US Presidential Election 2012: America’s basketball diplomat hits hardwood for last-minute votes (plus Official Fearless Prediction™)

Love him or hate him after nearly four years in office, one thing is for certain: Barack Obama is the first basketball president – a fact that could curry lots of favor with Generation X and Y voters in a celebrity-charged election.

Sure, Bill Clinton was lucky enough to enjoy his home-state University of Arkansas’ 1994 victory in the NCAA Tournament and play host to the Dream Team in ’92. Sure, guys like George W. Bush, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon were often more erudite when discussing sports than, you know, politics (check out “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72” for Hunter S. Thompson’s interview with Tricky Dick, an interview which Thompson was told could only be about NFL football). And the Kennedys surely won popularity points for their picturesque family touch-football games.

However, no US president has leveraged sports fandom on an international scale like Obama. (Check out BallinEurope contributing writer Enrico Cellini’s piece on his pet project, tracking Obama’s basketball diplomacy moves.) And the president’s preference for basketball represents the rise of the NBA and to some extent NCAA hopes during David Stern’s reign as the big league’s commissioner.

(Is it any coincidence that Obama came to professional prominence in that hometown of the 1990s’ Incredibulls? BiE thinks not.)

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Touring bullets: Notes, links, videos on Euroleague American and NBA Live tours

Who cares if the games are meaningless in any real sense? BallinEurope missed the Euroleague American Tour and NBA Live Tour games tremendously in 2011 – one item doubtlessly on BiE’s list of underrated casualties of the player lockout – and is thrilled to see them back.

In just a couple of hours, the Boston Celtics and Fenerbahçe Ülker will tip off the first of eight games to be played in five days’ worth of international club clashes, as teams in both continents’ big leagues prepare for 2012-13 seasons. This evening, a few notes, links and videos for you themed on these tours; naturally, BiE’ll be doing this in the time-honored tradition of the ESPN TrueHoop Network, i.e. bullet-style. To catch tonight’s and the other games, head over to Euroleague TV.

• The Dallas Mavericks’ goal on their European road trip? To build team chemistry. Also, on Saturday in Berlin, Dirk Nowitski expects to seat some 100 friends and family. Loftily stated Dastardly Dirk, “I told the NBA for all the crap I’ve been doing for them for fourteen years they better hook me up with a bunch of tickets.

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The Eurocentric 2011-12 NBA Eastern Conference preview (plus Official Fearless Predictions™)

While basketball lovers are getting something of a Christmas gift this season in the December 25 NBA opening day – BiE says “something of” there because this belated debut is kinda like your parents saying, “Well, we’ll just give you your birthday gift at Christmas.” When your birthday’s in October – BallinEurope would like to add to the virtual bounty under the tree with our annual Eurocentric NBA preview.

Here’s BallinEurope’s predominant working theory for at least the first two months of this season: The teams with more critical players who did a stint in Europe (or South America, for that matter) during the lockout will jump out to the best starts. And with a shortened season increasing the importance of every individual game, imagine what a, say, 17-5 could mean in the long-term – for a European equivalent of this model, how ‘bout that CSKA Moscow turbo boost?

So Kevin Garnett’s complaining that the preseason is too short … guys like Deron Williams have already been in real-game situations. Manu Ginobili is well rested but not “in basketball shape?” The Danilo Gallinaris, Mehmet Okurs and even the Gasol Brothers of the basketball world are set to go. More back-to-back games than ever before in NBA history? Hey, perhaps those two-a-days European coaches are so notorious for assigning will have readied these NBAers well more than the fortnight many of their colleagues are getting.

BiE would even argue that latecomers such as Tiago Splitter and late-peakers like Serge Ibaka are surely few steps ahead of the many American ballers who did not take Continental clubs up on even the most outrageous of offers. It is with this dictum in mind that this preview and Official Fearless Predictions™ were written. Today, the Eastern Conference.

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Watching the Las Vegas Superstar Challenge online

In the wake of the NBA lockout, those players from the big league not hawking their wares in Europe or elsewhere overseas are looking to schedule alternative games. Though a big-name international tour appears to be stalling at present, this weekend will see quite an exhibition in the four-team “Las Vegas Superstar Challenge” headed up by former Beşiktaş signee Allen Iverson.

While the game apparently won’t be broadcast on television, an outfit called is offering folks worldwide a chance to see the games involving names like Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Amare Stoudemire and Andre Iguodala online. See below for the press release detailing the deal; in short, $4.99 (just over €3.50 by today’s exchange rate) before Friday will get you a pass to see the Vegas games.

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Bricks, snickers and root canals: The week in Twitter

BallinEurope thinks he’s in love … with Twitter. (Yes, BiE knows he’s behind the times for this relevation, but still.)

And so, for no better reasons than idle amusement and trying to justify a bit too much time spent over on *that site*, BiE presents a look at some of the top basketball-related tweets of the week. Enjoy the link-laden goodness!

First of all, let’s welcome a certain Dallas Maverick to Twitter. (BiE congratulated him for landing the lead role in Tron: Legacy, but doesn’t think he was amused.)

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Most popular jerseys in Europe: Top 10 half European; Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade still rule

Huge seller

In advance of the Los Angeles Lakers-FC Barcelona game next week, fans of both teams in Europe are helping make Pau Gasol’s NBA jersey one of the hottest items among The Continent’s basketball faithful.

Gasol reached no. 4 on the NBA’s official list of jersey sales in Europe. The list was compiled from sales at major clothing and sports paraphernalia outlets throughout the continent. Traditional big-seller Dirk Nowitzki dropped a bit to no. 9, passed by Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon but nipping Tony Parker, Danilo Gallinari and Joakim Noah, who rounded out the top 12.

The top 15 runs as follows:

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Paul Pierce: Italy or Greece for a year before retiring

Hmm, Boston wears green, PAO wears green...

From the In Case You Haven’t Heard It Yet Department, a bit of news that won’t take effect until the second Obama Administration, yet still has BallinEurope just giddy. From Comcast Sports Net Philly, here’s the quote from Paul Pierce on his future in the NBA:

“As far as retiring from the NBA, I think I will be done after this contract because eventually I want to go overseas and play and live for a couple of years. That’s why this is a big contract for me, knowing I’m going to retire a Boston Celtic. I want to go to either Italy or Greece for a year. I think I want to be able to bring my family over to just kind of share a different experience overseas for a couple of years, before I settle into retirement.”

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WWDD? (What would Dirk do?) Four destinations for free agent Nowitzki

So the big German’s gonna do it, huh? The ever-loyal Dirk Nowitzki, he whom many would dub “the greatest European player of all-time,” will apparently be leaving the only NBA home he’s ever known to test the free-agent waters this summer, opting out of his contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

Not that anyone asked, but damn right, BallinEurope has an opinion on the subject of the baddest Mav’s prospective new freedom. Heck, i’ve been mulling this one over at least since i caught the PTI guys kicking around the concept.

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Draft profile: Jan Vesely

In tribute to that great international pastime known as “NBA mock drafting,” BallinEurope’s man in the U.K., Sam Chadwick, periodically takes a look at some of Europe’s prospective high draft picks. Today’s profile features the Czech Republic’s Jan Vesely, a power forward reckoned to be the second European taken in the NBA draft (after Donatas Motiejunas) and a bona fide first-rounder.

Remember the name (photo courtesy

Remember the name (photo courtesy

Vital Stats
Position: Power Forward/Small Forward
Height: 6’11”/2.11m
Weight: 230 lbs/104 kg
Date of birth: 04/24/1990
Current club: Partizan Belgrade

Strengths: Vesely is ranked as the second-best international prospect in this year’s draft after Donatas Motiejunas; he is a scoring, hustling small forward/power forward from Partizan Belgrade, another stereotypical European player who has a sweet shooting touch but has a fairly weak inside game as he can be pushed around by bigger opposition which is likely in the NBA. This will surely change with time and the right training during the off-season, though.

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