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Coach James Weldon gives his thoughts on Dragan Bender +++ Sarunas Jasikevičius retires, joins Zalgiris in coaching role +++ Vintage Drazen Petrovic jersey up for auction +++ Ireland announce select squad for Luxembourg friendlies +++ We really need you to nominate beers +++ Mykhailiuk operating almost under cover +++ Nando de Colo has the best location for a basketball camp +++ Ireland end famines with two slices of Danish bacon +++ Former Galatasaray baller Jamont Gordon talks about the road to recovery +++ FIBA Europe Under 20 final highlights and top plays +++
Mar
0

Even inaction is political for FIBA in Ukraine

The last thing on most people’s minds when it comes to the crisis in Crimea is basketball. FIBA Europe don’t have that luxury. Emmet Ryan says that whatever call FIBA makes on EuroBasket 2015, they will suffer for it.

The road to EuroBasket 2015 had been rocky enough already before last weekend. The Crimea crisis has escalated matters and there are many furrowed brows in FIBA Europe’s headquarters in Munich right about now. Ukraine is set to host the continent’s premier basketball competition next year, that presents a political nightmare for the basketball body.

Let’s look at the options facing FIBA. Only two really matter, keep the tournament in Ukraine or move it. The former requires no new action from FIBA Europe, the latter most certainly does. Neither is pleasant.

The lone upside to keeping the tournament in Ukraine is that FIBA Europe technically isn’t making a political statement if it proceeds with the plan. There’s just a slight problem, if Russia says it’s a political statement then it might as well be. Russia could pull out of the tournament, removing every Russian eyeball and the TV money that goes with it. More importantly, it’s a blatant opportunity for Vladimir Putin to grandstand. And all of this while FIBA Europe does literally nothing to change its current course of action. The financial hit is one the body could take in the short-term but pissing off a big market isn’t advisable beyond it.

Removing the tournament from Ukraine has obviously negative implications from a face-saving point. It’s basically a continent-wide governing body saying Kthanxbai and leaving a member hanging. Whatever your views on the political administration in Ukraine, their governing body of basketball is hardly one to shoulder the blame here. What no-one else will say is that if Ukraine loses the tournament, the only nation likely to boycott is Ukraine. Many more will cluck but they’ll still show up to ball.

The only way FIBA Europe gets out of this jam easily is if Ukraine becomes unviable as a host for the tournament. There are two ways this could happen. Political instability is the less pleasant option. Should matters escalate, and it’s safe to say that’s not a good thing, then FIBA can cite safety concerns but it would really wish it didn’t have to. The second is infrastructure. Does Ukraine still have the physical infrastructure and financial resources to deliver EuroBasket? It’s not exactly a nice idea either but infrastructural concerns, especially substantial ones, would be by far the easiest option for FIBA Europe to use to abandon Ukraine.

Whatever way it pans out, FIBA Europe is going to take an absolutely beating in the press. There are often fair and reasonable reasons to mock the governing body. This really isn’t one of them but it will be one of the more visible and it will end badly for them.

EuroBasket 2015 isn’t the first potential clash of politics and basketball in this crisis. With Ukraine’s Budvielnik Kiev and Khimik Yuzhne still in EuroCup, along with Russian outfits Khimki Moscow Region, Unics Kazan, and Nizhny Novgorod, the competition could yet deliver a match-up where politics takes precedence over basketball.

There’s also the small matter of the VTB United League. The next game scheduled between teams from both nations is between Triumphy Lyubertsy and Azovmash Mariupol. Given Mariupol’s home game with Russia’s Khimki was postponed on 23 February, it’s safe to say that games between Russian and Ukrainian sides in the league are likely to go unplayed for the foreseeable future.

Feb
4

Enough with the arbitrary rankings argument

Yesterday we found out that Finland would be playing in the 2014 World Cup of Basketball. Some people were upset because of Angry Birds but plenty thought Finland’s FIBA ranking meant they were undeserving. Emmet Ryan has a problem with these arguments, especially the latter.

We’ve got a pretty intelligent readership. You guys understand concepts like ELO rankings, used for chess, and how they are based on pretty heavy amounts of data. International basketball doesn’t use an ELO system and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the data to back it up. In simple terms, there really aren’t a lot of games played internationally. We live in a what have you done for me lately world not by choice but by necessity. The rankings don’t recognise said need. These rankings place China, losing quarter finalists in AsiaBasket, at 12th in the world. Turkey who, since finishing second at the 2010 World Cup (which they hosted) are 7th despite being utter turkeys in international play in the years since. Great Britain, a team for whom this writer has a heavy bias in their favour, sit 22nd by virtue of automatically qualifying for the 2012 Olympics having never got past the first stage of EuroBasket.

Yet yesterday we saw some good basketball writers lean on Finland’s ranking of 39th in the world as a reason to leave them out, ignoring their superior performances to Turkey in the last two EuroBaskets. Now don’t get me wrong, having a wild card system is a joke in and of itself but we’ll get to that in a second. If you exclude the Finns, you simply have to drop Turkey because they have been objectively worse for the last three years.

Were merit the deciding factor, I’d have sent Italy and Canada to Spain but even there we need to apply a giant caveat. The selections of those two teams is based only on what they did in 2013 on the court. Were there no wild cards, the complexion of the qualifying system would have unquestionably be different. Italy and Canada delivered their performances in full knowledge of the off-court route of qualification.

Now about that off-court route. Let’s assume nobody here likes the idea of basically buying your way into a world championship. Ideally we don’t see that option. That however was the situation and it immediately weighted the playing field on off-court criteria in favour of certain nations. TV rights and audiences make larger nations more appealing to FIBA. What the Finns did was no different in terms of its objective and basketball value to Greece, Turkey, Russia, or anyone else. The only difference was they hustled hard and found a way to make up for their deficiencies in conventional resources. If they couldn’t deliver TV, they could deliver something. The Angry Birds are that something. You may find it a novelty but as the most popular mobile download in the world. it’s a big place to put some ads.

The rankings suck, off-court factors mattering suck, Finland sure as hell don’t suck. They play fun ball and they made what should have been a dull wild card process interesting. Good for the Susijengi.

We’ll have an interview with one of Finland’s bid team up next week, I have to hold it for a piece I’m working on for my day job.

Jan
1

Fearless FIBA World Cup Wildcard predictions

Tomorrow is the day we find out who the four wild card participants will be in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. BiE’s editor, Emmet Ryan, makes his call on who he thinks will get the tickets to Spain.

First off, I hate the wild card system. Merit should win out but the system is what it is. With that in mind I’m making these picks based on who I think WILL get in not who SHOULD get in. Without further ado, your four FIBA World Cup wild cards will be…

China – FIBA would love to give them a bloody nose but they can’t. They just can’t. They aren’t strong, they could well be the worst team in Spain, yet there is no doubt they get the ticket.

Brazil – They did an awful job at the Tournament of the Americas but the weakness of their roster in Venezuela strongly implied they knew they’d be in Spain either way due to their hosting the next Olympics and being a big market. They’re in.

Turkey – At no point have I flip-flopped on Turkey but to me this is a straight up fight of financial might between Turkey and Greece for the third slot. The Greeks have narrowed it, for most of the time I had Turkey well in front, but I think Turkey gets the ticket.

Finland – Yes, Finland. Their population is similar to Ireland’s, their performance at EuroBasket was good but not ‘there’s no way you can deny them a wild card’ good, and they don’t have the straight up cash money of Greece or Turkey. What they have is 40,000 Finns living in Spain and, far more importantly, the sheer muscle of Rovio. The Angry Birds game developers have promised FIBA a whole lot of mobile advertising space for a tournament that could do with every ounce of advertising exposure it can get. The Angry Birds are the game-changer here. Prior to this week, I didn’t give Finland a prayer. Now I say they take the flight.

Who do you think gets a wild card? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Sep
4

BiE’s Favourite Plays of Eurobasket Stage 1

The first stage is in the books and it will be all but stricken from our memory by around 14.29 CET. Before we cast it off to history, BiE’s rounded up our favourite plays from the opening stage.

Best face
Oh man Janis Blums. You’re the best.

Continue Reading…

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
1

Podcast: Featuring interviews with FIBA U19 World stars Exum, Okafor, Micic, Krestinin, Milunitov

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #43 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

In this week’s edition of the ‘cast we put the proverbial bow on a notable FIBA U19 World Championship with a half-dozen interviews (they’re brief, we swear) that Mr. Hein recorded amid writing up the Prague games for the FIBA folks.

Pitching in their two cents on subjects such as the competition itself, the future (particularly intriguing for Team Australia’s Dante Exum, who’s facing a decision of colleges if any at all and new BallinEurope fave Vasilje Micic, about to try and crack the national team roster for Serbia) and Dario Saric are Exum and Micic; Team USA’s Jahlil Okafor and assistant coach Shaka Smart; Denis Krestinin of Lithuania; and Team Serbia’s Nikola Milunitov.

And invariably, there’s other basketball and sports patter on “Taking the Charge”… Hein and yours truly mentally dispose of Dwight Who, praise the offseason moves of Olympiacos, and wonder about Zalgiris Kaunas dropping its affiliation with the VTB United League for 2013-14.

The sports movie up for review this week is The Damned United, a fantastic 2009 British production about if-not-mad-at-least-a-bit-tweaked genius football manager Brian Clough and his odd spell with Leeds United for 44 days in the mid-1970s. See it if you care at all about soccer/football, sports or really good dramas.

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
3

Team USA takes FIBA U19 Worlds, 82-68; Vasilje Micic with assist of the night

Congratulations from BallinEurope this morning go out to Team USA, which took the FIBA U19 World Championship title in finishing an undefeated romp through the tourney by taking care of business against Serbia last night, 82-68. Kudos, too, to Team Serbia and Lithuania, who did European basketball proud by taking the other two spots on the podium, the latter outlasting Australia in a 106-100 consolation-game barnburner.

BiE also loves FIBA’s “Assist of the [Championship] Game” nod given to Vasilje Micic. Micic’s fancy move to the basket has him finding center Doko Salic under the hoop for a (relatively) easy two and what would ultimately be Serbia’s biggest lead of the game at 9-4…

Official FIBA writeup and full official highlight clip follow. Continue Reading…

Jul
1

Just because: A look at some mock 2014 NBA Drafts (a.k.a. Way too early Saric-, Hezonja-watching)

From Fox Sports via the syndication wire, BallinEurope’ll put this one up here for the sheer audacity of it. Below runs exactly what the BiE headline advertises: The sports network’s admittedly “way too early” 2014 mock NBA draft.

And though it is indeed way too early to be thinking about June 2014, BiE’s already looking forward to seeing the exportation of Croatian ballers Dario Saric and Mario Hezonja to the NBA. Hezonja chose not to participate for Team Croatia in the FIBA U19 World Championship wrapping today, ol’ Super Dario has done his dominant-level best, ranking first in rebounding (12.3 per game), second in points (22.4), second in assists (5.5), plus Worlds-leading marks in minutes played (36.6), free-throw attempts (8.0) and makes (6.1); check out LiveBasketball.TV-produced highlight clip from Saric’s 30-point effort against championship-contending Team Serbia run below.

Naturally, specialists NBA Draft and Draft Express also have their mock drafts up (as do many others in the blogosphere, but only Draft Express appears not to pencil in the various teams with their finish for 2013-14). NBA Draft likes Hezonja and Saric to go at nos. 15 and 17, respectively, while the ‘Express has the guy Fox calls “potentially the next Drazen Petrovic” (really?) landing with a lottery team at no. 8 and Saric hearing his name called at … number 22? (Really?!?)
Roll the tape!

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Jul
0

Podcast: Talking FIBA U19 Worlds, NBA Draft class with former Team Iran/Poland coach Veselin Matic, Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #40 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

This week, the accent is on the game’s future stars. With Hein over there in Prague covering the FIBA U19 World Championship tournament and today seeing the final matches played, we talking about the happenings at that youth competition with long-time club and national team coach Veselin Matic as well as with Jonathan Givony of Draft Express, who’s naturally also in attendance. Givony also gives us his brief thoughts on the wacky 2013 NBA Draft…

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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Jun
0

Podcast: Featuring Team India coach Scott Flemming on FIBA rule changes, upcoming Asia tournament and “India’s Yao Ming” Satnam Singh Bhamara

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #41 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced weekly podcast Taking the Charge is now online and available for download via iTunes.

With little left say for club basketball in the 2012-13 season except offer sympathy for the San Antonio Spurs and possibly Maccabi Tel Aviv, the emphasis this week is on India – just in case you were doubting they even played the game on The Subcontinent and because what the heck.

Guesting on the program this week is Team India head coach Scott Flemming, who’s over there building up a program from the ground up. Flemming talks to us about myriad issues in what he has often described as “develop[ing] basketball at a grassroots level in the country,” including the importance of Twitter and tea breaks, forming a proper domestic national league, competing in the upcoming FIBA Asia Championship tournament, the recent FIBA rule changes and of course the guy billed as the “Yao Ming of India,” 7’0”, 300-pound (2.13m, 136.5kg) wunderkind Satnam Singh Bhamara.

And since it’s India we’re talking, the sports movie review of the week is all about that Bollywood gem Lagaan, a 2001 epic centered on late-19th century colonial India – and a crucial cricket match between villagers and British heavies. As one-half Bollywood musical, one-half historical drama, one-half cricket flick, this is one traditionally-styled Indian movie the sports fan must see.

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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