Fearless Predictions: 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball +++ It’s Jet-er not Jee-ter, watch Pooh get ready for the World Cup +++ EuroBasket 2015: Romania the odd team out on the final night +++ Gran Canaria gets the Phantom treatment for USA vs Slovenia +++ TrueHoop breaks down how David Blatt will work with LeBron James +++ FIBA World Cup Preview: Group D +++ BiE’s editor takes the ice bucket challenge, nominates Basketball Ireland boss +++ Žydrūnas Ilgauskas considering a comeback? Wow LeBron has power +++ The Dream Team’s children +++ Highlights: Belgium beat Belarus, Germany stay alive +++

USA 100, Spain* 78: Notes, highlights, miscellany

Well, then. If not quite as emphatic as in the days of Dream Teams I through III, Team USA dispatched the world’s second-best/Europe’s best side for a 100-78 win over Spain in Barcelona. Though the notebook on the Red, White and Blues mostly accentuates the positive, one doesn’t quite need to squint to see chinks in the armor – particularly with that glaring asterisk in the box score, i.e. the absence of Marc Gasol and Sergio Rodriguez.

In an Olympic field that appears to be the strongest ever on paper, could a flawed team like this one still grab the gold? (And if flawed teams are in the running for a podium spot, is Lithuania more enthused?)

A few lines from BallinEurope’s notebook and other stuff (like highlights) follow.

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Ramunas Siskauskas: The BallinEurope video tribute

On Monday, European basketball great Ramunas Šiškauskas announced his retirement from the game: A story that was noteworthy enough for even North Korean sports fans to be notified. In his official statement, Šiškauskas said that he’d “made my choice in the middle of the season. It was not connected with anything specific – I just feel I should stop. I can only be excited about my career” and that “I am glad I was able to quit as a significant player, playing for such a great team and organization as CSKA Moscow.”

At 33 years of age, Šiškauskas put together a 16-season career with BC Sakalai Vilnius, Lietuvos Rytas, Benetton Treviso, Panathinaikos and CSKA Moscow plus seven years with Team Lithuania in FIBA and Olympic play – good for a gold and two bronzes.

And in that decade and a half, Šiškauskas amassed just under 1,500 points in seven Euroleague seasons on 49.8% shooting including 42.3% on threes. His back-to-back EL titles earned in 2007 and ’08 are among his many individual-career and team highlights … aw, hell. Let’s dispense with further formalities and get to the Ramunas Šiškauskas career tribute in traditional BallinEurope fashion, i.e. with lots of YouTube clips! We’ll miss ya, Ramunas…

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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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NBA Nuclear Winter settling in; Twitter bursts with news of player exodus

You know who benefits from the NBA player lockout? Twitter, that’s who. The website has become an endless source of interest as each event/non-event transpires in the NBA lockout soap opera. Minute to minute, commentators, players, pundits and rumormongers pithily weigh in and/or report on the immediate future of professional basketball in America…

…and Europe! The Continent-centric BallinEurope has unabashedly become addicted to the little birdie’s ‘site, and yesterday proved quite fruitful for those anxiously awaiting more imports into top pan-European and domestic leagues. After the dismal news of Monday and impending dissolution of the players’ union plus imminent anti-trust lawsuits, more and more stars are finally willing to cut the cord to the NBA, bite the bullet and, you know, try that whole European basketball thing.

Below run the results what BiE’s Twitter scorecard from yesterday; stars include the Gasol Brothers, Kevin Durant, Jan Vesely, Joakim Noah, Tiago Splitter, Kyrie Irving and many more.

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Introducing the 2010-11 BallinEurope Festivus Invitational Tournament

As a holiday present to the audience, each of you has received courtside tickets to the first annual BallinEurope Festivus Invitational Tournament. Thanks to the miracle of totally BiE-unaffiliated (and totally mind-blowingly awesome) website What If Sports, we can bring together great players of the past and present for true dream matchups – and without all the messiness of traditional time travel.

For this inaugural event, six virtual invitations were extended to some of the most memorable players and squads in basketball history. Paradoxes caused by requiring a player to play against another version of himself (a feat thus far only successfully achieved by M.J.) were kept to minimum with only one player – Chris Bosh, oddly enough – forced to warp the spacetime continuum a bit. (Although Coach K could also be appearing simultaneously on opposing sidelines as well.)

Take a look at the rundown of these six teams to imagine the outcome: Who will win the BiE Festivus Invitational? Stay tuned and happy holidays, everyone!

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Official 2010 BallinEurope mock draft, version 3.1: Round two, the first 15

With just days to go before 2010 NBA Draft. BallinEurope’s man in the U.K., Sam Chadwick is frantically formulating and reformulating his mock draft board. Today, Chadwick forecasts the first 15 choices in round two, including his homeboy/new best buddy Ryan Richards

31. New Jersey Nets: Jerome Jordan (7’1”, C, Tulsa, Senior). New Jersey picks up another big man to come off the bench behind Lopez, giving the Nets a starting unit of Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Chris Douglas-Roberts, prospective no. 3 overall pick Derrick Favors and Lopez, with a second unit of a free-agent PG, Terrico White, Terrance Williams, Yi Jianlian and Jordan.

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Kahn reiterates: Rights to Rubio are untouchable

Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn reiterated his bold stand on the team’s overall no. 5 NBA draft pick, Spanish wunderkind Ricky Rubio, to the Minnesota Star-Tribune last night.

To wit: Rubio is untouchable in this off-season.

The move by the man they sometimes call KAAAAAAAAAAAAHN prompted Star-Tribune writer Jerry Zgoda to collect quotes on Rubio from some big names in the NBA. If you think BallinEurope is gushy about the Spaniard, check out what folks like King James, Kobe, Pau, Marcin Gortat, Chris Paul, Jason Kidd, Mike D’Antoni and Flip Saunders have to say about him.

(Here’s the summary: Rubio will be anywhere from “good” to “special” to “amazing” in the NBA; his basketball IQ is well above average; has leadership qualities to go with the proverbial tremendous upside; and his sole weakness appears to be general strength and conditioning.)

More story – and obligatory video featuring the Human YouTube Clip himself, this one with soundtrack by Duran Duran (i know, i know) – below the break.

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Prokhorov watch: Media frenzy escalates (or, How do you say “Believe the hype” in Russian?)

Prokhorov, possibly looking for John Helmer

Prokhorov, possibly looking for John Helmer

Geez, maybe CBS should just go ahead and hire Mikhail Prokhorov to appear regularly; after all, the CSKA Moscow/prospective New Jersey Nets owner’s appearance on “60 Minutes” has made the American television program an international topic of conversation to an extent it hasn’t enjoyed in a decade, triggering hoopla, excitement and the inevitable blogging on both sides of the ocean.

The big man in the ESPN True Hoop network, Henry Abbott, was moved enough to proclaim that “The next decade, for Nets fans, is going to be so different from the last one.” (Actually, for Nets fans’ sakes, let’s hope the 10s aren’t too different: After all, New Jersey did make six consecutive playoff appearances, five times getting at least as far as the semifinals, and twice playing in the NBA Finals with a bona fide Hall of Famer.)

Notes Abbott:

The Prokhorov portrayed in that “60 Minutes” story is someone plenty of NBA players would love to get to know better. [...] Prokhorov’s most famous misstep could even serve him. Besides buying the Nets, the thing he may be best known for is getting arrested at the French ski resort of Courchevel in early 2007. He was released without charges, but the police who nabbed him told him they did so with the belief the eight attractive young women traveling with his party were prostitutes.

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Shawn Kemp, Jason Kidd, Earl Boykins and Europe

Being at a basketball camp 24/7 right now does not help in staying on top of things: Today there are 129 new emails in my inbox and a lot of new developments going on. I guess I’m lucky to be at the 76ers camp, where the director has great connections and informs me about current events from time to time.

Wearing this shirt initiated the latest news tough. As you can imagine, Shawn Kemp is a pretty big deal for Europe. Especially if you grew up in that era with him and Gary Payton. Shawn Kemp was THE deal, right?

Well, Shawn has been offered a contract by Italian club Premiata Montegranaro and if you know a little bit about Shawn’s recent problems, you might want to believe that he be would be more than glad to take this offer.

My five cents: If Shawn Kemp signs in Europe, I am buying season tickets for that team!

Earl Boykins finally took a deal in Europe which many believe he should have done much earlier, like last season, when BallinEurope was already discussing the possibility. Now, Earl has signed with Virtus Bologna, a team which struggled mightily with their Americans last season – Delonte Holland, that is.

As you see, there is no need to speculate, especially when you hear the birds in Olympiakos telling people that even LeBron James is an option in 2010 when his contract is over; let’s talk about that … in 2010.

Let’s keep it realistic – like Jason Kidd realistic. Talking to basketball experts, a Jason Kidd move to Europe would not surprising to them at all, since nobody is a real fan of him for being on the Olympic team. We might have to talk about Jason Kidd in Europe pretty soon – pretty seriously!

That’s all from the deep deep Poconos in beautiful Pennsylvania, U.S.A.


US national team announced – are you scared?

I followed a lot of ESPN Sportscenter, Around the Horn and other stuff like that today. The US National team was announced:

Named to the 2008 USA Basketball Senior National Team were: Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets); Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz); Chris Bosh (Toronto Raptors); Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers); Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic); LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers); Kidd; Chris Paul (New Orleans Hornets); Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons); Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks); Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat); and Deron Williams (Utah Jazz). Duke University Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski is head coach of the USA Senior Team program. Serving as assistant coaches are Syracuse University and Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, New York Knicks head mentor Mike D’Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.

Don’t get me wrong, these names are the top performers of worldwide basketball entertainment and any team would love to have just one of these guys on their roster, but do teams like Spain, Lithuania and Russia have to be scared? No, not at all.

You still need to have a team and really take pride in representing your nation. I do know guys like Dirk Nowitzki are busting their a** off right now, with three or four training sessions a day, just to qualify for the Olympics. Do you really think one of the guys above does care that much?

Following the NBA Finals taught me one thing about US Basketball: You might be the best guy in the world, but if somebody wants it more than you do – you will lose, right Kobe?

Another thing you might have seen during the NBA finals: It is still a TEAM that wins championships – you can’t do much,when they isolate your top star with a box-and-one defense, right, Kobe?

So am I scared, or do I feel like “these other countries caught up with US Basketball” (as said on every single TV show on ESPN today)? No and yes. I’m not scared, and European basketball does not have to catch up – we are right there, guys!

As excited as I am about the start of the Euroleague season, I’m excited about this year’s Olympics, right, Kobe?