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May
1

Euroleague Final Four semifinals: Top five plays

Right, then, here’s the big league’s official “best of” clip from last night’s semifinal games, starring Rudy Fernandez, Marcelinho Huertas, Juan Carlos Navarro, Giorgi Shermadini and Nenad Krstic with his only two points in CSKA Moscow’s debacle…

EL 2013 FF banner468x60

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Apr
4

Explaining BallinEurope’s Euroleague MVP ballot (plus the top 25 for 2011-12, highlight clips)

In the interests of complete transparency – hey, somebody in Hungary should aspire to such – BallinEurope today presents the outcome of a heavy Euroleague basketball-watching habit plus several hours of intense thought: Namely, the five names that went onto BiE’s media representative’s ballot for 2011-12 Euroleague MVP.

Since there’s no way the chosen quintet will make anybody completely happy – even though surely the top seven or eight (depending how you feel about certain American imports in Lithuania) individual performances in the 2011-12 ‘League would surely be agreed upon by the great majority of Euroleague fans – BiE will explain the thought process behind the vote and show the initial list of 25 from which the five players receiving points were winnowed. (Bonus: YouTube clips, natch.)

In backwards order, then…

• Toughest omissions – Henry Domercant, Erazem Lorbek and Sonny Weems. Each was so emblematic of their teams in 2011-12, with Domercant and Weems veritably carrying their clubs at times to unexpected Euroleague success. Unics Kazan got attention early in the regular season with a few monster performances by Domercant – including the amazing 30-point, seven-rebound show against Montepaschi Siena in the opener – but Bad Henry actually became more consistent and more well-integrated into the Kazan offense as the team’s season progressed.

Weems kept the overachieving Zalgiris Kaunas afloat – and more – after Ty Lawson returned to the NBA post-lockout, plus gets bonus points for performing among the more YouTubable in European ball. Keeping Weems off the ballot were a couple of off-games in the Top 16 round which may have ultimately kept the Greens out of the semifinal round – and the man did turn over the ball the second-most frequently in the EL, too…

Most notable about FC Barcelona – even more so than in previous years of title glory – is the team’s incredible defenses. Lorbek has controlled the paint on D to make the Blaugrana’s zone traps even more effective and together with Pete Mickael has been triggering fast breaks off the boards while playing in all 19 Euroleague games. Plus, what if someone had told you at season’s beginning that the leading scorer for 2011-12 on Juan Carlos Navarro’s team would be the big Slovenian?

Tough to leave off this expectation-scattering trio, one and all…

• 5. Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
After not exactly fitting into the Boston Celtics after an ill-advised trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder late in 2010-11 and reading the writing on the wall vis-à-vis the player lockout, Krstic may have been the first NBA refugee headliner to sign in Europe. And whoa, has the investment paid off for CSKA Moscow. In Krstic, the Red Army has the ‘League’s no. 1 in accumulated performance index rating, no. 2 in average PIR and no. 5 in points scored – with a shooting percentage of just under 64% overall. A big man among the big men at Moscow, Krstic had to get on the ballot.

• 4. Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
• 3. Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
• 2. Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos

BiE swears that with each coming year, the playmaking guard becomes even more disproportionately important to European and/or international success. Case in point, these three guys in 2011-12; first, the statistical highlights for each:

McCalebb – 16.9 points per game on 61.3% overall shooting, 2.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 17.29 average PIR
Diamantidis – 11.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 17.00 PIR
Spanoulis – 16.5 ppg on 49.7% overall shooting, 3.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 16.37 PIR

Bear in mind all are in the top five in average index rating behind a couple of dudes on CSKA Moscow and that none of three have missed a single game for their teams – now who do you choose? The reputed “fastest man in Europe” and Euroleague top scorer who can lead break after break though doesn’t have the best eye for the open teammate (Gee that’s kinda 2003-04 Kobesque)…

…or the more-than-sum-of-parts guy who just happened to chase last year’s EL MVP bid by leading the league in assists and three-pointers made plus added priceless veteran leadership of a three-time champion…

…or do you go with BiE’s selection from among the three, i.e. the “rock in the middle of that roster … on whom all the Reds could rely” with a career year on the only surprise in the Euroleague Final Four?

• 1. While deciding among the 2 through 4 and 5 through off-ballot positions was difficult, the top choice was the opposite. Yes, BallinEurope went for that most polarizing (only the basketball gods know why) player of 2011-12, Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow.

Forget what you may think about his consistent-if-not-mindblowing tenure with the Utah Jazz and the virtual all-star squad CSKA management set him up with in the 2011 offseason: The AK-47 has had a monster year. His average PIR of 24.07 per game played is more than 19% better than the nearest competitor (Krstic) – such a mark is currently the 15th best for a single season in the modern era and would be the highest by any player advancing past the regular season since Anthony Parker for Maccabi back in 2004-05. And while he’s “only” ranking seventh in ppg at 17.0, he’s tops in rebounds and blocks plus no. 2 in steals, making him the sole player even close to the top 10 in those four statistical categories.

To say Kirilenko did it all in 2011-12 (short of helping CSKA bag that EL title, plus also maybe the VTB United and PBL trophies) would be an understatement blown away early in the season. By week five, haters should have been silenced by his sick 17-point, 15-rebound, five-assist performance at Zalgiris Kaunas in the league opener or awed by the odd 2-for-3 shooting night that earned a massive 39 PIR against Unicaja Malaga while Kirilenko gave up the body in very un-NBA fashion for seven fouls drawn and 13 FT attempts.

Yes, Kirilenko missed five Euroleague games and yes, CSKA went 5-0 in that run, but BiE dares say that no single player in the 2011-12 EL became the center of focus every minute he’s on the floor the way that this season’s prospective MVP did – four player-of-the-week awards should prove it.

This season, Kirilenko rules. Let the comments begin.

The top 25 players, as BiE sees it for 2011-12, were the following.

Guards
Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
Henry Domercant, Unics Kazan
Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona
Milos Teodosic, CSKA Moscow
Jaycee Carroll, Real Madrid
Devin Smith, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Omar Cook, Emporio Armani Milano
Marcelinho Huertas, FC Barcelona

Forwards
Andrei Kirilenko, CSKA Moscow
Sonny Weems, Zalgiris Kaunas
Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid
Mike Batiste, Panathinaikos
Marko Banic, Gescrap Bilbao Basket
Viktor Khryapa, CSKA Moscow
Bojan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahce Ulker
Pete Mickael, FC Barcelona
Richard Hendrix, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Felipe Reyes, Real Madrid

Centers
Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
Erazem Lorbek, FC Barcelona
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Giorgi Shermadini, Bennet Cantu
Luka Zoric, Unicaja Malaga

Feb
3

National Cups: Real Madrid ends 19 years of futility; Beşiktaş, Chalon take first-ever titles; Montepaschi Siena continues dominance

Congratulations go out from BallinEurope today to a quartet of national Cup holders in Real Madrid, Beşiktaş Milangaz, Chalon-sur-Saone and Montepaschi Siena. The former three victories are set to be particularly noted in club annals: Real ended a 19-year drought while Beşiktaş and Chalon both bagged their first-ever championships in their respective national cup tournaments after each were runners-up in 2011. Below run game wraps and highlight clips.

In Spain, Madrid won their first Spanish Cup since Arvydas Sabonis was on the team with a convincing 92-74 victory over FC Barcelona on the Blaugrana home court. Twenty-three was the magic number for Los Blancos, as Madrid took its 23rd such title behind 23 points from tournament MVP Sergio Llull. An extrapolation from the Liga Endesa’s official site goes something like the following.

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Apr
4

Briefs, highlights on European prospects bound for NBA (maybe)

Lima: Ready for prime time?

Basketball has needed the “Darkometer” for years, and the innovative duo over at Euroleague Adventures has finally delivered on our collective desire. Check out the introduction to the concept, which seeks to define a handful of would-be NBA draft picks against the utter awesomeness of the Darko Milicic phenomenon, i.e. the unknown quantity-cum-no. 2 overall selection.

BallinEurope was consulted in making up the individual player entries along with Euroball-reporting luminaries like Slam and Freaknick of ELA; Alejandro Gonzalez of Net Scouts Basketball; and Simas Baranauskas of The Lithuanian Perspective and Lithuanian Basketball.

While only the entry on Jonas Valenciunas is up at present at the ‘Adventures, BiE today provides his unadulterated superbrief takes (plus YouTube clips, natch) on a baker’s dozen of European prospects, soon to be incorporated on the Darkometer. Enjoy!

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Nov
3

Euroleague week three talking points, part II

Five Euroleague games are to be played tonight, each bearing a number of scintillating storylines – well, okay, maybe not the nearly history-bereft Cholet-Lietuvos Rytas matchup, but you get the point.

For your perusal, then, a few factoids, bites of information and videos in the leadup to tonight’s action. Enjoy the games, and best of luck to Union Olimpija; BiE thinks they’re gonna need it.

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Nov
2

The Frank Euroleague roundup, week two

Maric a true big man

Francesco Cappelletti’s regular column with BallinEurope is back as our man in Italy takes a look at the after-effects of Euroleague week two action. This time out, Francesco sees European basketball history returning to the old days on the Continent while Balkan squads fight economic problems but dispatch Western European teams anyway. And early on, what have proven to be the better Euroleague transactions involving big names and bigger contracts? Read on!

The *big* problem
The recent history of European basketball shows an amazing evolution to starting fives full of dynamism and athleticism, but not weight – even in the 5 position, originally land of real big men limited in the paint. We were used to having pick-and-rolls, then pick ‘n’ pops. Now it seems it’s time to go back to the old traditions.

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Oct
1

Highlights from Union Olimpija-Efes Pilsen 2OT thriller

The Euroleague’s game of the night last night and probably ultimately in all of week one was seen in the Union Olimipija-Efes Pilsen battle – and BallinEurope does mean battle – in Ljubljana. By the time the buzzer sounded, some 8,700 had thrilled to only the third double-overtime regular-season game in EL history, with Olimpija surviving, 95-90.

Official highlight clip and writeup follow the break.

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Oct
6

Frank answers to four burning Euroleague questions

He’s back! Emerging out of hiding (or perhaps digging himself out of work with youth squads plus Italian-language sports media) is BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Francesco Cappelletti. As the season progresses, Cappelletti will be opining as to what really went down in a week’s worth of Euroleague matches. Today, four key themes that will be threading their way through the 2010-11 season – and the frank take on ‘em.

Welcome back Euroleague … erm … Turkish Airlines Euroleague! Someone just said you look like the poorest edition in recent years and that your groups are less competitive than Eurocup’s, but we love you just the way you are anyway.

What do you offer for 2010-2011? Yeah, the unbeatable Regal Barcelona and the usual group of pretenders, divided between those for whom spending money is no problem even amid civil disorder (for information, phone Athens) and teams able to hide behind the justification of cycles coming to an end just to put some money away waiting for financially better times: That’s the case of Montepaschi Siena and CSKA Moscow.

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Apr
2

Musli, Shermadini say no to 2010 NBA Draft

This just in (Okay, about five hours ago): According to the always excellent Draft Express, at least two high-profile young European players will *not* be entering their names into the NBA’s 2010 draft pool. Tweeted one of the Expressers:

Serbian Dejan Musli & Georgian Giorgi Shermadini will not be entering their names in the 2010 NBA draft, their respective agents inform us.

Musli most recently appeared in the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, but has been playing for various Teams Serbia on the international scene for a while.

After playing in the 2008 and 2009 Nike International Junior Tournaments (the latter culminating in his 31-point performance for LMP Belgrade in their championship game win over Lietuvos Rytas; see below video), Musli impressed at last summer’s FIBA U18 European Championship Men: His play there earned his a first-team All-Tournament team and in turn was parlayed into a nomination for FIBA’s first “Champion U18 All-Star Game” later in 2009. Continue Reading…

Feb
3

The Frank Euroleague roundup: Top 16, week four

Not this year

Not this year

The critical week four of Euroleague Top 16 action is in the books, but Ball in Europe’s man in Italy, Francesco Cappelletti, is still musing on the shifts ‘n’ events thanks to these eight games. This week’s frank roundup wishes Panathinaikos bye-bye, gives mucho deserved props to Pini Gershon, and bestows an “accolade” upon Zabian Dowdell. Read on!

Goodbye Panathinaikos
Before this week, it seemed nearly impossible that Panathinaikos would put itself again on the road to the playoffs. The evidence for the Greens’ struggle weren’t in the numbers which still didn’t damn the defending champions, but somehow it was all in the body language, the play expressed by a group which showed complacency and an unwillingness to fight, to get their hands dirty.

Maybe Zelimir Obradovic thought his men would have woken up when it counted; instead, even against Regal FC Barcelona, into an in-and-out game whose content must recall for Mike Batiste and his teammates remember not-so-faraway times, PAO looked like the same squad devoid of motivation, tactical themes, and unselfishness that appeared during the first phase. FC Barcelona simply had to stay close to the Greens until the final moments, when it was cleared which was the real united group and which was a jumble of overpaid men – though not overrated, be careful – unable to unify.

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