Jan
0

The dish: A nice relaxing start

Round 1 of the Top 16 was a little crowded, we’ll get to that, but by and large it was awfully relaxing basketball.


We open with the game that closed the openung round if action. Vassilis Spanoulis went nuts in the SEF as he ripped Zedijko Obradovic a new one on the coach’s first trip to the arena as Fenerbahce coach. Obradovic brought his troops to the OAKA for warm-ups earlier in the day, a nice touch we must admit, but he couldn’t get them to fix an issue that’s hit them a few times this season. Could somebody please tell Fener to show up in the first quarter? Credit to the Istanbul club, they clawed their way back into it and made it a one-possession game going into the final minutes but then V-Span went out of this world again and the home side took the W. In a shock to no-one, Spanoulis was named MVP of the round with 28 points, 9 assists, and PIR of 39. Whatever the result when Barcelona visits Istanbul next week, a far better first frame is necessary for all of us reformed doubters to keep the faith. One final note on this game, be sure to check out Raul Jimenez’s piece on mismatches inspired by this game.

Staying in Group E and there was a good spot by Rob Scott over at ELA. The difference in offensive performance by Panathinaikos with and without Dimitris Diamantidis is frightening. They took care of business on Thursday night 73-57 at home against EA7 Milan, helped by 11 dimes from DDD. Daniel Hackett may be happy to still be in Italy but he must be guessing that his European season is going to become frighteningly irrelevant soon.
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Dec
0

Group E: The knowns and the unknowns

The slate is clean for the Top 16. Today and tomorrow we’ll break down what we know about each team in the second phase, what we want to know, and what we think we still won’t know sfter 14 rounds of action. We start with the eight participants.

Fenerbahce Ulker
What we know: This is an Obradovic team. They’ve pulled out wins they would have lost a year ago and show a level of organisation to match their talent.
What we want to know: Can they do enough to get home advantage in the playoffs.
What we won’t know: If home advantage in the last eight will have any real impact in their Final Four hopes.

Olympiacos Piraeus
What we know: Even with heavy losses in the off-season, this is still a team that is built for one-and-done play. They waltzed through the regular season and should make the quarter finals with ease.
What we want to know: How they will manage their roster over the meat of their schedule with an eye to keeping their best players fresh down the stretch.
What we won’t know: Their ability to hold up over a Best-of-5 situation.

EA7 Milano
What we know: Coming second in an awful group has its rewards but there’s a limit given the opponents they face.
What we want to know: The ability of a relatively thin roster to handle a heavy schedule.
What we won’t know: Their chances in LegABasket, yeah they ain’t making the playoffs.

Saski Baskonia
What we know: They have the capacity to force the best out of anyone but not necessarily make the opponent pay.
What we want to know: If the long format will improve their playoff chances.
What we won’t know: If they can mount a serious threat in the playoffs…okay, we’ll know if they don’t make it.

FC Barcelona
What we know: They have scorers and can and wil use them to great effect.
What we want to know: If they can show more innovation in creating opportunties when the going gets tough.
What we won’t know: Their health.

Unicaja Malage
What we know: This remains an intelligent ball club with a veteran style against the relative upstarts of Euroleague.
What we want to know: Will they benefit from playing 9 games of 14 in Spain, significantly reducing travel (naturally applies to Barca and Baskonia too).
What we won’t know: Like Baskonia, if they make the post-season we still won’t be sure how they’ll handle a Best-of-5 situation.

Anadolu Efes
What we know: This team is not as strong as last year’s line-up but has the same functional issues.
What we want to know: If greater organisation in the Top 16 can make up for that drop in overall quality.
What we won’t know: Who they will sign next year to make up for missing out on the playoffs.

Panathinaikos
What we know: They took the thin part of their name by its English meaning this year a large part of the regular season and decided to play fast and loose with their progress.
What we want to know: If they are, in simple terms, the team that started the regular season, the team that finished, or a better version of both.
What we won’t know: What they can do if DDD isn’t there to save them. For the time being at least, he makes them a threat in any situation.

Fearless prediction: To me there are three teams fighting for the top two and three more for the last spot. I’m going Olympiacos and Barcelona in that order with Fener third but it goes to the final game. Panathinaikos to take fourth and, this is the fearless bit, in far more comfortable fashion than anyone expects.

Dec
1

Musings from the basement

BiE’s Emmet Ryan went to the Palau Blaugrana to check out the next generation of talent playing for Barcelona, getting there proved a challenge in its own right.

The names were largely familiar. The bulk of the players on Barcelona B’s roster, playing in Liga Oro, had been on the NIJT squad that reached the final in London back in May. Considering my hotel was next door to the Palau, it would have seemed like a straightforward affair to check them out.

There was one slight problem. The main entrance was closed. Instead, I had to take a lengthy route around to get in around the mid-point of the first quarter. A few hundred heads were in attendance for the clash with Grupo Iruna Navarra. It was a battle of the two worst teams in the second tier. There was no Abrines or Hezonja, both having graduated to the big boys, and it showed in their record. Barca B had all of one win heading into this game and their opponents had also won just the once all season.

The talent gap was obvious early. The physical gap took longer to develop. Barca B had some young guys with good skills, looking far more disciplined than Navarra. What they lacked was bulk. These were teenagers going up against men and when play broke down, the men took advantage. There wasn’t a single baller on the visiting roster that looked likely to step up a division but they knew how to play against kids. Go hard from the start and keep doing it.

This in part explains why Barcelona went light on minutes, relatively speaking for some of their more talented players. Ludvig Hakansson, who entered the game on terrible run from outside the arc, found his shot and looked dangerous en route to an 11 point haul including a three. Marc Garcia was the class act for Barca but his slight frame stuck out a mile on court. When both were on the floor Barca pounded Navarra but the duo saw precious little action together. A pair of small guys were at risk of getting beat up by the men out there.

So who was left to take out the beef? The stats sheet would say it was Alexandr Zhigulin but the man who showed the most potential to step up to another level was Emir Sulejmanovic. It was the vision, the awareness, and that little step here and there that made him stand out. Sulejmanovic showed a smart inside step off the baseline for a dunk early in the game and he added little to that tally as the game wore on. What the big man showed instead was positional smarts. He knew where to close down instinctively, when to take the step off, and how to keep Barca’s engine running.

In terms of NBA prospects, Barcelona’s current crop of reserves has none but there are several players on this roster that will expect to step up to a higher level of competition for the bulk of their professional careers. Hakanson and Garcia will likely attract the most attention but the basketball intelligence of Sulejmanovic means he could be one to make the biggest strides at Euroleague level in years to come.

Dec
1

The body eventually breaks

A couple of weeks back this video had the internet salivating at what Juan Carlos Navarro could do, it had the opposite effect on Emmet Ryan. What Navarro did was depressing to BiE’s editor.

Look at it, 21 straight three balls. Even in warm-ups that’s impressive. Now look at Navarro’s stat line from the game he played straight after. 17 minutes, 1 of 4 from the field, 1 of 2 from 3, 5 points, 1 steal, and a PIR of 8. If that was a bench player we wouldn’t be breaking that down too much but he’s not there to high five, he’s the highest scorer in Euroleague history.

The issue with Barcelona’s star is unquestionably physical. When your signature shot is a floater, having chronic foot injuries is a massive problem. The overall line for JCN isn’t terrible. In 7 games he’s made 55 per cent of all shots but only 10 of 34 from deep. In theory three-pointers should be the least of his worries. Navarro doesn’t need to drive for the three. He can step back and fire. The problem of course is that every baller in Europe knows Navarro has issues driving. They’re covering the three more, they are bringing that extra pressure because they know that Navarro is less likely to charge past over-exerting defenders.

There’s no combination of adrenaline and psychosis that can overcome Father Time. If it were that easy MJ would still be playing. Mentally Navarro is still in the game, physically he has run out of room to adjust as a complete player. Xavi Pascual has recognised that in recent weeks, placing less of a defensive burden on him and allowing him to commit purely to his role as a scorer. Some big outings in the middle of the Euroleague regular season and in ACB have pointed to this being better for Navarro and Barcelona. Where they go from here is another matter entirely.

Long-term, what do you do with a player like Navarro? Could he handle the idea of being switched to a sixth man next year? Could anyone in Barcelona even dare to ask that of him. Navarro’s ego isn’t Kobe-sized but like the Mamba, he expects to have the ball in his hands when it matters. That last shot is his property, by right or not.

As an every game starter, JCN is done. He’s relatively young but a foot injury for a player built around being nimble is a killer. Older players have stayed relevant by adjusting their roles and strategically that’s comfortably the best route to go with him. Ask him to be the Ray Allen of this team, the Jason Terry, or even what Saras was last season with Barca. Navarro’s a proud baller but he’s also a smart one. Barcelona won’t remove him from the starting spot until he says it’s time but what if he took the initiative. Next May, when all is said and done, take Xavi for a cortado and talk about a plan to win.

As long as Barcelona’s pockets remain deep, they will be perennially in the playoffs in Euroleague and the top two in Spain. The difference between being one of the best and the team that raises the silverware is slim. Navarro’s a winner. He doesn’t want to lead a team that comes narrowly short of getting over the line. He wants to break the tape every year until he hangs up his kicks for good. If Navarro wants to win, he’s going to have that chat with the boss.

Nov
1

Euroleague Heats Up As Barcelona & Nanterre Record Dominant Victories

The Turkish Airline Euroleague continued as Group A and D matches were underway. The highlight came from Group A as FC Barcelona as it defeated CSKA Moscow 79 – 70 in a hard-fought game. Barcelona’s Juan Carlos Navarro was the key difference as he scored 17 of his 20 points after halftime, making 3 of 4 two-pointers, 3 of 5 threes and 5 of 5 free throws while dishing 3 assists, to secure the win.

CSKA did try to stage a comeback, reducing the gap to 8 points during the fourth quarter, but Barcelona never lost control, and made sure that there was significant distance between the two teams at the final buzzer.

In the second Group A game, JSF Nanterre dominated Budivelnik Kiev for its entire game as it recorded a comfortable 80 – 61 victory in Paris, marking the team’s first home victory in the Euroleague.

After an impressive win over FC Barcelona last week, Nanterre took control with a 17 – 3 first quarter run, controlling the game from start to finish. Thanks to some fantastic three-point shooting in the first half, the team was ahead 51 – 23 and the visitors had no response. Will Daniels scored 14 to lead a balanced Nanterre effort that saw all but one player score.

The final Group A game saw Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul continued its unbeaten run after rallying from a double-digit deficit, beating Partizan NIS Belgrade 78 – 88 and securing top spot with a 4 – 0 lead.

Partizan built a double-digit lead in the second quarter, and held a 38 – 30 halftime lead, but Fenerbahce rallied as Bojan Bogdanovic and Emir Preldzic spearheaded the offense. The duo hit back-to-back triples early in the fourth quarter, sparking a 4 – 14 spurt that put the game out of reach.

It was Bogdanovic who came out as top scorer, capping off an impressive display with 26 points on 6-on-9 three-point shooting.

In Group D, a number of exciting games took place, the most notable being Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv registering its third consecutive win by edging Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius 74 – 76, Devin Smith pacing the winners with 18 points.

In the other games, Eurocup champion Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar needed Krunoslav Simon to bury the game-winner in the final second to beat Panathinaikos 69 – 72 in an exciting game, while Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade picked up its first Euroleague victory by taking down Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 63 – 73 in a tough away game.

- Quinton O’Reilly (@qoreilly)

Nov
0

Budivelnik & Nanterre record historic Euroleague victories on Halloween Night


The third series of games in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague got underway on Halloween night, but instead of frights and scares, it was a night filled with thrilling matches and shocking victories as the season gathers momentum.

Budivelnik Kiev had a night to remember as it became the first Ukranian team to win a game in the Euroleague. It thumped Partizan NIS Belgrade 74 – 69 at home in a hard fought game.

The result means that both teams are tied in Group A, each holding a 1 – 2 record. It was Darjus Lavrinovic who gave Budivelnik the edge as he provided 22 points and 8 rebounds while DaJuan Summers and Ricky Minard scored 15 and 10 points respectively. The game was also memorable for a thrilling second quarter where impressive scoring from both sides saw the half end 44 – 42

Both teams have their work cut out if they want to catch up with Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul, who currently top the group. The Turkish side remain unbeaten in Group A as it thrashed CSKA Moscow 86 – 60. The hosts provided in style thanks to contributions from Bojan Bogdanovic and Bo McCalebb.

For Moscow, it was its worst loss in 16 years, meaning that the team will want to put it behind them soon when they face FC Barcelona next week.

Barcelona is another team that’s looking to forget last night as it lost to JSF Nanterre 67 – 71 at home. The game gave the French champions’ its first victory in the Euroleague and made them the first French team to win in Palau Blaugrana in more than 17 years, the last team being Asvel Basket back in 1996.

Nanterre secured the upset in the final 28.8 seconds when free throws by Victor Sada tied both sides at 67-67 before Je’Kel Foster secured the win with a layup. Juan Carlos Navarro of Barcelona had the chance to level both sides but missed from downtown at the buzzer.

The final game of the night came from Group B as Zalgiris Kaunas defeated Strasbourg 88 – 64, making it a debut to remember for Kaunas’ new head coach Saulius Stombergas.

The Lithuanian champions hit an impressive 14 triples on only 22 attempts, and was helped by Martynas Pocius who got 7 of 9 from downtown, while scoring 23 points and contributing 5 assists in only 24 minutes. The night was also notable for Sarunas Jasikevicius as he became the seventh player in history to score 300 three-pointers, scoring 13 points off the bench.

Oct
0

Euroleague: Group A wins for Barcelona, CSKA, and Fenerbahce

Group A saw wins for the three favourites on Thursday night but in rather different styles. Barcelona’s woes from the free throw line saw them make hard work of Partizan, Fenerbahce won a a shootout with Budivelnik Kiew, while CSKA Moscow had to dig deep for a road win at Nanterre.


A dominant fourth quarter gave Fenerbahce Ulker a road win in Kiev on Thursday night. The home side stayed in the contest on the back of 62 points between the second and third quarters alone. This impressive streak on offence was fuelled by Janis Strelniks, 14 points and 5 assists, and Darius Lavrinovic, 21 points and 4 rebounds. The underdogs however weren’t able to contain the breadth of scoring options available to Zelijko Obradovic. Bojan Bogdanovic, 21 points and 4 rebounds, led Fener’s 7 scorers who reached double digits. Emir Preldzic chipped in with 14 points, 5 boards, and 7 assists, while Bo McCalebb had 11 points and 4 boards in a 102-84 win.
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Oct
0

Spain: Real Madrid roll to Supercopa title – Highlights

Liga Endesa champions Real Madrid added the Supercopa title over the weekend with wins over Bilbao Basket and FC Barcelona. Here’s what you might have missed.


Jaycee Carroll led a rain of threes for Real Madrid in Friday’s semi-final win over Bilbao. The Liga Endesa champions went deep early and often, crushing their opponents 100-61.


The final was a repeat of last year’s Liga Endesa playoffs final, where Real took the title in Game 5 over Barcelona. This edition of El Clasico ended with the same victor as RMB won 83-79 to lift the Supercopa.

Jul
2

Podcast: Talking international hoops with GB U20s coach Douglas Leichner, SellOutXBoy

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #45 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

This week we’re talking (mostly) international competitions, though Hein does get off a good rant (well, as ranty as the guy gets) on FC Bayern Munich’s apparent moves to sop up all available talent from the BBL, while BallinEurope is in shock and awe over FC Barcelona’s acquisition of Bostjan Nachbar – seriously, just look at this roster.

*Then* we’re on to international competitions. First up in guesting to the show is the tweeter known as SellOutXBoy to explain just what in the name of Naismith is going on with the Russian national program in the wake of the shock firing/quitting/dismissal of national team head coach Fotis Katsikaris as well as the departure of federation president Alexander Krasnenkov. Believe it or not, it’s political. And possibly bleak.

Also joining us is Douglas Leichner, head coach of the U20s Team Britain; Leichner’s young charges ended up taking second place on the podium in the Division B side of the U20 European Championship and thus will move up to the top level for next year. Among other topics, Leichner touches upon Britain’s own Golden Generation of players…

Finally, there’s the sports movie review of the week. Check out the clip below, sort of a teaser-trailer for Mystic Ball, a 2006 documentary about Greg Hamilton of Canada and his attempts to learn the national pastime of Myanmar, Chinlone. In short the game can be described as a ball sport with only one team on the playing field at one time – and with no scorekeeping.

Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter http://heinnews.com/feed/taking-the-charge/ into iTunes or any podcast aggregator.


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Jul
0

Shuffling pre-threepeat, Russians in Brooklyn: Last week’s five most intriguing Euroleague (and one NBA) acquisitions

All right, now things are getting interesting. Euroleague rosters are falling into place with top names signing with clubs that leave BallinEurope stretching the imagination – thinking about Papanikolaou outfitted in the Blaugrana here – and most of the prime pickups in the NBA have chosen their destinations for 2013-14. (Except … except … what about Nikola Pekovic and that $50 million deal? What is happening in Eurowolves land?)

Regardless of poor Peks’ situation, player movement kept things interesting for European basketball devotees even if no actual club games are being played. BiE took special notice of the following moves last week.

• Kostas Papanikolaou to Barcelona and
• Mirza Begic to Olympiacos. So the Reds want to threepeat, huh? Well, they’ll have to do so with quite a different look; the losses of Papanikolaou and Kyle Hines while adding Mirza Begic and Bryant Dunston means swapping two guys who played above their height for, well, actual height – not to mention opening up a barrage of questions. Could we really see a downshift in tempo in Piraeus? Does management expect to improve in rebounding, in which Olympiacos was third-best in the 2012-13 Euroleague? How much more court time will Stratos Perperoglou see? And how important can former Harlem Globetrotter Brent Petway be?

Intriguing stuff indeed, but what about that shiny new Blaugrana acquisition? The not-quite 23-year-old (his birthday’s next week) joins a roster that includes La Bomba, Marcelinho Huertas, Ante Tomic and up-and-comers Alex Abrines, Mario Hezonja and Marko Todorovic – in short, a lot of weaponry in the arsenal. More is needed in the backcourt with no more Pete Mickael and who-knows-what-Erazem-Lorbek-will-bring, but BiE’s picks Barca to be among the big league’s top-scoring sides in 2013-14.

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