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Tight knit Iceland too much for Great Britain +++ EuroBasket 2015: Round-up and Highlights from Wednesday’s qualifiers +++ FIBA dropped a sweet promo for the World Cup +++ Basketball World Cup of Beer – Bronze Medal Match +++ Rudy gets iced, the internet rejoices +++ FIBA World Cup Preview – Group C +++ CSKA Moscow’s Kyle Hines and Sonny Weems take the ice bucket challenge +++ Tony Parker does ice bucket challenge but his friend can’t use a camera phone +++ Basketball World Cup of Beer: Semi Finals +++ EuroBasket 2015: Wins for Macedonia, Belgium, and Georgia +++
Feb
2

Searching for Milos Vujanic (or, Where have all the sharpshooters gone?)

Who is today's Vujanic?

In Serbia, it’s Korac Cup time, leading BallinEurope’s Marko Savkovic to contemplate changes in European basketball since the days of Milos Vujanic; specifically, new expertise on defense and subsequent de-emphasis of raining three-pointers. Savkovic tells us who to seek out in the 2012 tourney in terms of long-ball shooting while name-dropping Drazen Petrovic, Magic Johnson and Dejan Bodiroga along the way…

As the Korac Cup gets underway in Nis this weekend – with no surprises yet so far – it’s worth reminding just how many recognized sharpshooters are entering this Final 8 tournament … And, well, there are none.

Bearing in mind the multitude of players from the former Yugoslavia who became known for their shooting skills, this seems hard to believe. Some ten years ago, players like Milos Vujanic – voted by fans onto the Euroleague All-Decade Team – were famous for their ability to teardrop three-pointers in succession. Today, the team he used to play for and the Cup’s strongest contender – Partizan – favors a radically different game. So what has changed?

Continue Reading…

Apr
0

Three games remain; records will fall in Spain

Ahearn: He came, he shot free throws, he left

With three games left to play in what has been another truly great ACB season, some folks are thumbing through the league record books to see which bits of 2009-10 might be immortalized in statistics when it’s over.

Over at the league’s official website, Daniel Barranquero takes a long look – no, a loooooooooooong look – at the facts, figures and numbers of 2009-10 ACB play. Some of the stats to watch for as Spanish baloncesto closes the season are listed below the break.

(Serious number junkies, Hispanophones, ACB fans/historians and all those into the general statistical voodoo should read the entire article packed with 50 figures to put things in numerical perspective — some really outstanding work by Sr. Barranquero.)

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Apr
0

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about Barcelona vs. Unicaja (in English)

On Saturday, perhaps the marquee matchup on the ACB slate – if for historical significance only – will be the FC Barcelona vs. Unicaja match. The league’s official website has quite the extensive collection of facts ‘n’ figures about this match and the 15-year record of meetings between these two clubs, of which BallinEurope attempted to extract the most useful bits.

The vital stats
The game tips off in Barcelona (you can watch it live online at ACB 360). Barça attempts to continue its home-winning streak, now at 28 games. Unicaja is riding a three-game win streak in the ACB, its second such this season.

Jimenez and Navarro: Team Spain’s last two captains face off
Carlos Jimenez passed Spain’s national team captaincy baton to former Memphis Grizzlies/current Blaugrana player Juan Carlos Navarro this past summer. With Navarro at the head, Spain took the 2009 Eurobasket title. Of course, under Jimenez, the Spainards took gold in Japan at the FIBA World Championship in 2006.

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Oct
0

The Spanish League explained: Part two

Ball in Europe contributor Francesco Cappelletti contributes the second part of his look at the ACB with briefs on a dozen teams who won’t exactly compete for the Spanish league title, but certainly compare with most European competition. Part one can be read by clicking here.

One step behind. These ACB teams aren’t worthy of a title drive; despite this, their value is surely greater than other European mid-level teams. With at least seven or eight really good players apiece, they’re readier to exploit every possibility than richer and more ambitious clubs can. For example, Gran Canaria 2014 is coming off a monster season in which it finished the regular season in sixth place (ahead of Valencia) and was eliminated by Unicaja Malaga in the quarterfinals. Gran Canaria is now without Carl English, Mario Fernandez and Joel Freeland, who are testing themselves in top teams; however, the newly arrived Jaycee Carroll from Teramo and Will McDonald are noticeable names for a non-Euroleague team, and they fit perfectly into this team’s scheme thanks to men very similar to them. The skeleton is nearly the same as last year: Joshua Fisher and Marcus Norris comprise a duo that provides veteran attitude and intangibles, while Melvin Sanders, Sitapha Savane and James Augustine carry a strong presence on both ends of the floor.

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Sep
2

Youth competitions and beyond: The state of European national basketball programs

On the eve of Eurobasket 2009, Ball in Europe’s man in Italy, Francesco Cappelletti, looks back at this summer’s youth competitions to assess where Europe’s national programs stand and where they’re headed. From where will the future be launched? Read on!

One day until Eurobasket 2009: It has been a full summer which started with three youth competitions. These are useful to frame a speech about the basketball we are now playing in Europe, in attempting to open a bigger discussion on traditions, changes and examples European schools give us from time to time.

Continue Reading…

Dec
2

Yarone’s Weekend Joints – Part II

Part II of the Weekend Joints is presented to you with visits to Kaunas, Nancy’s hot dog stands, Pionir, Milano and Greece. Can’t go wrong with that route.

The matchup that never happened

The Le Mans-Unicaja match had the potential to host one of the most intriguing match-ups Euroleague 2008/09 can offer. Unicaja’s big lead allowed coach Aito Garcia Reneses to send 1989-born guard Raimundo Lopez De Vinuesa, who certainly sports one of the coolest names in the competition, on court for the closing minutes. On the other bench waited Le Mans’ 1990 born guard Pierre-Etienne Drouault, but coach Jackson decided to keep him there, preventing two of the longest names in the Euroleague to go head-to-head. Who cares about Chase vs. Cook who these two young fellas can challenge any TV commentator?

Cyril goes on the road

Some players feel better at home. The rims are more familiar, the chants of the fans give them confidence, the five-minutes-before-tipoff hot dogs taste better and the cheerleaders, too. For Nancy’s Cyril Julian the case is different. Maybe he’s not a big fan of the local rims, perhaps the fans haven’t found a cool rhyme for his name; it’s possible the Nancy hot dogs are too expensive, and the cheerleaders…

So far in two home games, Julian hasn’t scored more than six points, hasn’t grabbed more than five rebounds and his highest index rating is thus far six. On the road, in three difficult spots as at Sopot, at Montepaschi and at Barcelona, he has scored at least 17 points, seven rebounds, and an index of at least 23.

Milos and Peja’s home visit

When players go back to face their former team, in an arena they are very familiar with, they usually excel more than the usual. When Milos Vujanic went back to Pionir with Efes to meet Partizan, he was anything but excelling. Milos grew up in Red Star, which is yet another great reason for him to do his best to torture Partizan, but made his breakthrough to Europe’s center stage with Partizan. In 2002/03, he was the top scorer of the Euroleague at 25.8 points per game.

Actually if you count only his games in Pionir, his season low was 26 points. His next visit to Pionir was in 2004/05 with Fortitudo Bologna, and he scored 25 with five assists to reach an index of 26. Leave out his next and last visit, as a back up player of Pao, and you’ll find his visit this week, once again as a key leading player, as the exception. Vujanic fouled out after less than 23 minutes on court in which he went only 2-for-5 from the field, scored eight points and lost three balls.

Even for Predrag Drobnjak, in his re-debut with Efes, in a gym he spent so many hours and big games on his way to greatness and the way back from there, it wasn’t a happy visit. The veteran played less than four minutes, scored two points and turned the ball over once.

Showing how to get it done

So Milos blew his home coming game against Partizan, but there’s someone who didn’t. The story goes that in the 1999/2000 season Sarunas Jasikevicius returned to his hometown Kaunas with Olimpija. The season before that, he had returned from five years in the USA and wanted to fulfill the dream of any Kaunas kid: to wear the jersey of Zalgiris. Only the green club had different ideas, so the kid had to cross the street and play for Rytas.

Zalgiris went on to win their historical Euroleague title that season, but Saras waited for the right time. In that Zalgiris-Olimpija game, the locals held a 17-point lead before Saras led his team back in the game, all the way to an 85-84 win. With the buzzer, Saras started his own private celebration. He ran around the court for a while with his fists in the air, expressing his joy in the most extroverted possible way. Legend tells he even stopped in front of Zalgiris bench and said “My name is Sarunas. I grew up here, but you didn’t want me and now I beat you,” or something like that.

Whether there’s any truth to that legend or not doesn’t really matter. His obvious post-game celebrations were noticed by all, but it doesn’t seem like it was enough for Saras to feel like he had cashed his check yet. In any season he faced Zalgiris, there was at least one game in which he excelled (and in the other less so). Even his career highs in points (37) and index rating (37) were tallied against his hometown team in the famous game in Tel Aviv when the teams went head-to-head for a win-or-die Final Four ticket match. This season has been no exception: One week after we mentioned his streak was over after he finished a Euroleague game with no points, came a 15-point, four-assist, 22-index night in less than 22 minutes at Zalgiris.

Mirror performance

Olimpija’s Mirza Begic was one of the nicest surprises in the first three weeks of the Euroleague; once teams put more focus on him, though, things have changed, and Begic has not reached double-digits in the last three weeks. The best example of the change was this week, when his team suffered its worst home defeat ever, 86-65 to Joventut. When the teams met in Week 1, back in the day when Joventut still had Pops, Begic scored 17 points on 8-for-9 from the field and 1-for-3 from the line. This week, they didn’t leave him a choice, played much more physical defense on him, and didn’t allow him any easy baskets. Begic finished the game versus Joventut almost with numbers mirroring the first encounter: 0-for-1 from the field and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. Kudos to Joventut’s bigs and coach Sito Alonso for a well executed plan.

Devil Smith

Devin Smith arrived in Istanbul as an intriguing player. The season before, he had led Avellino to a great campaign which eventually got them a ticket into the Euroleague. With Fenerbahce Ulker, Smith is doing well in the Turkish league but so far hasn’t foundnd his game in the Euroleague. He stands on only eight points per game with a sub-39% two-point ratio and awful 14.8% from long range. Actually, if you take out his game at Joventut, Smith has made just one three-pointer on 20 attempts in five games.

This week, Smith tallied his worst game yet, finishing the match against Tau missing all his six attempts from the field, didn’t make it to the line even once and committed three turnovers. In total, that’s a minus-5 index rating. Some might say the Euroleague is too big for Smith, and that’s debatable, but he’s still a better player than the numbers show so far. If it’s any comfort, his block on Begic near the end of the 2OT win over Olimpija will stay one of the highlights of the season.

When it all connects

Already last week it was pointed out here that CSKA Moscow is having trouble on the road. The near losses in Madrid and Beograd included a few made three pointer nights, and it was the same in Milano. This time, the percentages were much better, but CSKA connected only five times from long range. Matjaz Smodis finished 0-for-4 from the field but 8-for-8 from the line, and Siska … well, that was covered already. Zoran Planinic was sweeter than sweet in the first half while CSKA took a 20-point lead on the way to what seemed like another walk in the park, but … not that night.

So you know youngster Luca Vitali, a long-time Italian prospect, shone at five for six from long range, but the performance of David Hawkins in the last 11 minutes of the game was something you have to catch. He scored 15 points in that span, including seven in the final two minutes and the last five points from Milano in the game. In that run he missed just a single shot, and broke CSKA’s defense piece by piece. Even more surprisingly was the return to life, at least for a few minutes, of Massimo Bulleri, who scored six points in the fourth quarter. What stood out most in this win was Milano’s aggressive defense, especially in the fourth. For several minutes, it actually felt like CSKA was facing a … CSKA defense.

The uncompleted comeback

Last week, you were asked to check out the “Play of the Week”: Aaron Miles’ coast-to-coast drive to beat the halftime buzzer. This week his coast-to-coast to beat the buzzer also beat Real Madrid, but the story of the game was Real’s comeback. The Whites actually started the game with a 10-2 lead. but from that moment Panionios took over and in the next 20 minutes went on a 53-17 run, to reach a 55-27 lead in the 27th minute.

Then it all started. Real stormed back with a 31-5 run in nine minutes and later on even got the lead back, but their run is worth a closer look. During those nine minutes, Panionios made no fewer than eight turnovers, almost one per minute, but if you think Real was perfect on the other side, you’ve got the wrong picture. Coach Joan Plaza’s boys were actually 5-of-11 from the free throw line and lost four balls in that run but still managed to get it done. It was thanks to massive control on the offensive glass, where their hands were quicker or longer no fewer than eight times. Those extra possessions and easier access to the basket, as usually happens after an offensive rebound, allowed them to stand on 11-of-17 from the field in that run. Marko Tomas was the main man behind the comeback when he scored all of his 18 points of the game in the closing 13 minutes.

Nov
0

Yarone’s Weekend Joints – part I

Probably the best thing would be to start with an apology for the delay, and get this out of the way. I’d like to thank the academy and blame Chris for the delay, not because it’s really his fault, but just because it’s fun to blame him on everything. Give it a try…

Week 5 of the Euroleague was full of stories and anecdotes. Some wrote new lines in the history books, others are on the way there.

After only one team won on the road in Week 4, this round of games displayed no fewer than six road wins, and three home wins by up to five points. With Olimpija and Milano taking their first Ws, and CSKA Moscow coming closer than ever to join the 23 other teams with a digit higher than 0 in the losses column, week 5 was one to remember.

Well, at least until Week 6.

Here’s the first part of the Euroleague Weekend Joints of Week 5 on Ballineurope.com.

Congratulations Jaka!

First of all, let’s congratulate Jaka Laka for becoming the 4th player in history to reach 2,000 Euroleague points this week, but that wasn’t the only mark he celebrated at Kaunas on Thursday night. It was also Lakovic’s 150th game in the Euroleague and only the fifth game ever in his eight-season Euroleague career that he didn’t miss a shot from three-point land, not counting nights he took just a single attempt. Jaka hit all five of his attempts in this game, two more threes than the entire team of Zalgiris, by the way (Zalgiris went 3-of-18 beyond the arc). Three times, Lakovic went 2-of-2, while on January 9, 2003, when he wore Pao’s green jersey and played at Tel Aviv, he had a 5-of-5 night as well.

Perfecto Greer

Not only Jaka was hot this week. Olympiacos’ Lynn Greer was also 5-of-5 from behind the arc, and for him it was the first-ever Euroleague game in which he was perfect from that range, excluding a single 1-of-1 display.

Road, bitter road

The Final Four hosts from Berlin suffered a 77-69 defeat at Olimpija, and allowed the Slovenians to celebrate their debut win of the season. After one leg in the regular season, Alba stands on a 2-3 record and it’s easy to label them. Both wins were registered in the O2 arena in front of a packed arena, and in both cases it was a close win. On the road, it’s a totally different story and there Alba lost all three games without putting up much of a fight. The eight-point difference is deceiving, as Olimpija held a double-digit lead in the closing minutes. Add the awful loss at Tau and a nine-point defeat at Fenerbache Ulker, and it’s gotten easier to place your bets from now on when it comes to Alba. In the second leg, they will play in Roma and Badalona, not the most comfortable spots to pick up a road win, so most probably in order to get some Euroleague oxygen, Alba will have to use the help of the O2 ha ha ha.

Don’t miss out…

Just in case you missed Panionios’ Aaron Miles beating the halftime buzzer with a super-cool coast-to-coast drive, check the Top 10 plays of Week 5 according to Euroleague.TV and survive the first nine to watch this beauty.

The big crisis

OK, this one has nothing to do with those red screens on your Wall Streets, but Efes Pilsen is in a big one of their own. The 95-81 defeat at home to Real Madrid marks Efes’ third loss in a row. Two were in Abdi Ipacki, and just to keep you fresh the first was to Panionios, while the third was in Moscow, where it’s more than reasonable to lose, only Efes was trashed by 22 points after a 27-9 first quarter start by the champs. Over the weekend, Efes re-signed Predrag Drobnjak to fill in at a center spot that felt kinda empty after the injury to Mario Kasun. Drobnjak was on the only two Efes teams to make it to the Final Four, back in the early days of this decade, before he moved to the NBA. Now he’s far from his prime, but let’s see if his arrival will bring good momentum to Ergin Ataman’s factory. Otherwise, Ataman himself could be next to pay for the damage. If you’re looking for a win, the last place you want to visit is Pionir and face Partizan, especially after they suffered an aching home loss, but that’s exactly what awaits Efes next week. Hopefully for Efes, Drobnjak and Milos Vujanic will feel at home enough to stop the downward spiral.

He’s baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

CSKA climbed to 5-0 and remained the only team with a perfect record in the Euroleague. To make things worse, on anyone who’s not a CSKA fan, this week marked the return of Matjaz Smodis. God forbid…

Heart-attack Partizan

The team to draw the most sympathy and empathy this week, beyond any doubt, is the group from Beograd. The one point loss to CSKA, and the heart-breaking finish, when Partizan missed no less than five attempts in a row in the last seconds to win the game, captured whoever enjoys an underdog win. Check out this fan-made video from the Pionir seats. The last play starts 6:40~ inside the clip. This fan won’t win the prestigious “Camera man of the year” award, but turn up the volume, hope your neighbor doesn’t have a machine-gun, and focus on the sights and especially sounds around the play. This was Partizan’s second single point defeat this season, and all of their five games were close ones, decided by no more than five points.

32 is the new 11

Drive your car around the world, and other than a difficulty to avoid food poisoning (at some point or another) you might also find it hard to locate a good Spanish player playing outside the ACB. Other than in the NBA and Jorge, who just couldn’t say no to the crazy Khimki offer, there’s only one more player to name – Lottomatica’s Rodrigo De La Fuente. This week was a special one for the out stander. In the 76-67 home win over FenerUlker, at the age of 32, after 11 seasons in the Euroleague and 172 games, he set a career high in rebounds by collecting 11.

Damn rims

Prokom’s home court is called the “Arena of 100 years” and it certainly won’t be named anytime soon “Arena of 100 points”. The rims there are anything but friendly to most visiting teams. Pao escaped with a 60-67 win but they have nothing to be ashamed of. In the last six games in front of those rims no team scored more than 68 points.

Arc range darkness

Lottomatica wrote their fourth win in a row, and would probably revenge Alba, for their only defeat so far, next week in the Palalottomatica, but something strange happened in their win this week over the Istanbul’s chocolate factory of FenerUlker. All of Roma’s hits from long range were scored by the big guys. Power-forwards Roberto Gabini and Angelo Gigli were 3/3 from the distance, while all the others combined 0/6. No outside hit was made by the guards, despite one thing Repesa doesn’t miss is guards who can hit the ball. The reason was that while on the romantic scene being passive sometimes actually works, in basketball if you don’t hit you can’t score. Sani Becirovic and Allan Ray didn’t try even once from that distance, while Ibrahim Jaaber stepped up with a single attempt. For Sani it was only the second time he finished a game without taking a long range shot in his last 18 Euroleague games, while Ray broke a streak of 21 games in which he made the effort.

Road bitter road – part II

So CSKA are 5-0 but this week was the second time in a row the Euroleague champs have trouble to score and win on the road. Their previous trip out of Moscow finished with a 54-58 win in Madrid behind a terrible shooting day. The 62-63 loss in Beograd saw CSKA connect only a duo of baskets from long range in 14 attempts. Yikes! That wasn’t the only reason Partizan came so close, but to read on the second, and more peculiar one, wait for the second part.

Off-bench Diamantidis

Some would tell you that a team must have a stable starting five for things to work, but Zeljko Obradovic will reply to that with however you say “Bullshit” in Serb. Often Obra changes his starting line-up, but in Sopot it was standing out more than the usual. Batiste, Spanoulis, Tsartsaris, Hatzivrettas and Kecman on court. On the bench waited five that can assemble one of the best line ups in the Euroleague: Jasikevicius (we’ll get back to him in part two…), Pekovic, Nicholas, Fotsis and Diamantditis. The last still managed to finish with the best index rating of the night with 26, but broke a streak of 66 games in which he was a starter for Pao. The last time Dimitris saw the jump ball from the bench was in Week 4 of the 2005/06 season, andeven then, on November 24th 2005, in OAKA he was the best player on the team and finished with an index rating of 23.

Retro Le Mans

It’s shocking enough Le Mans scored 87 points in four quarters against Olympiacos, but the fact they, once again, lost a close game is something stat experts need to look into. Just a reminder, if you missed that part here in the previous weeks, last season, under a different coach and different roster, Le Mans also lost all their first five Euroleague season games in the closing plays. This season they already lost two games in overtime, first @Maccabi and this week vs. Olympiacos. The bad news for Le Mans is that last season, in Week 6, the close losses streak was put to an end, not in the positive way, with a 91-71 defeat @Cibona. Next week they host Unicaja. We shall see….

The “Disgrace Escaping” mission

After five weeks Zalgiris stand on a 0-5 record. It’s likely for the Kaunas club to finish their season earlier than expected, and considering the off-court happening around the club this season it’s reasonable, but in the remaining five games they’ll need to work hard to escape disgrace. Up to today Zalgiris stands on a horrible 19.6 turnovers per game average. Right and far behind are SLUC Nancy with “only” 16.8. Now, being behind Nancy isn’t such a big shame, it’s the history books awaiting for Zalgiris. Unless a big improvement will arrive soon to Kaunas they’ll be known as the team that made more turnovers per game than any other team in a season. In all of the Euroleague history, under ULEB (excluding the first season which its stats isn’t available on the web), the team with the highest tpg average was the 2001/02….London Towers with 18.0 per game.

Most Turnovers Per Game by Season

Season

Team

TPG

2008/09

Zalgiris Kaunas

19.6

2007/08

Olimipija Ljubljana

16.0

2006/07

Cibona Zagreb

17.7

2005/06

Strasbourg

16.8

2004/05

Estudiantes Madrid

16.5

2003/04

Alba Berlin

15.2

2002/03

Buducnost Podgorica

16.1

2001/02

Kinder London Towers

18.0

Oct
7

Yarone’s late Friday’s joints

Globalization – The player with the highest VAL on Zalgiris of Lithuania was US center Loren Woods. The players with the best VAL for Italian Montepaschi were Rimantas Kaukenas and Ksistof Lavrinovic from … Lithuania. In fact, the latter two combined for a VAL of 45 while all Lithuanian players on the Lithuanian team combined for a VAL of … 40. Neither Kaukenas nor Lavrinovic, by the way, ever played for Zalgiris.

New tunes – How many African big men can you think of who topped the “Best FT%” category in any league? Joventut’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu hit 4 of 4 last week, while yesterday proving he can make it even better by making 11 of 12 from the charity stripe in the loss at Roma. Can you believe this guy averaged 66.7% in the ULEB Cup and 54.6% in LEGA the past season, and that these numbers were considered decent for him?

Career low – In his long, long Euroleague career Nikola Vujcic had finished just one single game with a negative index rating: That was in last year’s semifinals, when Maccabi upset Montepaschi and Nikola had a -2 VAL. This was before his last Euroleague game with Maccabi. After the first game with Olympiacos, Vujcic set a new personal record with a VAL of -3.

Historical moment – If that’s not enough, the game against Unicaja will go down in history books as the first game ever that Nikola Vujcic finished with zero points in a Euroleague game. Vujcic had posted several games with two points, but always somehow found the way to get that ball through the rim. Last night, he missed one shot from close range, another behind the arc, and two shot attempts from the charity stripe. Nikola will surely contribute to Olympiacos down the road when the money is on the line and as long as his team won, he’s happy, but this game won’t be colored with happy shades in the boxscore archives of the Vujcic family.

Zero – Believe it or not but Le Mans, a team with two of the best shooters in Europe – David Bluthenthal and Dewarick Spencer – finished their first home game of the season with zero three pointers made of 12 attempts taken. The duo was responsible for eight of these attempts.

Just across the street – Not too far from there stood Cibona Zagreb. The days Croatian teams were considered great shooting teams are sadly long gone now, but they were just a tiny bit better than Le Mans. A long-range shooting night of 2-for-14 on Cibona’s side shone only next to Le Mans’ performance.

Happy thoughts for Pao – Obviously the biggest result of this week was the big knock out Pao got in Barcelona. The final difference was 24 after Barca were all over the game from tipoff. If you’re a Panathinaikos fan that might even be good news. On 21 March 2007, the last day of the Top 16, Pao traveled to Barcelona only to return to Athens with a very disturbing 21 point defeat. At the end of that season, Pao won their first Euroleague title since 2002.

No guards – Pao scored only 14 field goals inside the arc in the big defeat. Coach Zeljko used 10 players in his rotation, but only four were able to connect from two-point range. Three of them were big guys Fotsis, Batiste and Pekovic. The only saint in the backcourt was … Sarunas Jasikevicius, who knows the nets in Palau Blaugrana pretty well, but still won’t remember this “homecoming game” fondly.

February 14, 2008 – On that day Davor Kus missed his last Euroleague free throw shot until last night in France… Then, at Barcelona, he was only 1-for-3. Then followed a streak of 10 consecutive shots to finish the season, another 6-for-6 last week against Maccabi, and last night one of the best free throw shooters in the Euroleague was stopped. Literally. He finished the game 0-for-7 from the field and a VAL of -8, but when he went to the line in the closing seconds to secure the triumph with Cibona up by three, Kus connected just one. Enough for the win. Goodbye to the streak.

Spencer ties – The weekly followup on the battle between Dewarick Spencer and David Bluthenthal continues, and this week we saw the first tie at 1-1 in their competition “who took more shots?” Spencer contributed 14 shots and Bluth lagged behind with only 11. In between them crept JP Batista with 13. Altogether, the trio provided a little less than 2/3 of Le Mans’ shots.

Few of a kind, part I – Now check out this unique stat line made by Terence Morris. He registered a VAL of 23 but that was the only category in which he totaled double-digits: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 assists and only four field goal attempts. Very, very few players in Europe can reach such a high index rating by doing a little bit of everything.

Stay away! – Some of those fantasy fanatics out there believe that it’s good to take the best players of the weak teams figuring that “well, at least one guy needs to have a decent game.” Panionios, in their home defeat to CSKA, proved this theory wrong. Panionios set a new season low with a team index of 28, while the top individual high on the team was no more than … 7. Several players scored a better individual VAL this week than the entire Greek team.

Few of a kind – part II – So there are very few players like Morris in Europe, and that’s why he’s in CSKA making the big bucks; but his successor in Maccabi, D’or Fischer, showed this week he can produce the same numbers. Fischer crossed the double-digit mark in scoring 11, but added 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and four drawn fouls to reach a VAL of 21.

Foul him! – Daniel Ewing finished this week as the top scorer with 32 points on a great shooting night when Prokom smashed SLUC Nancy 91-62. He hit 7 of 9 from close range, 6 of 8 in the distance and well, no shots from the foul line. Why? Because in the entire game, Ewing was fouled just once by the French defense. Ewing was hot, all right, but when you foul a player in a zone just once in a game it says a lot about the lack of aggressiveness in Nancy’s defense.

Nevertheless more than perfect – Real’s Sergio Llull, the 21-year-old guard, is one of the funnest players to follow in the Euroleague. He’s quick and athletic but most of all plays with no fear. With Real having Raul Lopez and Pepe Sanchez on the roster, Llull probably didn’t expect to see a lot of playing this year before the season tipped off, but now he’s leaving the duo veterans behind. At Partizan, Llull had a perfect game: 19 points, 7-for-7 on two-pointers, 1-for-2 from three, 2-for-2 from the line, one rebound, one assist, one steal, zero turnovers with three personal fouls and two drawn. OK, so it’s not 100% perfect, but if you followed the game you know Llull’s only missed shot and two of his fouls came in the last seconds in attempt to save his team from a loss. On paper, he’s close to perfection. For us watching, he was more than perfect.

Close to perfection on the dark side – So Llull was huge, but take a look at Pepe Sanchez’s stat line from the loss in Beograd: 22 minutes on court, 0 points, 0-of-0 on two-pointers, 0-of-0 on threes, 0-of-0 FT, zero defensive rebounds, zero offensive rebounds, one assist, one steal, two turnovers, 0 bl-f, 0 bl-a, 0 fouls-c, 0 fouls-d and the poetic justice of 0 VAL.

Italian mafia – Efes Pilsen collected a key road win in Milano, and the ones who made the difference were Charles Smith, Milos Vujanic, Michalis Kakiouzis and Bootsy Thornton. What they have in common? All played in LEGA at some point in their career.

Oct
4

Yarone’s Friday’s joints

Sofoklis Schortsianitis (Olympiacos) – No shot attempts at all and only one foul in 7:42 minutes. Only once before has Schortsianitis finished a Euroleague game without a single shot attempt and that was when he played only two minutes.

Milos Teodosic (Olympiacos) – How often did you get to see this Serbian scorer finish with zero three-point attempts in 14:40? It happened once last season. If this were to continue this season, it would mean Yannakis is turning the kid from a scoring machine into a true team player. Keep an eye out.

Loren Woods (Zalgiris) set a Euroleague career high with 17 points and nine defensive rebounds against Pao, who have one of the best front lines in Europe.

Tamar Slay (Avelino) had his Euroleague debut as well against a Greek team, but we won’t mention this game on his resume, with his 1-of-10 from the field and -11 VAL.

Marcus Brown (Maccabi) – On Monday, Brown took two flights to arrive in Tel Aviv in the afternoon from Kaunas. The following day, he took two more flights to get from Tel Aviv to Zagreb with his new team. In total, Brown has probably had more flights than practices with his new team. Nevertheless, he played 27:44.

Willie Deans (Zalgiris) – In his Euroleague debut, Deans finished 1-of-10 from the field and -9 VAL against Pao.

Tau Ceramica Vitoria (ACB) used the shortest rotation this week with only eight players. Efes used nine, with one player on the floor for just 22 seconds. All other teams used between nine and 12 players

Rawle Marshall (Cibona) – Simply fun to watch. 20 points, 5-of-9 from the field, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, zero turnovers, 7 fouls drawn, and 29 VAL in a Euroleague debut. All cold numbers. Bottom line: Simply fun to watch.

Dimitris Diamantidis (Panathinaikos) – The best defender award winner for the past four years and one of the top three ball stealers on The Continent played 25:42 against Zalgiris with zero steals.

Dewarick Spencer & David Bluthenthal (Le Mans) – Now this could be a weekly check: Which of these two took more shots for his team? This time, Bluth wins 14-13 and also scores better accuracy.

Theodoros Papaloukas (Olympiacos) – 2,380 days have passed between 18/04/02 and today. Back then, Theo played his last Euroleague game for the Reds; yesterday, he made his rdappearance. Back then, he finished the game with 26:53 in playing time, 8 points, 3 rebounds and a VAL of 16. Today, he played only 90 seconds less, still scored 8 points, still grabbed 3 rebounds, and notched a VAL of 15 …consistency over a six-year span.

Avelino (LEGA) – In its Euroleague debut, the small Italian team registered a VAL of 36. Often this is less than the best weekly VAL from a single player.

Armani Jeans Milano (LEGA) – The game at Moscow was far from Milano’s Euroleague debut but under the new hat and management, expectations were different. Just like Avelino, another Italian team finished a game against a Final Four contender with a poor VAL rating of 36.

Tau (ACB) and Fenerbahce (TBL) combined for 52 attempts from long range on a night on which neither surpassed 30%.

Drew Nicholas (Panathinaikos) – After three seasons in a row over 40% from long range, the US shooter started his career in green with an 0-for-3 performance from long range.

Juan Carlos Navarro (Barcelona) – La Bomba bombed on the NBA runnerups 34 points less than a week ago. Last night, against SLUC Nancy empire, Navarro celebrated his return to the Euroleague with only four points and 1-of-8 from the field.

Derrick Sharp (Maccabi) – The veteran didn’t play a single second the entire game in Zagreb. The last time a Maccabi coach chose not to use Derrick was on 6 January 2000. After a 195-game streak and 3,213 days, a new count begins. Back then, in the first week of the millennium, Maccabi was just 1-of-6 from long range. Last night they showed a poor 4-or-16. Whether that’s a coincidence or not, you be the judge.

Oguz Savas (Fenerbahce) – The Turkish center is a decent rebounder, sometimes even more, but in Vitoria spent more than 23 minutes on the court and finished without a single rebound. This happened to Savas only once all of last season and back then, he played only five minutes.

Milos Vujanic (Efes) is officially back. The Serbian point guard beat his former team by a single point and was his team’s top scorer with 17 and just a single missed shot. The last time Vujanic scored more than 17 in a Euroleague game was on 9 March 2005 (that’s 1,324 days if you’re curious), when his Fortitudo Bologna won at Zalgiris by a single point as well and Vujanic had 18.

Real Madrid (ACB) – No fewer than eight players wrote a double-digit VAL in the 21-point cruise to victory against Olimpija.

Ibrahim Jabber, Ray Allan, Rodrigo De La Fuente, Brandon Jennings and Sanice Becirovic (Roma) – Coach Repesa’s backcourt combined for 4-of-18 inside the arc against Alba.

Nana Mensah-Bonsu (Joventut) had a very busy night under both baskets. Around Joventut’s rim he blocked three shots but on the other end was blocked three times as well. Not many players get to experience such activity on both ends on the floor.

Partizan (YUBA) and Maccabi (BSL) – Both lost by a single basket difference, the smallest margins of the first week, but in both cases it was after a three pointer at the buzzer that only made it look closer than it really was.

Alba (BBL) – No less than 1,723 days, since 4 February 2004, when Alba won their last Euroleague game. It was a 16 point triumph over Efes. John Best, Jovo Stanojevic, Marko Pesic and DeJuan Collins were the top scorers for Alba then. Not a single player on Alba has survived on the team since that season.

Brandon Jennings (Lottomatica) – The most standout number in the game that took Jennings’ Euroleague virginity is his 22 minutes with just a single turnover. Brandon also took nine shots from the field, more than any other Roma player yesterday.

Montepaschi (LEGA) were shooting better outside the arc (48% with 12 made) than inside it (40.5% with 15 made) in the nine-point win over Prokokm.

Boniface Ndong, Marcus Haislip and Robert Archibald (Unicaja) – The team’s three big men were also its three top scorers with 14, 13 and 11 points, respectively, over Le Man’s bigs.

Alain Koffi (Le Mans) – The athletic big man has finished each of his five seasons in the ULEB Cup and Euroleague with seven to nine assists total. On Wednesday night at Unicaja, the local stat guys bestowed him with no less than three, obviously a career high, and a great start to set a new season record as well.

(In case you are too shy to leave a comment here, you can always contact Yarone by sending him an email at arbel@ballineurope.com)

Oct
4

After the Olympics: What’s the future of Serbia?

Well, there were no Olympic games for Serbia this time out, but with a 7-1 record in the qualification round for Eurobasket 2009, Dusan Ivkovic’s team has already shown their potential for upcoming years. Built around a core for the future with eight players born in 1985 or before (Novica Velickovic, Zoran Erceg, Uros Tripkovic, Kosta Perovic, Milenko Tepic, Milos Teodosic, Boban Marjanovic and Stefan Markovic), it looks like Serbia can be considered as a legit medal candidate for London 2012.

After all, if one of these guys does not progress as expected the whole team will not collapse: Several other very interesting players are on the bubble to join the senior national team after their dominance in the youth competitions where Serbian teams have seen the Gold Rush coming back to them. Particularly the highly successful 1987 generation around Milenko Tepic, Milos Teodosic, Dragan Labovic and Vladimir Stimac set new landmarks by winning the gold medal in every youth category: U16, U18 and U20. Additionally, all of these younger players don’t seem to have a super-promising near NBA future so that they can play the summer competitions without problems.

What is also interesting is to see that, for the moment, just one player in the roster is older than 30: Dusan Kecman. Though the shooting guard is very important for the team when it comes to spot-shooting and team effort, I have some doubts we will see him through 2012. The problem is that I don’t see anybody on the roster who possesses his quality shooting at the moment. Somebody like Mladen Jeremic could take over this role in the future eventually. The rest of the guard rotation is set for the coming years, with both Teodosic and Markovic already having important roles in their respective teams and Milos Vujanic trying to relaunch his club career.

The wing position is also nicely filled with the scoring talent of Novica Velickovic and the long-distance shooting of Luka Bogdanovic. Milenko Tepic can help out at small forward and Dusko Savanovic had some interesting minutes in the two games he played. Additionally, somebody like Tadija Dragicevic should be able to join the team as well as Marko Keselj. Both are playing for Crvena Zvezda next season and Svetislav Pesic is not considered the worst coach to make them better players.

At the inside positions, Nenad Krstic and Zoran Erceg are solid starters who still have a lot of upside. Kosta Perovic should see minutes on the floor again this season, and Boban Marjanovic is a great combination of size and power for the future. Additionally, you have the massive Miroslav Raduljica and Milan Macvan, who are trying to make the step from dominant force at the U20 level to contributor on the senior teams.

As you can see, Serbia is not lacking in firepower for their respective teams. I still have some doubts about a high-quality sniper from the three-point area, as their current top gunner Uros Tripkovic has already experienced lots of ups and downs. And you may have noticed that I did not speak at all about the Serbian “stars” playing currently in the NBA; it doesn’t look like they are in Dusan Ivkovic’s plans whatsoever. So the possible roster for London 2012 could be the following.

Guards: Teodosic, Tepic, Tripkovic, Vujanic.

Forwards: Velickovic, Keselj, Bogdanovic, Macvan, Erceg.

Centers: Krstic, Marjanovic, Perovic.