point on it, but is the marathon (by today’s standards) golden age of Spanish basketball in international competition over?

It is that sheer length of the era of Spanish dominance that makes one wonder about the security of Los Rojos’ presumptive top-dog status going forward: Since 2001, Team Spain has medalled in nine of 13 international tournaments – including the Olympic Games, FIBA Eurobasket, FIBA World Championship/Cup and Mediterranean Games. In the past six years, the Spanish have taken home three golds and five silver from FIBA and the IOC, the sole missed podium coming at the 2010 FIBA Worlds, when Pau Gasol no-showed and Team USA brought its “B Team.”

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BallinEurope’s Official Fearless Predictions™: 2012 Olympic Basketball Group B

And now, round two. Or maybe that should be “round B.” With BallinEurope having (sort of) Fearlessly Predicted the entries for the 2012 Olympic basketball knockout stage from Group A, it’s onto the Official Fearless Predictions™ for Group B – and we’ll do this one from the bottom up.

BallinEurope's upset specialists: Team Britain...

6. China (0-5)
5. Australia (1-4)
4. Britain (2-3)

Damn right BiE’s going there, taking Team Britain to advance for purely selfish reasons: BiE wants the European sweep. BiE supports the fledgling program they’re trying to maintain on the Isle where basketball is a low (*low*) priority in sports fans’ hearts. BiE loves the proverbial pluckiness, the dogged daring, Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. And because BiE wants the highlight YouTube clip potential of a USA-Britain Olympic tournament game.

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Seven (or eight) games on which 2012 Olympic basketball will turn

BallinEurope’s Official Fearless Predictions™ for 2012 Olympic basketball will be posted tomorrow, but with the 2012 Olympics opening ceremonies taking place tonight and the men’s competition tipping off on Sunday, BiE got out the virtual calendar to make time for the following seven (or eight) games, matches that should fundamentally shape the greater 30-game picture, the subsequent knockout tournament and the OFPs™ themselves. BiE’s keeping eyes peeled for…

Argentina vs. Lithuania, July 29. The Olympic schedulers decided to place a couple of dandies on day one of men’s basketball play in a pair of games that will send two Group A teams scrambling immediately. Argentina looked impressive in friendlies in general and against Team USA, but this team’s weakness in 2012 is a traditional Lithuania strength. Continue Reading…


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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On the road to London: Describing Team France’s five-year plan

While much of the Continent enjoys Easter Monday and North America heads back to work, BallinEurope takes the occasion today to clear out a few items from the backburner. First up, here’s part four of the “On the Road to London” mini-documentary series on Team France’s leadup to the 2012 Olympic Games.

This episode dedicated to “perfectionist” Vincent Collet is simply entitled “Le Coach.” In the vid, Collet emphasizes the importance of “Keeping up the attitude and enthusiasm” Les Bleus both displayed and generated among the populace with its silver-medal finish at Eurobasket 2011.”

Collect also describes the comeback of team and program from “hitting rock bottom” in 2008. At Eurobasket 2007, France failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics after squeaking through two rounds of group play and suffering a first-round bouncing from the tournament by eventual champions Team Russia. Les Bleus thus had to rebuild for Eurobasket 2009 – only to be immediately hit with another obstacle when Tony Parker went down early in that tourney.

Nevertheless, the rest is history. Success in ’09 with possibly France’s strongest roster ever led to the podium finish in Lithuania last year.

“Le Coach” features a few comments from Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum (who says “I am where I am today because I’ve had the chance to meet [Collet] during my career,” so thank le coach, Portland Trail Blazers fans) and of course T.P. himself.

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Why Andrei Kirilenko and CSKA Moscow must win the Euroleague

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.

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France vs. Spain friendly: Parker to play 100th for France, Noah gets first warmup

Happy 100th, Tony Parker! As in the 100th appearance he’ll be making for the French national team tonight in a friendly between Les Bleus and Team Spain in Almeria. Parker has been synonymous with both Team France and the FIBA Eurobasket tournament itself; barring injury, the San Antonio Spur’s appearance in Lithuania for this year’s competition would make it six consecutive Eurobaskets in a streak going back to the beginning of last decade.

Parker first suited up for France in 1997, aging his way through U16, U18 and U20 international tournaments to 2002. Tops among his international tournament performances was at the 2000 FIBA U18 European Championship: As France took the Continental title, Parker was named MVP for his 25.8 points, 6.8 assists and a completely insane 6.8 steals per game – a performance which was certainly incentive enough for San Antonio to draft him into the NBA in round one in 2001.

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CSKA Moscow takes Russian championship; J.R. Holden announces retirement

The 2010-11 champion has been named in Russia and for the ninth consecutive season, it is CSKA Moscow. Along with the exultation of the Red Army’s 74-63 victory over BC Khimki, however, came the sad (if inevitable) news that longtime Muscovite J.R. Holden would be retiring from professional basketball.

Playing nearly the entire game, Holden’s 25-point, four-steal swansong led his team to the series capper. Series MVP Viktor Khryapa contributed 12 points and four rebounds in the win.

But then, the announcement. Russia-based RIA Novosti today reports that after the game, Holden told his teammates that “This was probably my last basketball match. I’ve decided to end my career.” As for whether the naturalized citizen will play for Team Russia in FIBA Eurobasket 2011, Holden stated to the media that he’d promised coach David Blatt to participate and “I plan to keep my word, [but] so far I can’t say exactly if I’ll play in the European championship or not. I still have a week to think about it.”

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