Fox Sports Net: Andrei Kirilenko’s uniqueness defies technology, statistics (no kidding)

(Andrei Kirilenko image courtesy ESPN.com)

Kirilenko: The nearly undefinable, the “beautiful bastard”

There’s an ages-old joke about the United States and the former Soviet Union’s approaches to technological innovation during the “Space Race”-dominated era of the 1960s which feels no less true in spite of its almost certain apocryphal nature.

Before those days of text-messaging, tweeting and desktop computers larger than actual desk, NASA had set out, as the story goes, to develop a pen that could write in zero-gravity conditions where ink doesn’t properly flow. After thousands of man-hours and surely millions of dollars were invested to no avail, one day a devastating bit of news came from intelligence. The Russians had not only already solved the problem at a fraction of the US’ cost, the solution had proved 100% workable in the demanded conditions. That solution? Use a pencil.

Again, the story is likely untrue in terms of sheer fact, but it does illustrate the tendency of certain cultures at this point in history to throw money at propositions thought best addressed with high-tech.

Thus, today we have Fox Sports Net blogger Joan Niesen using a new high-tech camera to tell us something the Russians (and any international hoops devotee) could’ve figured much more cheaply: That Andrei Kirilenko’s skills are so intangible yet so omnipresent as to defy easy statistical analysis. Niesen uses STATS’ SportVU 3-D camera system to produce some wider-ranging statistics to better express how much AK-47 means to this year’s Timberwolves.

Notes Niesen, among other things:

• “Kirilenko possesses the ball an average of 49 times per game, for an average of 80 seconds per game. That’s the largest amount of time holding the ball for any player on the team that does not play at the point guard position.

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Super Timberwolves: Peks, AK-47, Shved, Rubio as manga-style heroes [Update, translation]

Big shout out this morning to heinnews, who’s provided BallinEurope with a translation of the Minnesota Timberwolves manga-type comic strip that recently appeared in the Japan-based Dunk Shot sports paper. Read along, panel by panel, below the break — hilarious stuff, really … and who knew Nikola Pekovic had such problems with the ladies?

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Mickael Gelabale completes comeback to NBA, gets first start since 2007

Mickael GelabaleAbout five years ago, Mickaël Gelabale went down to a knee injury playing for the Seattle Supersonics. The following season, he played D-League ball. Just last month he was with Valencia BC, latest stop in 3½ seasons in Europe. Surely no one reckoned he’d be starting in the big league ever again, even when the injury-riddled Minnesota Timberwolves signed him to the first of two 10-day contracts.

No one, perhaps, except for Gelabale himself, who never gave up on the dream. As the Team France player told the Minneapolis Tribune after his signing with the Wolves in mid-January: “I [was] always thinking like that. When I was in France, I was thinking to come back. I was in Russia thinking about it. I was in Spain thinking about it.” (Actually, he omitted Croatia and Belgium there…)

Thought became reality last night for Gelabale against the San Antonio Spurs in a nicely international-flavored NBA matchup: Even with Andrei Kirilenko and Manu Ginobili not suiting up, Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter, Nando de Colo, Boris Diaw, Alexey Shved, Nikola Pekovic and of course Ricky represented the non-American rolls.

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Super Timberwolves: Peks, AK-47, Shved, Rubio as manga-style heroes

BallinEurope would really appreciate it if a native speaker of Japanese could translate the below piece on Nikola Pekovic and the Minnesota Timberwolves which recently ran in the periodical Dunk Shot – but it’s already a great big hunk of awesome. Check out the manga versions of Peks, sharp-angled Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey “Tiny” Shved and the doe-eyed Ricky Rubio (What? No Mickael Gelabale?) doing some kind of super task forcey thing and … is that Bill Walton there in panel four?

On second thought, maybe a translation *is* necessary…

Timberwolves in Dunk Shot

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Podcast: Lots of talk on Lithuanian basketball; musing about Euroleague, Lakers, Timberwolves; loving Jennifer Lawrence

Taking the Charge, episode 20: Lithuanian basketballEpisode #20 of the heinnews/BallinEurope co-produced Taking the Charge podcast is now available online. This week, that hardworking David Hein and yours truly natter on a bit about recent Euroleague developments (poor, poor Maccabi Tel Aviv!), the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Lakers before finally finding some focus in Lithuania.

As BiE continuously says, something’s always happening in Lithuanian basketball and recent times are no exception. Freelance hoops writer/BallinEurope agent in Lietuva, Karolis Jankus gives us a little inside dope on topics including:

Zalgiris Kaunas and the strange culture of losing theorized about on BallinEurope earlier in the week;

Team Lithuania head coach Jonas Kazlauskas and the strange events which led to his current gig in the CBA with Boss Wang’s Guangdong Southern Tigers;

• Lithuania Basketball Federation secretary-general Mindaugas Balčiūnas, currently under house arrest while prosecutors “are carrying out a pre-trial investigation into alleged jobbery, fraud, document forgery and [...] illegal use of municipal funds for the reconstruction of the Hotel Romantic” in connection with Eurobasket 2011;

• the perhaps unfairly languishing Donatas Motiejunas, who at least must be praised for attitude and work ethic while running up the DNPs; and

Lietuvos Rytas’ recent victory in its Nike Invitational Junior Tournament bracket, tourney MVP Edvinas Seskus and other Lithuanian prospects.

And our sports movie review of the week is all about the Academy Award-nominated film Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper, Chris Tucker, Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence (swoon). Tangentially related to sport at best (Philadelphia Eagles worship colors the reels), hey, it still has Jennifer Lawrence.

The entire podcast may be heard here. Thanks for listening and talk to you next week!

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Minnesota newspapers errs on Ricky Rubio; sharp-eyed reader corrects

From the Twittosphere – SO to Monilogue and Tumblr poster F***YeahTimberwolves – BallinEurope passes on this sad tale of an egregious oversight on the part of a Minnesota-based newspaper with regard to BiE fave Ricky Rubio. It what is certainly a shoo-in for the Letter To The Editor of 2013, any category, reader David Holmes of Minnetonka sticks up for La Pistola; let’s hope such an infraction of sports journalism ethics doesn’t happen again…

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Podcast: Interview with Sonny Weems; Talking Minnesota with a Wolf Among Wolves

Happy new year wishes go out to everyone in online basketball land this evening from BallinEurope and BiE’ll even throw in a gift as bonus: 2013’s first episode in the “Taking the Charge” podcast series hosted over at heinnews.com.

This week, host David Hein and yours truly sit for interviews with Sonny Weems in a return bid to the show. Naturally, Sonny talks lots of CSKA Moscow basketball and why not? BiE increasingly likes the Red Army’s chances at a Euroleague Final Four bid in 2012-13, if not necessarily the triple crown result apparently demanded by very high sources indeed…

(Incidentally, how much did CSKA fans dig their side’s smoking of Anadolu Efes last week. And yes, that’s an excuse to run a highlight clip…)

Chasing Weems is Steve McPherson, a guy with quite an impressive CV compiled through years of covering NBA hoops in general and Minnesota basketball specifically; most recently, he’s writing for the ESPN TrueHoop Network blogs A Wolf Among Wolves and Hardwood Paroxysm among others. McPherson nicely and concisely sums up the Wolves’ woes, assesses their chances for making the playoffs, gives us impressions of each of our Eurowolves (Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio) including great reasons to keep watching Alexey Shved.

Then, there’s the “Taking the Charge” weekly sports movie review; this time, the sport is lacrosse, and “Crooked Arrows” is perhaps – a bit surprisingly – the top fiction film of 2012 in the subgenre.

The banter on European and NBA basketball is kept to something of a minimum for this episode, we promise. Check out the entire podcast here. Thanks for listening and talk to you next week.

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BallinEurope’s most popular stories of 2012

BiE likes to write up this particular roundup at year’s end for a couple of reasons: Firstly as a thank you to the readers who check out BallinEurope however frequently; like they say in sports, this website wouldn’t exist without the audience.

Secondly, a look back at which BallinEurope stories drew the most attention provides a nice microcosm of what was most of the minds of European basketball. Yes, national heroes playing in the NBA still reign supreme, but international tournaments happily still get ample due here on The Continent.

So without further ado, here are the stories that you, the readers, decided were the true headline-grabbers in 2012.

1. Splitter opines Adelman key to Rubio’s success; Ginobili says “impressive”
When Ricky Rubio finally eked his way into the Timberwolves’ starting lineup, the results were immediate and positive. Of course, those of us who’ve been following The Human YouTube Highlight Clip since his days as the youngest-ever player for Barcelona could sit back and say “I told you so” – like Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili did.

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2012: The year in Euro-centric basketball highlight clips

What say we close out 2012 with a whole bunch of highlight clips? BiE knew you’d be willing. Tomorrow, a list of the most popular BallinEurope stories of the calendar year will be running, but today comes an attempt to encapsulate the past 365 days in European hoops, YouTube style.

From Ibaka’s blocks to the return of Ricky Rubio, from a stunner in Istanbul to a double miracle in Italy, from the US to the Continent and back again, BallinEurope’s got your highlights right here… Continue Reading…


Merry Christmas wishes from BallinEurope – and from around the basketball world

BallinEurope would like to wish a very merry Christmas to the readers out there, with hopes that your holiday season is loaded with food, drink, love – and basketball!

While the NBA is making this last item a reality with a swell slate of five games and a special Christmas-themed episode of the “Taking the Charge” podcast series will be posted later today, BiE brings even more season’s greetings from throughout the basketball universe. Among those sitting on BiE’s virtual mantelpiece are the following.

Among some great stuff for the holidays, BiE’s favorite must be “The 12 Dunks of Christmas,” a production from The NOC featuring streetballer Special FX.

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