An English-language extrapolation of the interview follows. As of this writing, Liga Endesa-imported coach Joan Plaza still holds his position with Žalgiris, but Romanov’s evasive answer to the question of Plaza’s short-term future aren’t exactly enthusiasm-generating…
In advancing to the 2012 Olympic Games, Team Lithuania has written itself into the record books. BallinEurope’s Lithuanian agent Y. wants you to understand just how important this achievement is to the people of that basketball-adoring country…
“God, please give us victories. Some people don’t understand: This is all we have left. Basketball is the only thing that is keeping Lithuania together. The cheering, the singing, the same colors, all of this is what reminds me of who we are. We are a union, a family and some stupid Lithuanians make me forget that all the time. But when I look at our amazing team, who put their last efforts into winning, I cannot be happier. So God, please give us victories, all we want is to stay a country.” –L. Hasai in “And you? Are you aware of what this means for Lithuania?” the video celebrating the 2010 edition of the Lithuanian national team
Go and ask anyone who understands. It was a question of life or death for Lithuanian basketball last week in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela.
As soon-to-become four-time Olympian Šarūnas Jasikevičius drove past Puerto Rico’s Daniel Santiago with 31 seconds to go in the quarterfinal matchup, the country’s entire basketball chronicle flashed in the minds of every green-and-white fan. Lithuania, down one, was perhaps one failed possession away from losing an opportunity to reach London 2012.
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.
In clearing out the virtual desk of 2011-12 basketball season stuff, BallinEurope today presents this compilation of the year’s top Euro-centric buzzer-beaters. The requirements to make the list were two: the primary player in the buzzer-beater most be of European nationality or the shot must take place in a game featuring European teams; and the buzzer-beater must take place at the end of a quarter, i.e. no shot-clock buzzer-beaters considered.
Greater weight was given in consideration to the relative importance of the win earned with the highlight shot. Keeping one’s team alive is more important than YouTube glory, after all.
And on with the list. Firstly, honorable mentions go to:
• Travis Diener for Banco di Sardegna Sassari against Fabi Shoes Montegranaro on April 15. Sassari would go on to win in overtime, 79-77, and continue in a successful season which had them ultimately placing fourth in the Serie A. Unfortunately for the purposes of this post, not quite a buzzer-beater.
The PLK season ended on Wednesday in the same fashion as the previous eight seasons: Namely, with Asseco Prokom Gdynia holding Poland’s basketball championship title, as Trefl Spot managed to take the series to seven games but in the end fell 76-68 in the final match.
And so the league has released its semi-obligatory “Top 10 plays of the playoffs” video; figuring heavily into the highlight clip is Asseco Prokom in general with eight moments of glory. But just as throughout the regular-season, Donatas Motiejunas proved that he’s worthy of more attention than that from the Houston Rockets and Lithuanian nations; indeed, the big guy went for 23 points and 11 rebounds in the decisive game.
D-Mo boasts roles in no fewer than four of the PKL’s top 10, displaying nice athleticism, speed and sheer control of the paint. Below see Doncė:
• at no. 10, with an easy one-handed jam;
• at no. 7, with an effortless swat of a Jermaine Mallett shot in the lane;
• at no. 4, producing another easy throwdown two in transition (incidentally, can the Rockets bring Jerrell Blassingame over, too?); and
• at no. 3, showing off his passing skills with a bouncer around the defender to find Adam Lapeta for a jam.
Yesterday, the basketball-centered bit of the Twitter universe was centered in two real-life locales: New York City and Barcelona. Topics in play were the falling of ping-pong balls in New York City and Euroleague’s incipient decision on the construction of Euroleague 2012-13. Hopefully, BallinEurope will get something together on the former later, but for now, BiE’ll attempts a quick look at the roster of teams for the upcoming season.
The three-year A-licenses are currently under review, but you gotta figure Caja Laboral Baskonia, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahçe Ülker, CSKA Moscow, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Montepaschi Siena and Žalgiris Kaunas are in. Asseco Prokom Gdynia is in the second year of its license, making them the 12th of the 24 teams.
Also up for review is Unicaja Malaga. While Spain is still even officially considered *the* best domestic or regional league in Europe (more on this momentarily), the big league could certainly defend a yanking of the license based on the team’s bottom-half finish in the Liga Endesa and consistently better recent performance by Valencia BC.
Virtus Roma is the only original A-license team to have been removed from the EL roll call, getting its placement in Euroleague ball “suspended for having finished in the bottom half of its national competition.” Unicaja might easily find itself on the Eurocup level for 2012-13; let’s just say a *lot* of things would have to happen to even get the team into the EL qualifiers.
This is how things have worked throughout history: From crises emerge heroes. And heroes create the losers. Sometimes underdogs have more advantages simply because they have nothing to lose. It’s not unusual that we see situations like a 10-man football team winning against a stronger side. Sometimes having options confuses minds, creates problems in concentration and ambiguity in methodology. Those who have no real options perhaps have just one way and they become focused on the goal, which brings about greater optimization and efficiency.
I was thinking like this before the match: “If CSKA wins, there will be not many stories but in case of Olympiacos winning, there will be a variety of options in exposing the classical underdog story with many different perspectives. I hope Olympiacos wins.”
The day before the Euroleague final, I was at Abdi İpekci Hall to see some action in the Nike International Junior Tournament. There I saw Stevislav Pesic, also one of the greatest coaches in European basketball, the man who famously brought a European title to both Germany and Alba Berlin, who were real underdogs. I thought that it would be a great idea to take some predictions from him. Said Pesic: “I was not suprised when Olympiakos won against Barcelona, because Barcelona changed its game this year and were somewhat inconsistent throughout the season, whereas Olympiakos improved much compared to the beginning of the season.”
As befits tradition, the 2012 Nike International Junior Tournament is running in parallel with the Euroleague Final Four competition in Istanbul. Eight youth league teams are competing for the grand prize – and, individually speaking, to garner some attention from club scouts as each player’s career burgeons on the big stage.
In the bigger picture, the NIJT games (and introductory qualifying tournaments) also serve as a handy barometer of club play on the national level. After day one, then, it’s good news for Croatia and Lithuania, whose homegrown squads swept, and bad news for Turkey, as powerhouses Fenerbahçe Ülker and Anadolu Efes both lost. And what’s up with FC Barcelona…?
KK Zagreb 79, Fenerbahçe Ülker 76
As though The Next Big Thing Out Of Croatia, a.k.a. 2011 NIJT MVP Dario Saric, weren’t enough, NIJT competitors will also apparently now have to take notice of Dominik Mavra as well. While Saric put in a ridiculous man-among-boys performance of 26 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and five steals, Mavra “added” 30 points and six boards as the pair consistently foiled any attempt by Fenerbahçe to establish their tempo: Each went to the free-throw line 12 times in the game and accounted for over 70% of the Croatian side’s points.
Crvena Zvezda 86, FC Barcelona Regal 77
The much-touted Blaugrana suffered a disappointing performance against Crvena Zvezda to take a nine-point loss after going up 18-12 in the first quarter and 20-15 after 10 minutes of play. Worse for Spanish basketball, Barcelona’s main contributors were foreigners Ludde “El Matador Sueco” Hakanson, Nick Spires and Alexandr Zhigulin. Crvena Zvezda’s big men pretty much had their way with Barça’s – even Spires’ 13 points belies his frustrating 4-of-15 overall shooting – as Serbia’s Dusan Ristic put in a crushing 23-point, 12-rebound (including six offensive) show.
Nike Hoop Summit 2012: World Select tops Shabazz Muhammad, Team USA; Dario Saric contributes double-double
For just the fourth time in 15 years, Team USA lost the marquee match at the Nike Hoop Summit to the World Select squad. Dario Saric, a.k.a. The Next Big Thing coming out of Croatia, put in a double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds in the World’s 84-75 win, with the latter mark tying the record currently also held by Dirk Nowitzki, Milan Macvan and Nemanja Aleksandrov.
In a post-game interview with the NBA Draft Insider, Saric agrees that he might best serve as a “point forward” – after all, the smooth ball-handling Croatian enjoys the playmaker position best but he’s just a bit too tall. On the other hand, Saric lists his role model as Magic Johnson…
Also of Euro-centric note: Enes Kanter’s record-setting mark of 2008 was topped by the USA’s power forward Shabazz Muhammad, who was good for 35 points … Vytenis Cizauskas of Lithuania saw some quality time and grabbed five rebounds.
The entire game – including warmups and post-game press conferences – may be found on the YouTube channel of Net Scouts Basketball; quarter one, part one runs below to get you started. Official FIBA writeup of the game follows the video.
Bad news from Lithuania for Žalgiris Kaunas, NBA teams seeking a viable free-agent guard for 2012-13, and Sonny Weems himself. After suffering a foot sprain in Žalgiris’ LKL 88-71 victory at Rudupis, Weems’ season may now be done and, if so, the former Toronto Raptor reports he’ll be heading back home to the ‘States.
Making matters worse is a reported lack of proper medical treatment in Lithuania. In short, Weems tweeted this morning that “This is ridiculous. I can’t even get treatment on my injured here!!! This is ridiculous!!”
If you wanna see something really ridiculous, take a look at the state of Weems’ left foot on TalkBasket.net. Yikes. Best of luck to Sonny in getting back on the court for 2012-13…