Zalgiris loses to Minsk, drops to 2-6 in tight European-league games; what is happening in Kaunas?

Ksistof doesn’t get it either…

The conversations BallinEurope has with peers in the European basketball blogosphere lately tend to drift toward one team: Žalgiris Kaunas, the hardest luck team in Euroleague basketball.

No, wait, strike that. Let’s start over.

The conversations BallinEurope has with peers in the European basketball blogosphere lately tend to drift toward one team: Žalgiris Kaunas, a team that, in spite of a roster chockfull of experienced talent, simply cannot close out games and fall apart in the clutch.

It’s one of the two, anyway. Or maybe not: Perhaps we can lay the blame at Joan Plaza’s feet (though expectations going into the season were long) or on the subpar refereeing (which might be stretching things a bit considering the sum total of questionable calls in game seven of the Euroleague Top 16 round worked out in the Greens’ favor).

Maybe the front-office issues and lack of payment to players have been overwhelmingly distracting (as Marko Popovic told heinnews and BiE in a recent Taking the Charge podcast interview, “We made a deal at the beginning of the season that this team would stay together until the end of the season, no matter what happens. Hopefully people are going to recognize the way that we play for this club, the way that we show on the court and hopefully the financial status is going to change. We are just focused on the court. Of course we hear the rumors going on around the club but we are trying to be focused, which is not easy, I gotta be honest…”

Maybe it’s none of the above, some of the above, or all of the above. But with Žalgiris now looking at a 4-6 record after another heartbreaker to Real Madrid last week, Lithuania’s remaining representative may have already bad-lucked itself out of a Euroleague playoff spot after starting out at a strong 8-2 clip. An examination of crucial moments may give some insight into the Bizarro equivalent of last season’s Olympiacos squad. Or perhaps not.
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Podcast: What’s up in Kaunas and Bamberg? Interviews with Marko Popovic, Bamberg scouting director Brendan Rooney

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #23 — a belated 50th birthday gift to His Airness, then — in the heinnews/BallinEurope-coproduced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online.

David Hein and yours truly feature two interviews this time out, fortuitously timed in the wake of last week’s Brose Baskets Bamberg-Zalgiris Kaunas cliffhanger. First up is Marko Popovic, Zalgiris’ hero in the game for, as coolly as ice, sinking three consecutive free throws with literally 0.0 left on the clock in overtime for the Greens’ win. Popovic speaks candidly on the off-court transactions affecting Zalgiris’ play particularly in the Euroleague Top 16 round and about Team Croatia’s chances in the FIBA Eurobasket 2013 tourney.

Also joining us for some jibber-jabber is Bamberg scouting director Brendan Rooney, who not only tells us exactly what his job is and how a St. Louis native ended up in Germany, but also sheds some light on his team’s woes in the big league this season.

Finally, our sports movie review feature this week is a good ol’ double feature — though both flicks are only marginally related to sport. We look at the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock classic “Strangers on a Train” and the Strangers-inspired “Throw Momma From the Train” starring high-profile Los Angeles Clippers fan Billy Crystal back in 1987.

This entire episode of “Taking the Charge” may be downloaded here. Thanks for listening and talk to you next week!

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On Zalgiris Kaunas and developing Clutch Identity

Zalgiris Kaunas logoAfter watching Žalgiris Kaunas stumble through heartbreakers and possible backbreakers in the Euroleague Top 16 round, BallinEurope’s agent in Lithuania, Y., couldn’t help but confirm his suspicions about the Greens’ performances in crunch time. Y. probably wasn’t, but you may be surprised at the secret culture of losing within the Lithuanian power…

It’s almost unreal, as though the Gods of Basketball had banished one green-and-white soul from Lithuania with no prospect of return, a club that should be grouped with FC Barcelona, Olympiacos Piraeus, CSKA Moscow and other teams who have a long history, produce amazing talents for national teams, lead their respective national basketball, and simply win.

Yet for some reason, BC Žalgiris seems destined to lose.

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Monday Hangover: Žalgiris Kaunas impressive again; Saric’s 2012-13 debut; Goldsberry’s Bizarro Buzzer-Beater of the Week

Goldsberry, who won for losing

Damn, BallinEurope watched a lotta sports this past 72 years: Euroleague games, highlights, quarters here and there, a VTB United game, three hours of late-Sunday night NFL football, two sports-related films for upcoming Taking The Charge podcasts … life is ball games … and especially basketball, but unfortunately BiE watches almost nothing live and compresses most viewing into the weekend.

So no further ado: Three quasi-brief impressions from the bigger games, done up bullet-style.

Žalgiris: Ever interesting, ever relentless. BallinEurope’s recommended EL game of the week was Žalgiris Kaunas at Emporio Armani Milano. Žalgiris, with its slight vulnerability shown lately, needed to make a statement in this game in BiE’s opinion. Don’t worry Greens men and women: After this game, your guys will be sure to move up in the BallinEurope Euroleague power rankings

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Euroleague Top 16, Week Two, Night One: Six games, 100 facts

Courtesy the Euroleague folks, BallinEurope brings a compendium of facts and figures spanning history and record books regarding tomorrow night’s slate of a half-dozen games – plus lines on the games and highlight clips. Enjoy!

CSKA Moscow vs. Anadolu Efes Istanbul
• CSKA leads the all-time series between the teams, 8-7.
• Nenad Krstic has scored in double figures in each of his last 16 Euroleague appearances dating back to the 2003-04 season.
• Andrei Kirilenko and Nenad Krstic lead the Euroleague in index rating with at averages of 27.8 and 21.5 per game, respectively.
• Kirilenko also leads the Euroleague in blocked shots (3.2 bpg).
• Milos Teodosic is ranked second in the Euroleague in assists this season with a career-high 5.6 assists per game.
• Darjus Lavrinovic needs three more blocks reach 100 for his Euroleague career. With his next block, Lavrinovic will tie former CSKA big man Terence Morris for 12th place all-time.
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List of 2010-11 European Basketball Champions

With most leagues drawing to a close and playoffs beginning – not to mention champions already crowned in Albania, Cyprus, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Norway and a few regional leagues – BallinEurope returns its “List of European Basketball Champions.”

At present, only the above-listed domestic leagues have shut down for the summer; BiE supplies information on the current situation in the others’ regular seasons and/or playoffs. This list will be updated whenever possible.

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Video clips: Unics Kazan wins, Real Madrid loses, and YouTube shows how not to dunk

While much of the basketball-loving world was distracted by the squall of opening-round NBA playoff games, the roundball game nevertheless played on in leagues throughout Europe and beyond. Of course, this lead-in mainly serves as an excuse to justify running the below handful of highlights, links and pithy bon mots to (help you waste some time on Monday morning) get your week started correctly (and by “correctly,” BiE means in part ignoring that 109-100 win by the New Orleans Hornets).

• First up, congratulations from BallinEurope go out to Unics Kazan, who became the first unlicensed team to officially join the 2011-12 Euroleague ranks with a decisive 92-77 victory over Cajasol Sevilla in the ULEB Eurocup championship match. Maciej Lampe contributed a huge effort with 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Kelly McCarty went for 18 and Terrell Lyday put in 15. But it was Marko Popović who was named MVP for dishing out a Eurocup championship record 11 assists to go with his 18 points.

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Eurocup Championship: Unics Kazan master plan coming to fruition

Better late than never, as the old expression goes; and in the case of Unics Kazan’s 2010-11 season, continuing to achieve late could prove much better in the medium- and long-term future.

Few teams so actively rebuilt and retooled with purpose last offseason as Unics Kazan, bringing aboard Slavko Vranes out of Partizan Belgrade, 2009-10 Euroleague/FIBA Worlds sensation Kelly McCarty, and Zakhar Pashutin from Spartak St. Petersburg, among others while ensuring key big man Maciej Lampe would stick around for another couple seasons.

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BallinEurope’s completely relativistic 2010-11 All-Star Team (or, What? You’ve never heard of Bambale Osby?)

Massie: Massive en France

With most domestic basketball hitting a halfway point and the Euroleague into its second round, BallinEurope today pays tribute to some outstanding individual performances by naming its all-star team.

No relative merits or penalties were assessed for the league in which BiE’s all-stars compete, and domination in one league was a top criteria for making the team. Currently, just four players lead a major European domestic or regional league in two of the big three statistical categories (i.e. points, rebounds and assists) and all are represented with the below-listed magnificent seven.

These guys may not yet exactly be household names, but BiE’d go into battle with this quintet any day – especially right now when they’re hot.

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Official BallinEurope Power Rankings: Pre-knockouts edition

The Prize

Now that noted astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has announced God’s non-existence in our universe through mathematics, maybe he can start working on explaining the FIBA tie-breaking procedure.

No, no, don’t start on BiE; it’s as easy as dialing up Wikipedia to find the steps in determining seeding for tournament play: Placement is determined based on, in order, game results between tied teams; scoring average between games of the tied teams; scoring average for all games of tied teams; drawing of lots.

Nice and neat it may be, but empirically this definition falls short. Seriously somebody should explain to BiE how/why France ends up in the fourth seed in Group D (and with the unfortunate fate of drawing home Turkey in round one) when they clearly whupped Spain’s butts early? How/why does Team China, a team that’s seemingly won one game in all of 2010, advance over Puerto Rico who not only beat China in the preliminaries but also outscored and surrendered fewer points than either of the other two squads involved in the tiebreaker?

Ah, whatever. Here’s the way BallinEurope might have seeded the tournament, based firstly on record and thereafter on momentum – after five games, at least we’ve got that objective criteria.

1. USA, 5-0. Is there any doubt that Kevin Durant will, at some point in his career, be called The Best Player in the World? That outrageous amounts of big guys aren’t necessarily life-or-death in an international tournament? That Kevin Love, thanks to his hard work and exposure, will be the most popular Minnesota Timberwolf next season? That we should finally stop calling these guys “The B-deem Team”? Answers: No, maybe a little yet, absolutely not, and yes please.

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