Aug
0

What the Rockets can expect from Papanikolaou

Kostas-Papanikolaou-Xavi-Pascual
The Houston Rockets finally secured the services of Kostas Papanikolaou on Friday night but what will the two-time Euroleague champion bring to the table?

The Rockets locked down Papanikolaou on a two-year $9.4 million contract, a big step up from the $4m dollar deal over the same period he was initially offered. With a $1.5 million buyout to pay to Barcelona, $900,000 of which would come out of his own pocket, Pap was always going to need a bigger offer to cross the Atlantic. Not that he is so-so about going to the NBA. The Greek forward has previously said he’d sacrifice money for playing time to get to the association. The need for a new deal was pretty much about value.

What Rockets fans should see in Pap is potential. The past three seasons have seen great development in the maturity of his game. The Greek announced his presence to Europe with an outstanding display in the Euroleague final in 2012. A year later he was named the league’s rising star, before leaving Olympiacos to join Barcelona.
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Jul
0

Shuffling pre-threepeat, Russians in Brooklyn: Last week’s five most intriguing Euroleague (and one NBA) acquisitions

All right, now things are getting interesting. Euroleague rosters are falling into place with top names signing with clubs that leave BallinEurope stretching the imagination – thinking about Papanikolaou outfitted in the Blaugrana here – and most of the prime pickups in the NBA have chosen their destinations for 2013-14. (Except … except … what about Nikola Pekovic and that $50 million deal? What is happening in Eurowolves land?)

Regardless of poor Peks’ situation, player movement kept things interesting for European basketball devotees even if no actual club games are being played. BiE took special notice of the following moves last week.

• Kostas Papanikolaou to Barcelona and
• Mirza Begic to Olympiacos. So the Reds want to threepeat, huh? Well, they’ll have to do so with quite a different look; the losses of Papanikolaou and Kyle Hines while adding Mirza Begic and Bryant Dunston means swapping two guys who played above their height for, well, actual height – not to mention opening up a barrage of questions. Could we really see a downshift in tempo in Piraeus? Does management expect to improve in rebounding, in which Olympiacos was third-best in the 2012-13 Euroleague? How much more court time will Stratos Perperoglou see? And how important can former Harlem Globetrotter Brent Petway be?

Intriguing stuff indeed, but what about that shiny new Blaugrana acquisition? The not-quite 23-year-old (his birthday’s next week) joins a roster that includes La Bomba, Marcelinho Huertas, Ante Tomic and up-and-comers Alex Abrines, Mario Hezonja and Marko Todorovic – in short, a lot of weaponry in the arsenal. More is needed in the backcourt with no more Pete Mickael and who-knows-what-Erazem-Lorbek-will-bring, but BiE’s picks Barca to be among the big league’s top-scoring sides in 2013-14.

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Jul
1

Podcast: Talking Euroleague, NBA transactions, Lithuania basketball

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #44 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

This week’s podcast pays homage to the axiom that, when in doubt about what to talk about in European basketball, simply go to Lithuania. And who better to discuss Team Lithuania’s chances in Eurobasket 2013, Linas Kleiza’s release from the Toronto Raptors, Zalgiris Kaunas’ exit from the VTB United League and such topics than Lithuania Basket’s Simas Baranauskas? Few, we think. (Spoiler: Simas is “cautiously optimistic” about Lietuva in the Slovenia tourney.)

Hein and yours truly also bring the speculation and chatter about recent moves and events in European ball and abroad, touching on Kostas Papanikalaou staying with prospective threepeaters Olympiacos; Richard Hendrix staying in his niche on Eurocup champs Lokomotiv Kuban; the success of Milwaukee Bucks draft pick Giannis Antetokounmpo in the FIBA U20 European Championship tournament; Andrei Kirilenko taking a pay cut to join the Brooklyn Nets (which is clearly about kickbacks and not pursuing an NBA title ); Bogdan Bogdanovic eschewing those same Nets for another turn with Fenerbahçe Ülker; and Bobby Brown attempting to crack the New York Knicks roster.

All this and our sports movie review of the week, the so-bad-it’s-marvelous Jean-Claude Van Damme flick Double Team co-starring none other than Dennis Rodman and Mickey “The Wrestler” Rourke. Ever wonder why The Worm has had to resort to bizarre forays into North Korea for HBO in order to stay in the entertainment biz? Rodman brazenly putting his acting “chops” in this flick will explain all. And remember: Offense gets all the glory, but defense wins championships…

Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter http://heinnews.com/feed/taking-the-charge/ into iTunes or any podcast aggregator.

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Jul
1

From the free-for-all: Last week’s top five Euroleague acquisitions (plus one from the NBA)

Has it really been almost two months since the Euroleague Final Four? And when did the seasons in Spain, Greece, Italy and the NBA finish up? Time gets exceedingly relative and outright bendy once offseason transactioneering begins as memories of the previous year are quickly disposed for a look to the next and the money starts flying around.

Last week was a particularly noteworthy, headline-making span, particularly over here in Europe and especially if you’re interested in any player not named Dwight Howard. Here are BallinEurope’s five favorite moves of the previous seven days. (Is it wrong to say BiE already can’t wait for October?)

• Adam Hanga to Laboral Kutxa Baskonia. The career arc of the player destined to become Hungary’s all-time greatest continues: After developing in the Hungarian league followed by two seasons with Manresa of Liga Endesa, Hanga is set to make his Euroleague debut at age 24½ with Baskonia – and seems certain to surprise those not in-the-know with his across-the-board contributions; while Hanga will be having some minor surgery this week, he expects to miss no regular-season games. The four-year contract with Baskonia may yet keep Hanga here in Europe and out of San Antonio for a bit longer, which can be construed as good news (certainly for Continental ball followers) or bad (for the NBA supremacists).

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Jun
9

On Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Giannakopoulos and the Greek League mess

The history books will forever record Panathinaikos as having won game three of the 2012-13 Greek League championship series over Olympiacos by a score of 76-72 to complete a three-game sweep. The reality, as is sadly so often the case in Greens-Reds match, was more complicated.

With just under a minute and a half remaining, an Olympiacos turnover gave Panathinaikos the ball. At this point, Reds fans unleashed their fury on the Greens’ bench for a scene well-known to those familiar with Greek basketball.

Game three therefore ended with refs calling the match with 87 seconds remaining; a request from the officials to clear the building went unheeded.

While some Olympiacos players admitted in defeat that “We did not play good basketball” (18-of-79 three-point shooting in the three games is one statistic fortifying that opinion) or that perhaps they’d been mentally/physically/emotionally exhausted by the Euroleague Final Four victories, but one cannot deny the assessment that “anything can happen in 87 seconds,” particularly when the side down by four points have proven to be Europe’s comeback kids these past two seasons.

The Red Planet report portrays a team “disrespected” by Greek League referees and, by extension, by league officials. Again, hard to deny, considering reports that Reds players were subject to the Wada Test some 15 times since last year’s playoffs – and with not a single positive result.

Said Kostas Papanikolaou in the post-game presser, as reported by Eurohoops: …we are deeply hurt by the rumors [...] that doping had to do with our Euroleague win. This is something that we didn’t deserve and it affected us.” Olympiacos coach Georgios Bartzokas bitterly stated that “A journalist, who is a joke, started a rumor and the Greek state changes its anti-doping policy. That says a lot about Greece. Nobody around Europe mentioned anything like that about us…”

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May
1

Steals, slams and rejections: Top 10 plays of the 2012-13 Euroleague season

Okay, below runs the highlight clip European basketball fans traditionally look for this time of year – namely, the Top 10 Plays of the past Euroleague season. And while BallinEurope just as traditionally questions the pecking order of these things, BiE’ll have to admit the big ‘league pretty much nailed it this year right up to no. 1.

Said top play comes from the Olympiacos-Real Madrid final and justifies (BiE believes) this media partner’s vote for EL Final Four MVP in and of itself. As BiE always says, when an audible collective gasp swamps the press section, you know you’ve got a moment for the ages…

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May
May
1

Vassilis Spanoulis’ Euroleague interview, photo: What’s the message?

Is Vassilis Spanoulis throwing down a gauntlet? As the Euroleague official website leads its interview with The Captain by describing him as having “taken his place among the all-time greats of basketball by leading Olympiacos Piraeus to just the second Euroleague repeat title in the last two decades,” the below picture appears on the site’s front page.

Given that Olympiacos’ trophy was taken in Britain, does anyone else sense a subliminal message here, perhaps to the rest of the ‘League…?

(Vassilis Spanoulis image courtesy Euroleague)

The entire interview with Spanoulis may be found here.

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May
1

Podcast: Interview with Ricky Rubio; wrapping the 2012-13 Euroleague season, NIJT; reviewing The Wrestler

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #35 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Talking the Charge” podcast series is now available online and is downloadable from iTunes – and o boy, it’s a good one.

Days after Olympiacos made European basketball history, we’re still amazed by another incredible run by the Reds and so discuss the context of this back-to-back title victory. Also up for discussion are reasons why Real Madrid and FC Barcelona should be proud and CSKA Moscow a bit ashamed. And what about that Red Army side? Will they blow up the team? What is the future of Ettore Messina, Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic with the club after a most disappointing Euroleague finish?

We also weigh in on the results and performances of the Nike International Junior Tournament, with particular reference to the finalists, champions Club Joventut Badalona and runners-up FC Barcelona – an extreme contrast in styles vis-à-vis club development within the economic realities of European sport in the 2010s.

Ricky Rubio WolvesOf course, this show’s highlight is the brief interview with none other than The Human YouTube Highlight Clip himself, Ricky Rubio. In remarkably succinct fashion, La Pistola weighs in on this year’s Euroleague Final Four, the past frustrating season with the Minnesota Timberwolves (and the importance of Nikola Pekovic) and the possibilities for Team Spain in the upcoming Eurobasket 2013 tournament.

Finally, our sports movie review of the week focuses on the 2008 film The Wrestler featuring Mickey Rourke in an outstanding tour de force career-comeback performance.

Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter http://heinnews.com/feed/taking-the-charge/ into iTunes or any podcast aggregator.

Thanks for listening and talk to you next week!

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May
40

Instant history: Olympiacos dominates last 30 minutes, tops Real Madrid, 100-88, for back-to-back titles

No matter which way this year’s Euroleague championship played out, history would be made with Olympiacos chasing a repeat championship and Real Madrid its first in 18 years. And as it turns out, fate’s scribe was writing with Red(s) pen: Once again, tournament underdogs Olympiacos ended up EL alpha dogs with a 100-88 win over Real Madrid for only the third repeat title of the last 25 years.

(Olympiacos BC image courtesy Euroleague)

Olympiacos: They are the champions — again

Real Madrid jumped out to an early lead as All-Euroleague first teamer Rudy Fernandez accounted for six points and two assists on his team’s first 10 points, finding Sergio Llull again and again; the two would combine for 16 in the first quarter alone. Los Blancos’ 27-10 lead after the opening stanza might have been considered enough against an ordinary team – but Europe’s comeback kids are hardly ordinary.

Pero Antic’s three to start the scoring in the second quarter got the Olympiacos fans back to their feet –more importantly triggering a 13-2 run with contributions from Kyle Hines and Kostas Sloukas to bring the Reds to within seven at 29-22. And highlight-reel Reyes-to-Slaughter alley-oop dunk aside, the Reds fairly well owned the second 10 minutes, outscoring Real 27-14

Of particular note in the second 10 minutes was Stratos Perperglou stifling Fernandez, limiting him to just two points on free throws; in fact, Perperglou’s defensive play was representative of Olympiacos’, as nearly half of the Madrid points (six) in the quarter were made at the line, while six Real turnovers were forced.

Vassilis Spanoulis, remarkably quiet for so long, finally broke his personal cold streak with a three after the first minute of the third quarter and a subsequent three would give Olympiacos its first lead at 48-45 – must’ve been something concocted at halftime … another run – this one 15-5 – appeared to have Real on the ropes in the third, but Los Blancos weren’t finished yet, momentarily retaking the lead at 56-55 after a pair of jumpers from Fernandez.

Among the highlights in a pressure-packed final five minutes of the third were two consecutive stops of Fernandez after he’d run up seven in the stanza already; among the lowlights, Sloukas assessed for a technical after flopping. Nikola Mirotic, uncharacteristically plagued with foul trouble earned his fourth PF – one of 10 committed by three members of the Real frontcourt – late in the third quarter as well. After 30 minutes, it was a new ballgame: 61-61.

With 90 seconds gone, Spanoulis reentered the court to palpable tension. A section of Reds fans maintained their trademark noise, but many were strangely silent while the Madridistas clung to edges of their seats.
The death blow may have come on a hidden play, as Acie Law forced Llull to bounce a dribble off his foot and into the backcourt – Spanoulis’ followup three would ultimately seal the deal from 70-62:

While Law and Sloukas and Georgi Shermadini went on to score from various spots on the floor, Jaycee Carroll’s three-pointer – just one of three Madrid shooting attempts in the fourth quarter’s first five minutes – stood alone as a Real success from the floor. By that time, the Reds’ lead had ballooned to 82-70 and the Spanish side simply did not have an Olympiacos-like miracle comeback in ‘em.

And no Spanoulis, either.

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