Is Jonas Valanciunas the problem for Team Lithuania?

And here’s a second question: Shall composition of the requiem for Lietuva’s 2012 Olympic bid begin now? Sadly, it doesn’t look good for our heroes with Team USA on the slate tomorrow and a first-round date with presumably Spain or (BiE’s pick) Russia in the knockout stage – and this in the 20th anniversary year of the country’s greatest-ever Olympic performance.

But first things first. Jonas Valančiūnas. Let’s just get right to the stat lines.
Continue Reading…


Plan Y for Team Lithuania (plus Official Fearless Predictions™)

BallinEurope’s Lithuanian agent Skyped BiE today with two words on his mind: “Lithuania’s doom.”

“Today?” BiE countered.

“No, it already happened two days ago,” said Y. and he was off with a prescient, simple formula for success after the 23-point blowout at the hands of Argentina.

Continue Reading…


Upset in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament today: What are the chances?

Right, so BallinEurope has already publicly logged Official Fearless Predictions™ for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament knockout stage in bracket format. Europe’s four representatives – group winners all – take on some decent African and North American competition, but nevertheless the bookies like an all-Europe final four in Venezuela.

Indeed, there’s a high probability that none of these favorites will be eliminated today. In Groups B and D produced a fair number of underdog victories in round-robin play: Venezuela over Nigeria, Nigeria over Lithuania, New Zealand over Angola, and (BiE maintains) Angola over FYR Macedonia. In contrast, the quite-predictable 2008 version of this tourney included zero upsets in round-robin play and really only one that might be called at least moderately surprise: Puerto Rico over Slovenia.

So which European teams should be worried about the upset today/tonight (tomorrow morning CET)? From least to most? BiE would say the list looks like this…

Continue Reading…


2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament Preview: Lithuania

The 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men tips off in Venezuela today at 11am local time (11.30am EST, 5.30pm CET) with the Russia-South Korea match. Of the 12 national teams competing, four are European. The last of BallinEurope’s previews of these qualifiers features an assessment of Lithuania.

Roster: Tomas Delininkaitis, Paulius Jankūnas, Mantas Kalnietis (Žalgiris Kaunas); Deividas Dulkys (Florida State University); Simas Jasaitis (Lokomotiv Kuban); Šarūnas Jasikevičius (Panathinaikos); Adas Juškevičius (BC Rūdupis); Rimantas Kaukėnas, Jonas Mačiulis (Montepaschi Siena); Antanas Kavaliauskas (VEF Rīga); Linas Kleiza (Toronto Raptors); Martynas Pocius (Real Madrid); Darius Songaila (CB Valladolid); Jonas Valančiūnas (Lietuvos Rytas); head coach Kęstutis Kemzūra (Team Lithuania)

How they got here: As hosts of Eurobasket 2011, expectations in hoops-mad Lithuania were high for the home side. Right from the pre-tournament friendlies, however, the roster appeared weird at best and utterly out of sync at worst.

Continue Reading…


Lithuania “struggles” in 77-68 loss to Russia: Kaun nets 21; Valanciunas gets 12, eight boards

Valanciunas was pretty good, though...

For lack of YouTube clips and FIBA posts, BallinEurope directs you to Lithuania Basketball for a brief writeup on the Russia-Lietuva friendly in Houston last night. The general gist: Despite taking a 37-35 lead into halftime, Team Lithuania struggled enough in the third quarter to take a 77-68 loss.

In fact, “struggle” appears to be the clear verb for the Lithuanians early on. Lithuania Basketball characterized the home team as “struggling quite badly this summer…” Thus far, they’re 1-3 with losses to fellow Olympic qualifying round teams Greece and FYR Macedonia plus a win against Team Britain in addition to this result.

Players of note included Sasha Kaun (21 points), Andrei Kirilenko (15 points, eight rebounds), Timofey Mozgov (10 points) and Sergey Monya (10 points) for Russia; Jonas Valanciunas (12 points, eight rebounds), Linas Kleiza (12 points), Jonas Maciulis (11 points) and Rimantas Kaukenas (11 points) for Lithuania.

Continue Reading…


Kemzura releases extended Team Lithuania roster: No to Lavrinovic brothers, yes to Kleiza

Kleiza gets the call

National head coach Kestutis Kemzura has released his list of 18 candidates who could be suiting up for Team Lithuania in the 2012 Olympic qualifiers and beyond. On paper at least, the selection looks pretty good – particularly compared to the Eurobasket 2011 version of the team which included a single true no. 3 after a few early injuries took their toll. The squad includes four players from Lietuvos Rytas and five currently with Zalgiris Kaunas; among the lot, too, are five others from 2011-12 Euroleague teams and one (yes, Linas is back) from the NBA.

Notable exclusions include Darius Songalia plus Kšyštof and Darjus Lavrinovič; Songalia’s spot on the preliminary roster was filled with Mindaugas Katelynas of Lietuvos Rytas, while CSKA Moscow head coach Jonas Kazlauskas reportedly wanted Darjus to stay home and rest up this summer anyway.

On board is the young sensation Canada wants to see in Jonas Valanciunas; returning after absences in the 2011 FIBA tourney are Linas Kleiza and Jonas Maciulis; and, though he’s been remarkably tight-lipped about yet another return to the national team, good ol’ Sarunas Jasikevicius is penciled in as well.

Below runs the prospective 18; how do you like Lietuva’s chances?

Continue Reading…


On the demise of Lithuanian Basketball

Jasikevicius: The long-term leader

BallinEurope is not exactly sure what led our man in Lithuania, the enigmatic Y., to contemplate the fortunes of his country’s national team … but who are we to question a Lietuva hometowner when it comes to basketball? Y. goes back eight years to figure out where things went so terribly wrong and unfortunately finds little hope for Team Lithuania’s future – even with the likes of Jonas Valančiūnas and Donatas Motiejūnas aboard…

Underachievement of a previous generation
The 2004 Olympic Games were a huge disappointment for Lithuania. As EuroBasket 2003 champions, the team was one of main favourites for silver (the fall of the “Dream Team” was still unimaginable). Lithuania, however, that year finished fourth: one step short of the prize it had collected in every Olympiad since the country’s independence.

This was the beginning of the demise of what was a top national team in the world. Players’ refusal to participate, retirements, injuries and an underachieving new generation – all these aspects contributed to Lithuania’s fall from basketball superpower levels to status as a regional great, capable of reaching a medal stage in the right circumstances.

Continue Reading…


The 20 best (Eurocentric) dunks of 2010

Retrospective time comes again to BallinEurope! But hey, who doesn’t like an excuse to watch a bunch of air-raising slam dunks? Following are 20 of the best dunks pulled off in Europe, by Europeans or on Europeans; whether historically significant or not, all have one thing in common: That awesomeness inherent only in a proper jam. Enjoy a year’s worth of emphatic twos from BiE!

• How great is everything going for Maccabi Tel Aviv this season? They even produced one of the greatest jams of the calendar year with Jeremy Pargo’s bitchin’ double-posterization in which first he breaks ankles before jamming it over (through, really) the hapless Zalgiris Kaunas big man.

Continue Reading…


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.

Continue Reading…


How it feels to be a Lithuanian fan

Last Tuesday in the 2010 FIBA World Championship, Team Lithuania completed a huge comeback to defeat the heavily-favored Spain 76-73 – just another win on the way to the tournament round, albeit an exceedingly exciting one, right? Wrong.

BallinEurope’s man in Lithuania, known in this space since last year’s LKL championship series insanity as Y., states that the Spain game meant a heck of a lot more for his country, the basketball-maddest in Europe if not the world. For Y. and his countrymen going into an elimination game with Argentina tonight, this edition of Team Lithuania is already heroic.

“Basketball is just a game, after all” – I remember reading this in Lithuanian media once. And I’m always thinking about it, about how that phrase really fits in our country.

In places other than Kaunas games are played in half-empty arenas, LKL mid-level games get astonishing lows in TV ratings, and our top players such as Šarūnas Jasikevičius more often opted out to rest in the summer rather than play for our National Team while, in comparison, other top teams like Spain always enjoy most of their roster intact.

“True,” I thought once, “we are not as mad about basketball as we would like to be.”

Continue Reading…