Touring bullets: Notes, links, videos on Euroleague American and NBA Live tours

Who cares if the games are meaningless in any real sense? BallinEurope missed the Euroleague American Tour and NBA Live Tour games tremendously in 2011 – one item doubtlessly on BiE’s list of underrated casualties of the player lockout – and is thrilled to see them back.

In just a couple of hours, the Boston Celtics and Fenerbahçe Ülker will tip off the first of eight games to be played in five days’ worth of international club clashes, as teams in both continents’ big leagues prepare for 2012-13 seasons. This evening, a few notes, links and videos for you themed on these tours; naturally, BiE’ll be doing this in the time-honored tradition of the ESPN TrueHoop Network, i.e. bullet-style. To catch tonight’s and the other games, head over to Euroleague TV.

• The Dallas Mavericks’ goal on their European road trip? To build team chemistry. Also, on Saturday in Berlin, Dirk Nowitski expects to seat some 100 friends and family. Loftily stated Dastardly Dirk, “I told the NBA for all the crap I’ve been doing for them for fourteen years they better hook me up with a bunch of tickets.

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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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Eurocentric NBA highlights, bullets: Parker’s big game; Nuggets top Heat; Deng rules over Celtics; Rubio masterful as ever in first start

BallinEurope gets things rolling on Saturday with highlight clips – okay, some links to online stuff You Should Read as well, but the main point is highlight clips, right? This morning, then, a quick look at some excellent performances turned in in last night’s NBA action from the Continent’s top players. Starring Tony Parker, Luol Deng, Tiago Splitter, Ty Lawson, and of course a certain Spanish point guard you may have heard something about…

• Tony Parker contributed perhaps his best NBA performance of 2011-12 last night, with 20 points and nine assists to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 99-83 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Fellow TrueHoop blog 48 Minutes of Hell does some “Statistical Sleuthing” in an excellent piece on Parker’s play in the paint and at the rim this season, for ages a strength for the Spur.

After crunching the numbers, 48 Minutes’ Aaron McGuire deduces that “The fact is, Tony Parker has been playing atrociously, *especially* at the rim, and it’s tough to say whether this should make Spurs fans excited or terrified. Why excited? It’s easy to simply chalk this up to small sample size and assume he gets better as the year goes on, which would be an instant improvement to San Antonio’s already gelling offense. Terrified is more obvious — if this represents a permanent change in his game, the Spurs are essentially down to *no* all-star caliber offensive players.”

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The Eurocentric 2011-12 NBA Eastern Conference preview (plus Official Fearless Predictions™)

While basketball lovers are getting something of a Christmas gift this season in the December 25 NBA opening day – BiE says “something of” there because this belated debut is kinda like your parents saying, “Well, we’ll just give you your birthday gift at Christmas.” When your birthday’s in October – BallinEurope would like to add to the virtual bounty under the tree with our annual Eurocentric NBA preview.

Here’s BallinEurope’s predominant working theory for at least the first two months of this season: The teams with more critical players who did a stint in Europe (or South America, for that matter) during the lockout will jump out to the best starts. And with a shortened season increasing the importance of every individual game, imagine what a, say, 17-5 could mean in the long-term – for a European equivalent of this model, how ‘bout that CSKA Moscow turbo boost?

So Kevin Garnett’s complaining that the preseason is too short … guys like Deron Williams have already been in real-game situations. Manu Ginobili is well rested but not “in basketball shape?” The Danilo Gallinaris, Mehmet Okurs and even the Gasol Brothers of the basketball world are set to go. More back-to-back games than ever before in NBA history? Hey, perhaps those two-a-days European coaches are so notorious for assigning will have readied these NBAers well more than the fortnight many of their colleagues are getting.

BiE would even argue that latecomers such as Tiago Splitter and late-peakers like Serge Ibaka are surely few steps ahead of the many American ballers who did not take Continental clubs up on even the most outrageous of offers. It is with this dictum in mind that this preview and Official Fearless Predictions™ were written. Today, the Eastern Conference.

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Cartoon Dirk takes his talents to “Cleveland”

Last Sunday in the ‘States, prime-time animated program “The Cleveland Show” ran its take on the NBA All-Star game. Chief among the player cameos was that of Dirk Nowitzki, who gets to do lots of stuff about how he doesn’t speak English so good. Nowitzki was joined by Lebron James (really), Shaquille O’Neal (no surprise there), Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.

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Pau Gasol versus the vampires (and BallinEurope versus Bill Simmons)

Yes, but can he survive in the daylight?

BallinEurope yesterday read the latest anti-Laker screed basketball column by ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons, an alternately funny and blood-boiling confession-style bit about conditioning one’s children to cheer for the “right” sports team, i.e. Daddy’s favorite team.

Ultimately, however, The Sports Guy’s affectionate look at dominating your child’s formative years is perhaps best characterized as “disturbing.” And BiE’s only saying this because he’s a huge Lakers fan and the Boston Celtics can burn in hell of his profound belief in children’s self-determination.

After Simmons’ 5½-old daughter Zoë demonstrates an excellent liking for the color purple (good girl!), the ‘Guy decides to do what any unscrupulous and absolutely typical die-hard Boston Celtics fan would: Namely, he informs the wee lass that Kobe Bryant is an abusive father, that Phil Jackson’s love of dogs is matched only by Michael Vick’s, that Ron Artest wants to punch him in the face (this one might be true, actually), and that Pau Gasol is a vampire.

Unfortunately, writes Simmons, “that made her like [Gasol] more,” before going on to lament that “F***ing Edward [Cullen of “Twilight”] swayed an entire generation of girls under 15.”

This last bit made BiE immediately realize two things:

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Most popular jerseys in Europe: Top 10 half European; Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade still rule

Huge seller

In advance of the Los Angeles Lakers-FC Barcelona game next week, fans of both teams in Europe are helping make Pau Gasol’s NBA jersey one of the hottest items among The Continent’s basketball faithful.

Gasol reached no. 4 on the NBA’s official list of jersey sales in Europe. The list was compiled from sales at major clothing and sports paraphernalia outlets throughout the continent. Traditional big-seller Dirk Nowitzki dropped a bit to no. 9, passed by Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon but nipping Tony Parker, Danilo Gallinari and Joakim Noah, who rounded out the top 12.

The top 15 runs as follows:

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Champions Crowned: Los Angeles Lakers, Brose Baskets Bamberg take titles, Montepaschi Siena almost

Now add 2010

Congratulations go out from BallinEurope to the Los Angeles Lakers and Brose Baskets Bamberg for taking national titles last night/this morning, while Montepaschi Siena is one big step closer to ending up Serie A champs yet again.

The last shall be first: You may have heard that the Lakers won their second consecutive NBA title already … in a remarkable display of D and despite notably horrific shooting, Los Angeles managed to overcome a 13-pont third quarter deficit and win, 83-79, over the Boston Celtics in the decisive game seven.

BiE’s favorite highlight? This one involving the Lakers’ 13th man, of course:

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Fearless prediction: NBA game seven (also BBL, Serie A finals)

From the Because I Have A Blog Department, the BallinEurope official fearless prediction (TM) for game seven of the NBA Championship Series.

(Drumroll, please.)

Because BiE is a huge adherent to the completely irrational belief that only in sports can there be poetry, this fearless prediction says…

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Giant slayers: Caja Laboral Baskonia wins 70-69, pushes FC Barcelona to brink

Brazil's Huertas: World Cup? What World Cup?

In a season already spiced with big playoff upsets, Caja Laboral Baskonia may be adding the biggest to the list yet, as the Basque Country boys held on through an insane final minute of play to eke out a 70-69 win over FC Barcelona.

And now things in Spain have become suddenly unthinkable as the team touted by some (ahem) as among the recent European basketball club greats must take a 2-0 deficit – and certainly waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay less swagger – on the road.

For Baskonia, the win marked the recent dominance this team has enjoyed over Barcelona, truly making them unusual in Europe. Until last night, Barcelona hadn’t lost to the same team twice in one season since the 2009 ACB playoffs – when they were bounced 2-1 by a team called Tau Cerámica. Oh, and the then-Tau managed to swipe two games from the Blaugrana in the 2009 Euroleague semifinals as well.

And last night’s game was a real classic for the ACB annals to be sure. Terence Morris did a swell Kevin Garnett impression, acting as though Tiago Splitter had elaborated upon his skills in Gasol-esque fashion, crushed the Brazilian underneath repeatedly for an early 6-0 Barça lead.

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