Apr
0

Eurocup Championship, Khimki vs Valencia: The Official BallinEurope (sort of) Fearless Prediction™

BallinEurope this morning sends out congratulations to BCs Valencia and Khimki Moscow region for their advancement into the 2011-12 Eurocup finals . The Spanish representative managed to get up to a 20-point lead before fending off a furious comeback by Lietuvos Rytas to take the 80-70 victory. Khimki meanwhile won the battle of Russian sides, topping Spartak St. Petersburg for the third time this season, 77-73.

After examining each of the four finalists this week, Eurosport Turkey basketball commentator Uygar Karaca considers a few key players, matchups and tendencies that could affect today’s championship match – plus highlights and an Official BallinEurope Fearless Prediction™! Well, sort of.

It’s another final day for Eurocup. This means that we’re going to see one side hopping around and celebrating after a huge victory and on the other side, players leaving the court with faces looking to the ground and hearts broken with disappointment. Which one will play the victor’s role: hosts Khimki or their Spanish opponents Valencia? Can we make a prediction?

Basketball enthusiasts fairly know that it’s not fair to merely name one team as favourite. So I will try just to put forth some ideas, to try to reach some conclusion; i don’t know yet whether I will reach one or not.

Firstly, as a reminder, last year saw Russian side UNICS Kazan taking the Eurocup title against Cajasol Sevilla of Spain. Then we must consider the recent experiment we’ve seen: In the semifinals, we had a chance to observe that these two finalists have two different faces. Both can defend the basket aggressively and can find easy points – and vice versa. One thing to note is that in the 2009-10 Eurocup final, Valencia played ALBA Berlin and we can say that Kosta Perovic, Matt Nielsen, Florent Pietrus, Victor Claver and Sergiy Lischuk were just merciless while defending. The latter three remain with Valencia and scoring from low post plays will not be easy for Kresimir Loncar, Khimki’s main aggressor under the rim.

Another point was the ability of Spartak St. Petersburg to find open shots against Khimki in the Final Four match. The Eurocup season in general showed us that Khimki kept their rivals’ scoring very low on some occasions but not quite frequently. Valeriy Likhodey did significant damages to Khimki especially in the second half and Nick Caner-Medley’s shooting-oriented game can do the same.

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Apr
0

BC Khimki Moscow region: In 15th anniversary year, on the verge of lucky three

In the leadup to the 2011-12 Eurocup Final Four tournament beginning on Saturday, Eurosport Turkey basketball commentator Uygar Karaca contributes a series of previews on the remaining quartet entitled “Four Teams, Four Stories” to BallinEurope.

Today, the final chapter of the series is devoted to BC Khimki Moscow region. With VTB United League and Russia Cup titles already in the club’s recent history, will they finally break through with a pan-European championship? Karaca seems to think so…

BC Khimki Moscow region is a relatively young club on the international basketball scene. However, they improved themselves quite rapidly: Coming from the same line of teams such as Avtador, Ural Great, UNICS and Lokomotiv Rostov which presented themselves as alternative powerhouses to CSKA Moscow, Khimki managed to earn a Russian Cup in 2008 and the VTB United League title in 2011. The missing trophy from the shelf is a pan-European prize. The team came close in 2006 against Joventut and in 2009 against Rytas with losses in the Eurocup finals both years. The hosts hope to be third-time lucky on their home court.

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Apr
1

Spartak St. Petersburg: The Hunger of Experienced Rookies

In the leadup to the 2011-12 Eurocup Final Four tournament beginning on Saturday, Eurosport Turkey basketball commentator Uygar Karaca contributes a series of previews on the remaining quartet entitled “Four Teams, Four Stories” to BallinEurope.

Today taking a look at one of the two remaining Russian sides, Karaca writes “Zenit St. Petersburg reached its zenith when they managed to grab the UEFA Cup. Now, president Igor Lypsky, former deputy manager of Gazprom, has the same ambition. Isn’t it time for their citizens to win a European competition in basketball?

Talking about Spartak St. Petersburg is talking about history. Founded in 1935, the club stands as the oldest among the Eurocup Final Four competitors. However, as this marks the first time that Spartak has reached this level of competition, I think we can call St Petersburg experienced Eurocup rookies.

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Apr
2

Valencia: Another Title for Another Ex-Yugoslavian?

In the leadup to the 2011-12 Eurocup Final Four tournament beginning on Saturday, Eurosport Turkey basketball commentator Uygar Karaca contributes a series of previews on the remaining quartet entitled “Four Teams, Four Stories” to BallinEurope. Today, Karaca takes a look at Valencia BC.

Of course, we have to mention brilliant coaches like Luis Casimiro, Paco Olmos and Fotis Katsikaris when we talk about Valencia. However, it is very obvious that some ex-Yugoslavian coaches will always have a special place in the hearts of Valencians.

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Apr
0

On the Road to London: Zinedine Zidane, Yannick Noah ♥ Tony Parker

Now available online at YouTube and DailyMotion – not to mention embedded below – is episode three of the short documentary series “On the Road to London” featuring Team France in the runup to the 2012 Olympics.

Le troisième épisode is entitled “La Star,” which might perhaps be best translated as “Tony Parker: The Love Fest.” In a six-minute cruise through Parker’s career lots of praises are sung for the Spur, kicked off with a few telling shots of San Antonio for appropriate atmosphere.

While Nicolas Batum and Ronny Turiaf are predictably effusive about having a true NBA superstar leading Les Bleus – the former correctly assesses that “we won the silver medal [at EuroBasket 2011] mainly because of him” – the bon mots worth watching for are kicked in by all-time great French athletes Zinedine Zidane and Yannick Noah.

On the negative side, BallinEurope notes the disappointing paucity of NBA, Eurocup, LNB or international tournament footage. If you don’t look away for too long, however, you’ll catch a sliver of action from Tony at the 2000 Nike Hoop Summit.

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Mar
1

How good is Nikola Vucevic? Very.

Not long ago, BallinEurope handed out mid-season grades for NBA players representing The Continent; rookie Nikola Vucevic was awarded a solid 3 out of 5 – a 3.5, really, if only this self-imposing grading system weren’t so harsh. BiE assessed that “subjectively speaking, Vucevic has been particularly impressive for the surprisingly impressive Philadelphia 76ers; if he were getting more playing time, there might be mutters about the former USC Trojan vis-a-vis Rookie of the Year honors.”

Today, Sam Chadwick takes a look at Vucevic in the form of a “draft review” column and, crunching a few numbers, echoes BiE’s contention. Chadwick deduces that the sky’s the limit for this rookie who could in fact become a top-level NBA big. How good is Nikola Vucevic? How about Dwight Howard-level good?

Name: Nikola Vucevic
Country of birth: Switzerland
Nationality: Montenegro
College: University of Southern California
Position: PF/C
Height: 7’0” (2.13 meters)
Age: 21 (born October 1990)

Vucevic quietly made a name for himself at the University of Southern California, where he had career averages of 11.1 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.1 assists across three years while shooting 51% from the field and 30% from three-point range. He made the All-Pac 10 second team in his second season and All-Pac first team after averaging 35.0 minutes, 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in his junior year. His junior year also saw him make the Fox Sports All-American third team and become the first player to lead the Pac 10 in rebounds in consecutive years.

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Feb
2

Buzzer-beater of the week: Benetton’s Jobey Thomas launches a three to nip Lokomotiv Kuban, 71-70

You want a buzzer-beater? BallinEurope’s got your buzzer-beater right here, courtesy of Benetton Basket’s Jobey Thomas.

First, to set the table a bit for the thriller-capping final bucket in this week’s Eurocup match between the visiting Italian side and Lokomotiv Kuban: Benetton had trailed throughout the Group L matchup before finally putting together a 14-1 run to close out the third quarter and enter the final ten minutes up 55-53.

After some nip-and-tuck, Benetton found itself with a two-point deficit with 3.4 seconds remaining on the game clock. Taking the ball out of bounds after a timeout, Sani Becirovic appeared to have been ordered to look for a game-winning shot opportunity. (Gutsy call by coach Aleksandar Djordjevic; while common wisdom says to play for the win on the road, still. Gutsy.)

With 19 points already to his credit, Thomas broke free from his defender thanks to beautiful pick by Benjamin Ortner and found an open spot on the left side beyond the arc. Though Ali Traore came over to defend Thomas, well, just recall that old basketball axiom about never leaving your feet too soon…

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Dec
9

The Eurocentric 2011-12 NBA Western Conference preview (plus Official Fearless Predictions™)

Okay, after that Xmas distraction, BallinEurope is ready to write up some more stuff about good tidings and cheer*, namely, the start of the NBA season. With hours to go, BiE’s got just enough time to get in the part two of the Euro-centric big-league preview in this brief look at the teams in the Western Conference – plus Official Fearless Predictions™, guaranteed to be as accurate as they are popular.

*Los Angeles Lakers fans, over whom a huge cloud of doom hangs to start this season, excluded (sigh).

As in the Eastern Conference preview, BiE seeks to keep an eye on those players who contributed a stint in Continental ball this summer during the lockout period and even, to some, extent participants in Eurobasket 2011. BiE believes that the running start from real game-time situations plus the suddenly intensive NBA season will give the Euroballers an advantage in the short-term against more laggardly opponents not in “basketball shape.” And with the shortened regular season, a jump start will provide lasting effects.

To BiE, it looks something like this.

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Dec
13

The official BallinEurope ballot for FIBA Europe Men’s Players of the Year: Nowitzki, Navarro and…?

BallinEurope just loves season- and year-ending polls, and every December FIBA Europe offers hoops devotees the opportunity to participate in the naming the Continent’s Players of The Year. And while the winner of the award for 2011 – a.k.a. the Year of Dirk – is surely a no-brainer, the FIBA ballot calls for electors to award a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place vote from among 10 nominees; BiE is finding that no. 3 spot a real mind-bender. If someone can provide a nice salient argument for the final spot, that person will have BiE’s undying admiration.

The process of elimination went the following way, in reverse order of finish, and garnishing with highlight clips.

10. Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos. Yes, Double-D was the Euroleague MVP and the Euroleague Final Four MVP for 2010-11. Yes, he thus established himself as one of the five or six greatest of the EL modern era. But Diamantidis did not play any international ball, whereas all other nine nominees participated in Eurobasket 2011 and most where instrumental to their team’s successes. Dimitris simply has the shortest CV of a very talented ten.

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Dec