Dunk of the Week: Willie Warren introduces “Dunk de la Mort II”

Shades of Vince Carter were shown by Maccabi Rishon’s Willie Warren, who pulled off one of this season’s most incredible dunks anywhere in his team’s 88-82 defeat of Bnei HaSharon on Sunday. Check out the closest approximation to Carter’s infamous “Dunk of Death” we’ve seen since originally pulled off at the 2000 Olympics. Fulfilling the Fred Weis role is Jumaine Jones.

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Report: Maccabi Haifa hires disgraced former Syracuse coach Bernie Fine

Despite some sordid (and reportedly not exactly consistent) allegations against him, former longtime Syracuse University assistant coach Bernie Fine has found employment in Israel. Marc Stein of ESPN is this morning reporting that Fine has been hired by Maccabi Haifa BC as a consultant to the team. The decision is expected to be announced today.

Fine, whose professional career in basketball coaching goes back to 1970, ultimately specialized in working with big men for Syracuse. Notable names emerging from his tutelage include Rony Seikaly and John Wallace, the latter of whom European basketball fans may recall from his season with Panionios. The coach’s resume also includes a World Maccabiah Games title earned in 1993 with that tournament’s Team USA squad.

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The Italian Maccabi: Why Montepaschi Siena must win the Euroleague

With the Euroleague quarterfinals tournament beginning later this month, many are penciling in either CSKA Moscow or FC Barcelona as 2011-12 title holders. (Indeed, the odds at a representative sportsbook have the former at 4/5 and the latter at 5/2.) Meanwhile, relative dark horse Montepaschi Siena (running, with shortest odds, at 11/1) may be under the most pressure to finally win this ever-elusive championship.

BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini, tells us of the overwhelming importance of this year’s tournament for the dominant Serie A club – and why you shouldn’t go to sleep on these guys despite the presence of monster teams in the final four round…

It must have happened to everyone, regardless of the sport you’ve played in your life. You were once a player or part of a team that was way better than anyone else in your school, league or even playground. After winning it all at home, you get a pass to the next level and have the chance to compete on faraway stages.

The first thing you realize as soon as you leave your habitat is that there are far too many guys who are taller, bigger and, ultimately, better than any opponent you’ve been used to.

Yeah, kicking ass at your old playground is still cool, but you now have some bigger butts to aim at. You can’t really call yourself satisfied as long as you get out-bullied by someone every time you move away from home.

This is exactly how Montepaschi Siena feels right now: For the Siena organization, status as a juggernaut at home makes any Euroleague failures even harder to digest.

In the last five years, head coach Simone Pianigiani’s team has won pretty much everything winnable in Italy (five national championships, four national cups, five national super cups) while never giving any other team a real chance to disturb the dominance.

When it comes to the Euroleague though, Siena has historically missed that little something to step up and make it to the highest spot on the podium, settling for third place in 2011 and 2008, and consecutive fourth-place finishes when Pianigiani was assistant coaching in 2003 and 2004..

Year after year, Siena has added new guns to a solid core of reliable veterans, accumulating experience as well as distress at the lack of results. The lingering fear is that Montepaschi is becoming a Maccabiesque team, namely an undisputed monopolist of a declining national league – notwithstanding, the Italian league remains more challenging than the Ligat Ha’Al –that strives to compete with the other European elite teams.

But how could you possibly improve more than Siena has season after season? What else can you bring to the table with the budget of a small and young reality? Siena president/general director Ferdinando Minucci has won on lots of gambles (e.g. Terrell McIntyre, Romain Sato, Bo McCalebb) and never resisted efforts every year to improve a team dominating the national league on a regular basis.

Now, Siena has the depth and consistency to beat Olympiacos in a best-of-five showdown and is equipped with a number of high-inflammable talented scorers (McCalebb, Igor Rakocevic, Pietro Aradori, Ksistof Lavrinovic) who can make the difference in no-tomorrow games in the Istanbul Final Four.

The feeling is that Siena is already set to win the Euroleague and just needs that extra sparkle, that unnamed little something, to finally ignite the last momentum. There is little time left to wait: Should the title not arrive in Istanbul, it may become necessary to revolutionize the current team and start a new project.

Courtesy of a group of players led by Sarunas Jasikievicius at the peak of his career, Maccabi Tel Aviv finally broke the European spell and brought home a couple of Euroleague titles back in 2004 and 2005. After the back-to-back wins, Saras crossed the ocean and sought fortune in the NBA.

McCalebb, currently the most dominant point guard in Europe by far, declared he won’t go to the NBA next season. Is he waiting to pull of a back-to-back Maccabi-like trick?

Enrico Cellini is lifelong basketball fanatic and a long-time sportswriter with a focus on Italy and Spain. He was born among European hoops, was raised watching the NBA, and thinks choosing between American and European basketball is like choosing between one’s mother and father. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Italian-language blog Hoop Addicted.


Euroleague Power Rankings: Do-or-die Week Edition

The key word in week three of the 2011-12 Euroleague Top 16 round: Blowout. The closest game was decided by eight points (Bennet Cantù 82, Maccabi Tel Aviv 74) and the average match showed a 16-point differential as certain teams (CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena) asserted their superiority, a couple of sleeping giants (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos) stirred, and two (Unicaja Malaga, Emporio Armani Milano) firmly established themselves as this stage’s busts.

Going into tonight’s games four, nothing has changed within the elite, though mid-pack much jostling for position may be seen. With the group leaders all in excellent position to at least solidify a strong hold on a semifinals berth, this could prove to be a make-or-break week for no fewer than those nine sides in the scrum.

The key word for week four, then, in BallinEurope’s estimation: Injuries. The ‘bug is truly hunkering down amid some Euroleague teams, and one could build a pretty decent roster from those who are out, questionable or hampered this week. Potential difference-makers who will be sitting include, among others, Viktor Khryapa (CSKA); Ante Tomic (Real Madrid); Omer Onan, Marko Tomas (Milano); Kerem Gonlum, Ermal Kuqo (Anadolu Efes); Steven Smith (PAO); and Shawn James (Maccabi Tel Aviv).

Below run another edition of the BiE power rankings as we enter this decisive week. Once again, please note that these rankings are an indicator of how teams are trending, with some consideration given to play in other leagues and heavy emphasis on Euroleague results.

Without further ado, then, onto the rankings! Go ahead, you can guess the first four, surely…

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Euroleague Power Rankings: Big Red Machine, Blaugrana Rolling Edition

After a week two loaded with upsets and shocking blowouts, BallinEurope’s Euroleague Power Rankings go through quite a shuffling going into Top 16 round, week three … except of course at the top, where all indications have the championship matchup between CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona feeling more inevitable than ever. How is your team faring on the (sorta) big board this week?

Traditional advisory warning: These ratings are pretty much highly subjective, as they are formulated from one source, i.e. BiE, and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on Euroleague performance especially, and particularly on the two games each has registered in Top 16 play.

And on to the rankings!

The undefeated
1. (↔) CSKA Moscow (12-0 in Euroleague play overall; 9-1 in VTB United League, 8-1 in PBL)
2. (↔) FC Barcelona (9-1 EL; 13-3 ACB)
3. (↑) Montepaschi Siena (10-2 EL; 13-5 Serie A) – No surprises here, unless you count the emphatic statement wins recorded by each of these elite teams in week two at Maccabi Tel Aviv, vs. Anadolu Efes, and at Real Madrid, respectively. NBA fans are chattering about a shortened season? Ha! With each of these teams at 2-0 and having knocked off the no. 2 contender within their groups, they’ve all made the 2011-12 EL Top 16 round a hell of a lot more urgent for nearly every side in the big league.

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Euroleague Power Rankings: Top 16 Tip-off Edition

It seems like forever, but Euroleague 2011-12 resurrects itself for Top 16 opening night tonight. What better way to celebrate, reckons BallinEurope, than with some good ol’ power rankings?

Once again, the caveat emptor-ish bit: These ratings are formulated from once source (namely yours truly) and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on performance in the latter bits of the EL season.

To the rankings!

Top dogs
1. CSKA Moscow (10-0 in Euroleague regular season; 8-1 in VTB United League, 7-1 in PBL) – Remember the date December 10, 2011: That’s the last time the scary Red Army lost, in falling to BC Khimki in Russia while getting just seven minutes out of Andrei Kirilenko. The Red Army’s only loss before that was exactly one month prior when they fell in a squeaker at Spartak St. Petersburg in their VTB opener. Considering the starting team alone – an all-star squad of Kirilenko, Milos Teodosic, Nenad Krstic, Ramunas Siskauskas, Viktor Khryapa – BiE has to wonder what non-NBA team could beat ‘em. Even after the star power, the CSKA Moscow bench contributed 43.2 points per game in Euroleague play while the team leads in overall performance rating, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. This has got to be considered the team to beat in 2012.

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Euroleague Power Rankings: November edition

With two Euroleague games in the books for each team and something of an overall picture developing, BallinEurope unleashes the November edition of its ever-“popular” power rankings for the two dozen squads. For reference, edification and jollies, the preseason edition of the ‘rankings may be seen here.

Once again, advisories in effect: These ratings are formulated from once source (namely yours truly) and are based on the way teams are trending at present, i.e. Bennet Cantu is not necessarily *better* per se than Fenerbahçe Ülker, et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on performance in each team’s pair of EL games thus far, i.e. BiE knows Union Olimpija is 5-0 in the Adriatic League.

Without further ado, then, let’s get to the rankings! (Žalgiris fans, you may want to consider before clicking “Read More.”)

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Dirk, Dydek and beyond: Weekend video clips

European basketball leagues and the NBA may be coming to a close for 2010-11, but there’s still plenty of hoops to keep up with – and even more online video clips for the watching! BallinEurope starts your Sunday with a dozen clips shot in the U.S., Greece, Spain, Israel and other locales. Enjoy today’s action (Olympiacos-Panathinaikos! ACB semifinals!) … after checking out BiE’s playlist, of course.

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Brody, Pollin, Seiden “on the map,” into immortality with HOF inductions

America’s National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame has announced its inductees for 2011, well representing basketball with an NBA executive, a college notable and one of the most significant figures ever in Maccabi Tel Aviv history.

In the spirit of “last shall be first,” BallinEurope first congratulates Talbot “Tal” Brody. After his senior, All-America year with University of Illinois in 1964-65, Brody was chosen by the Baltimore Bullets as the no. 12 overall pick in the ‘65 NBA draft – but he forewent the opportunity to play ball in the big league, instead preferring to finish a graduate degree (imagine that happening today).

For the 1966-67 season, Brody began his career with Maccabi; the team immediately ascended to the European Champions Cup final four round with Brody starting at no. 2. Military commitments returned Brody to the ‘States for a couple of years and the SG played with the fifth-placing Team USA at the 1970 FIBA World Championship.

Returning to Israel for good for the 1970-71 season, Brody was soon made immortal in Israel sports history by guiding Tel Aviv to the European Champions Cup in 1977, part of the franchise’s first triple-crown season and the country’s first major sports championship. His post-game comments preserved a spot in history proper when he declared, in the face of certain geopolitical pressure from the Soviet Union throughout the competition with specific reference to Israel, the Cup victory to signify that “We are on the map, and we are staying on the map – not only in sports but in everything.”

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