Jul
0

Sarunas Jasikevičius retires, joins Zalgiris in coaching role

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Sarunas Jasikevičius, one of the most decorated players in European basketball history has formally announced his retirement.

It feels like Saras has been a veteran for ages and that’s probably because he has been. At 38 he’s finally hanging up his kicks to work as an assistant coach with Zalgiris Kaunas, with whom he won the Lithuanian title this past season, in the LKL and Euroleague.
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Jun
0

Blatt’s Cavs to take on Maccabi in pre-season

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Euroleague champions Maccabi Tel-Aviv are heading to the US and they’re going to run into an old friend. The Euroleague champions will play the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on 5 October in the Euroleague US Tour. Last week the Cavaliers hired David Blatt, the man who led Maccabi to Euroleague glory this past season, as their new head coach. It may be pre-season but this is bound to be an emotional occasion for Blatt as he takes on his former charges.

Two days later, on 7 October, the Tel Aviv club heads to Brooklyn to take on the Nets at the Barclays Center as the second and final part of their US tour.

The pre-season games will take place shortly after Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s participation in the Intercontinental Cup. The Euroleague champions will take on FIBA Liga de las Americas champions Flamengo in a two-game series on 26 and 28 September at the Gimnasio Maracanazinho in Rio de Janeiro. The competition, which had been idle for almost 30 years, was re-started last season when Olympiacos Piraeus beat Pinheiros Sky.

Jun
2

David Blatt smashes the glass ceiling

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The Cleveland Cavaliers and David Blatt have come to terms, giving the Boston born coach with over 30 years in the European game his first taste of a NBA head coaching gig. Emmet Ryan says this could be a defining moment for European coaches.

You don’t have to go back all that far in history to a time when European players, or indeed any player from outside the USA, was seen as incapable of cutting it in the NBA. It wasn’t until the likes of Drazen Petrovic, Toni Kukoc, Vlade Divac, and Arvydas Sabonis made their mark that Europeans were truly accepted in the league. Dirk’s MVP season struck another blow. The steps have been taken by players in jerseys, the idea of a player whose formative years were outside of the United States not having what it takes is seen as foolish in the modern era.

Coaches however simply haven’t made the breakthrough. Ettore Messina’s single season as an assistant with the Lakers was a big deal. It opened up the prospect of a coach who had made it to the top in Europe being able to transition to the US. Messina was linked with NBA head coaching gigs less than a month ago and now looks likely to join the Spurs as an assistant. Blatt, who is of course American born, is the breakthrough we have been waiting for.

Much as the Bostonian is a noted Celtics fan, he is very much a Euro in the eyes of the NBA. This isn’t Mike D’Antoni with his flavour of Italy coaching in the bigs. Blatt is a Euro lifer. Nearly his entire professional playing career and his full two decades as a coach have been in Europe. Blatt has enjoyed phenomenal success often when resources said he shouldn’t have. Maccabi Tel Aviv’s win in Euroleague this year was the most obvious example but he has taken care of business in Italy and Russia as well as on the international stage. When Russia beat Spain in EuroBasket 2007 they knocked off the reigning World Champions. That was followed up with a bronze in London 2012.
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May
0

The Ballin After: Blatt, Rice, and Ingles talk about Maccabi’s triumph

Emmet Ryan sends his final video dispatch from Milano as David Blatt, Tyrese Rice, and Joe Ingles talk about Maccabi Tel Aviv Euroleague triumph.

May
1

Final Four: Maccabi beat Real Madrid 98-86 in OT to become champions of Euroleague 2013/14

Maccabi tifo

Rarely has a title game at any level seen so many lead changes as Maccabi Tel Aviv and Real Madrid served up a thriller at the Assago Forum in Milano. Emmet Ryan reports on an all-time classic Euroleague final.

It took them a little longer to fill the arena than Friday night but once again Maccabi Tel Aviv’s supporters made sure this was anything but a neutral site game. Real Madrid’s players were greeted with a chorus of boos for warm-ups and it only got louder when the players were introduced. Once more Maccabi sought to pull off an upset but this time they had to contend with an offensive force that has dominated the continent all season.

Rudy Fernandez kicked off the scoring with a three. Sofoklis Schortsantidis opened Maccabi’s account. Sofo takes down Rudy hard up the other end and the battle was on. Yogev Ohayon gave the Tel Aviv club it’s first lead of the game and it was oh so physical. Maccabi’s plan was to punch Real in the nose and keep punching. Both teams struggled from the field early but Maccabi had no desire for this to be a shootout. At 8-5 with just over 5 minutes gone, the first timeout was called. A chance for Real’s players to catch their breath and re-focus. Ioannis Bourousis immediately ran into a double team. He drew the foul but did it the hard way. Maccabi weren’t letting up. Every stop by Maccabi was cheered like a three up the other end. Devin Smith stretched the lead to 6 with a mid-ranfe jumper before Rudy finally responded from deep. Sergio Rodriguez sat ready to come in as Felipe Reyes put Madrid back in front. Chacho returned to his seat. The Euroleague MVP wouldn’t see any action in the first quarter. Real ahead by the narrowest of margins, 16-15, going into the second frame.

Chacho came in to start the second quarter. Rudy leapt in like a madman for a board. He was nowhere near it but he sent the message, if Maccabi were going to be physical so would he. Fernandez picked up two boards either side of a bucket before Chacho landed a three. Real were now up 6 and Maccabi called timeout. Felipe Reyes started to have his way with Maccabi’s D, the faster pace of the quarter suiting his game. Maccabi’s offence had no answer and Real knew they had a chance to make a dent in the Tel Aviv team’s confidence. Marcus Slaughter pushed the lead to double digits briefly before David Blu finally opened Maccabi’s account in the second quarter after nearly four minutes. Reyes hurt Maccabi again on the inside, pausing to make room before hitting the lay-up, then adding another in similar style on Real’s next possession. Blu was the one man keeping Maccabi in it and the veteran reeled Real in again. It could have been a bloodbath at the break, instead Blu nailed a three on the buzzer that meant Maccabi only trailed 35-33 at half-time.
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May
0

The Ballin After: Blatt on that miracle

Emmet Ryan looks back on Real Madrid’s dominant display against Barcelona and we hear from David Blatt about Maccabi’s miracle against CSKA.

May
1

Devin Smith: “We can compete with anybody”

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Devin Smith of Maccabi Tel Aviv spoke with BallinEurope’s Emmet Ryan ahead of Friday’s Euroleague semi final with CSKA Moscow.

Devin Smith told Ballineurope.com that he was confident in Maccabi’s shooting options ahead of their clash with CSKA but that the team as a whole needs to succeed more on the glass.

“We have different players who step up for every game. That allows us to spread the floor and make shots for everybody,” said Smith.

“Rebounding has been a weakness of ours throughout the season. In this type of situation it comes down to the effort and the will to get the ball. Everybody has the fight and determination to make up for that.”

Smith made the comments at Thursday’s practice ahead of Friday’s Final Four game with CSKA Moscow. Smith said the team’s test in the playoffs against Milan would stand to them on Friday night.

“We hit a little rough patch in the Top 16 but we finished in a great position. We matched up with Milan pretty well. Winning one game here allowed us to go back to Israel pretty confident on our home court,” said Smith.

“It helped us grow as a team. Coming here and winning in this building, I don’t know if Milan lost many game here. Some of our players really grew from that situation, Alex [Tyus], Tyrese [Rice], really became a part of our team in that playoff series.”

Smith said the underdog label was fine with the Maccabi side but that his team has the talent to go all the way this weekend.

“Maybe we’re not favourites but when we play our type of basketball we can compete with anybody. It comes down to how much we want it and how hard we play,” said Smith.

“We’re going to have a lot of supporters here. They’ll want to see us fight, battling for the ball. Maccabi’s fans travel well and they are really excited to be here to support us,” he said.

“The best motivation is lifting that trophy. This is what we work for all year, to be the top team in Europe. You can’t really add anything else to that.”

For regular updates of all the action in Milan, follow BallinEurope on Twitter.

Apr
8

Fearless predictions: Euroleague playoffs

BallinEurope only went 6 of 8 in picking the teams to make the post-season and one of those sides we didn’t have faith in won’t be happy with how we see the playoffs shaping up. It’s fearless prediction time.

Barcelona vs Galatasaray

Pick: Barca in 3.

So we didn’t think Galatasaray would make it this far and now we’re saying there roll a doughnut in the post-season. Harsh? Perhaps but we’re standing by it. Barcelona’s slump at the end of the Top 16 can’t disguise a 22-0 start to Euroleague this season. This team is going to Milan, the question is how many games it will require. Much as Galatasaray deserve credit for holding their nerve in the wild battle for fourth in Group F, they look to have drawn a pairing suited to exploit them. If it’s any comfort, we seem to have given Pops Mensah-Bonsu some added motivation.

Real Madrid vs Olympiacos

Pick: RMB in 4.

This was a tough call to make and not for the reason you might think. Real Madrid look to have the most complete team in Europe this season. If they weren’t utterly unbackable, I’d take RMB to walk into a 2-0 series lead without blinking. The question in my mind is whether they will be able to finish the Reds off quickly or if it will require them going back to Madrid. In the end I split the difference and called it Real in a 3-1 win.

CSKA Moscow vs Panathinaikos

Pick: CSKA in 5.

Honestly, this was the easiest call of the lot. You could slot in any opponent and I’d have trouble believing this CSKA team would take care of business the easy way. It’s just not been their style all season. If any series goes the max, this will be it. Panathinaikos still look capable of taking care of business back home but neither of the Greek giants looks like final four material this year.

EA7 Milano vs Maccabi Elektra Tel-Aviv

Pick: Milano in 4.

This is about as good a style match-up as Milano could have hoped for. They have the weapons to hurt Maccabi and to do so repeatedly. Home court in the final four isn’t something that comes around every year and that’s plenty motivation for Milano. It could have been a source of nerves but the maturity this outfit showed in the Top 16 makes me think otherwise. For the first half of that phase Milano kept stumbling, not quite doing enough to convince skeptics like me (who said they wouldn’t make the post-season) of their worth and then boom they caught fire. The Barca win is what most remember but the change had already happened. They had evolved from could-bes to probablys.

So where have I gone horribly wrong? Please vent your frustrations in the comments.

Dec
0

Group F: The knowns and the unknowns

The slate is clean for the Top 16. We’re breaking down what we know about each team in the second phase, what we want to know, and what we think we still won’t know after 14 rounds of action. We went through Group E yesterday, now it’s time to look at Group F.

Real Madrid
What we know: They are an offensive monster. Going 24-0 in all competitions to date, this is the best start enjoyed by any Real Madrid team ever.
What we want to know: Their weaknesses. Even a team this good has to have some but nobody’s come close to testing them yet.
What we won’t know: How they handle a low-scoring match-up.

Maccabi Tel-Aviv
What we know: They are so Maccabi. This team is business-like but stops well short of flashy. Yup, sounds like what we expect from this outfit every year.
What we want to know: How they stack up to RMB.
What we won’t know: Their ceiling. This is the weaker of the two groups and a 10-4 record is possible without causing any major shocks.

CSKA Moscow
What we know: They are flawed. Talented, yes, and en route to the playoffs but inconsistency has dogged this team when it was the one aspect Ettore Messina was expected to fix this year.
What we want to know: If they can settle on their best line-up.
What we won’t know: If any of this matters. In a flip from last year’s team, the ability to get hot in a hurry may be this side’s saving grace.

Galatasaray Liv Hospital
What we know: They are weaker than their record. All statistical measures outside the W-L column point to this team being in much worse health than the regular season record indicated. Over 14 games, that’ll be tough to mask.
What we want to know: If there’s a plan longer than half a season.
What we won’t know: See above.

Zalgiris Kaunas
What we know: They are survivors. No VTB League campaign, struggling in LKL, yet here they stand in the Top 16.
What we want to know: How they are going to balance their priorities.
What we won’t know: What the long-term future is.

Lokomotiv Kuban
What we know: They are seriously motivated to make an impact in Euroleague, as evidenced by a regular season where they silenced many doubters.
What we want to know: What was on their bulletin board to get them so fired up through the autumn.
What we won’t know: Where to buy a good beer in Krasnodar.

Partizan Belgrade
What we know: They will give one of the top three teams in this group a heart attack on their home court.
What we want to know: If they can play consistent enough to mount a real challenge for the last playoff spot.
Whzt we won’t know: If this is a renaissance or a blip.

FC Bayern
What we know: They are the most dangerous looking team from the Bundesliga to enter the Top 16 in a long time, which admittedly isn’t much of an achievement.
What we want to know: If they can capitalise on a soft group and get that last playoff spot.
What we won’t know: The date at which all of Europe should realise these guys ain’t playing anymore and a real power is emerging out of the Bundesliga.

Fearless prediction: Real to take top spot, Maccabi to squeeze CSKA for second, leaving the mother of all fights for fourth. Kuban look the best bet on paper but…this is a fearless prediction so nope. FC Bayern to steal it from the cookie jar.

Nov
1

Euroleague Heats Up As Barcelona & Nanterre Record Dominant Victories

The Turkish Airline Euroleague continued as Group A and D matches were underway. The highlight came from Group A as FC Barcelona as it defeated CSKA Moscow 79 – 70 in a hard-fought game. Barcelona’s Juan Carlos Navarro was the key difference as he scored 17 of his 20 points after halftime, making 3 of 4 two-pointers, 3 of 5 threes and 5 of 5 free throws while dishing 3 assists, to secure the win.

CSKA did try to stage a comeback, reducing the gap to 8 points during the fourth quarter, but Barcelona never lost control, and made sure that there was significant distance between the two teams at the final buzzer.

In the second Group A game, JSF Nanterre dominated Budivelnik Kiev for its entire game as it recorded a comfortable 80 – 61 victory in Paris, marking the team’s first home victory in the Euroleague.

After an impressive win over FC Barcelona last week, Nanterre took control with a 17 – 3 first quarter run, controlling the game from start to finish. Thanks to some fantastic three-point shooting in the first half, the team was ahead 51 – 23 and the visitors had no response. Will Daniels scored 14 to lead a balanced Nanterre effort that saw all but one player score.

The final Group A game saw Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul continued its unbeaten run after rallying from a double-digit deficit, beating Partizan NIS Belgrade 78 – 88 and securing top spot with a 4 – 0 lead.

Partizan built a double-digit lead in the second quarter, and held a 38 – 30 halftime lead, but Fenerbahce rallied as Bojan Bogdanovic and Emir Preldzic spearheaded the offense. The duo hit back-to-back triples early in the fourth quarter, sparking a 4 – 14 spurt that put the game out of reach.

It was Bogdanovic who came out as top scorer, capping off an impressive display with 26 points on 6-on-9 three-point shooting.

In Group D, a number of exciting games took place, the most notable being Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv registering its third consecutive win by edging Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius 74 – 76, Devin Smith pacing the winners with 18 points.

In the other games, Eurocup champion Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar needed Krunoslav Simon to bury the game-winner in the final second to beat Panathinaikos 69 – 72 in an exciting game, while Crvena Zvezda Telekom Belgrade picked up its first Euroleague victory by taking down Laboral Kutxa Vitoria 63 – 73 in a tough away game.

- Quinton O’Reilly (@qoreilly)