Serbian Cup final: Partizan Belgrade domination continues

Speaking of national cups, Serbia’s tournament also went down this weekend, with Partizan enjoying a 64-51 win over Red Star Belgrade. Win the win, the perpetual Euroleague side once again reasserted its supremacy back home and are on a title run longer than Montepaschi Siena’s. BallinEurope’s man in Serbia, Marko Savkovic, analyzes the keys to victory and of course provides highlight clips. Congratulations to Partizan!

Five in a row! In hard-fought, super emotional finale of the Serbian National Cup, Red Star Belgrade (a.k.a. Crvena Zvezda Beograd) surprised many by staying competitive well until the fourth quarter. Then trusted veteran Dusan Kecman – Who else would it be, after all? – scored his first triple, giving Partizan a 54-44 lead to put them well beyond their rivals’ reach. As an intentional foul was called on Omar Thomas with two minutes remaining, the celebration could begin. And it was well deserved, as Partizan clinched its 15th trophy (yes, you read it correctly) in three years, including Serbian League, Serbian Cup and Adriatic League titles. So what won the game for Partizan?

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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?

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Radnicki’s Scott and Simon: How two Americans are changing the game in Kragujevac

The hottest team in Europe right now (not named CSKA Moscow, that is)? BallinEurope figures Radnički Kragujevac could be in the discussion. After stumbling to a dismal 1-6 start in Adriatic League play, the recently reformed club has enjoyed a complete about-face and is clawing its way back up the ABA table, currently sitting in seventh place at 9-8. Back home in Serbia, they’re considered one of the favorites (behind Partizan Belgrade, that is) in February’s Serbian National Cup tournament.

Marko Savkovic today takes a look at Radnički’s comeback, particularly in light of exciting things from American players David Simon and Michael Scott.

“Until one’s star fades the other does not begin to shine,” goes a well known Serbian proverb. While news of the week depicted Hemofarm’s imminent collapse, the players of Radnički Kragujevac meanwhile reserved their time under the spotlight. After a disappointing start, they have beaten the likes of Red Star Belgrade, Cibona Zagreb and Partizan, to mention just a few, and are a strong – some even argue the strongest – contender ahead of the Serbian Korac Cup.

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What every young player needs: Playing time

Even in these days of internationalism, certain constants remain in European basketball vis-à-vis player development. BallinEurope’s Marko Savkovic takes a brief look at the current situation in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, with particular reference to Partizan’s Danilo Andjusic and Nemanja Nedovic of Red Star Belgrade.

Ask any coach what a young player needs to develop, and he will answer: “playing time.” Readiness to open the floor to skinny teenagers in order to gradually turn them into match winners used to be one of defining features of ex-Yu ball. Coaches were not advised only by their instinct. The talent pool was wider and deeper. The league was more competitive. Local teams were built on youth systems and were proud of the talent in store. Due to restrictions, these teenagers were not sold abroad early, while guys with more experience were kept on the roster. What was the end result? When one team that was neither from Belgrade or Zagreb – namely, Jugoplastika Split – achieved its unforgettable threepeat.

Two decades later, things have changed dramatically. There are fewer players to choose from. Many youth systems have collapsed due to lack of funding. Yet, teams still must win in order to attract publicity and sponsorships. In doing this, defense is the key. Points are built on discipline, patience, positioning and calculated aggression: This in turn translates into fewer minutes for the youngsters who must learn fast and impress quickly or leave.

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Adam Morrison debuts for Beşiktaş; Eagles win, 85-75; Seattle still pining

First Allen Iverson, then Deron Williams, now Adam Morrison. The former Zag first suited up for Beşiktaş Milangaz yesterday after landing that club’s seemingly mandatory reserved roster spot for an NBA name player. Morrison only saw less than 10 minutes of action in his new side’s 85-75 victory at Antalya, going for two points and two rebounds in that span.

Morrison began his 2011-12 season with Red Star Belgrade (a.k.a. Crvena Zvezda Beograd), with whom he notably achieved a 15.5 ppg average on just under 48% overall shooting in Adriatic League play – highlighted by his 30-point explosion against Union Olimpija – while winning over Red Star fans’ hearts.

No video appears readily available for post at the present moment, but below runs a recent upload from YouTube user CosmicEgg88 reminding us that Seattle is still pining for Morrison – and professional basketball for that matter…

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11-for-11: BallinEurope’s Most 11 popular stories from 2011

So 2011 may have been few people’s favorite year personally, European basketball fans have certainly got to be taking solace in the fact that the past 12 months featured a seriously great run of Continental-flavored hoops.

To wit, in 2011, we enjoyed:

• an exciting round of Euroleague playoffs which included FC Barcelona’s surprising tournament-round exit and culminated in storied franchise Panathinaikos bagging its third EL trophy in five years;

• in domestic leagues, another weird Bundesliga playoff tournament, another controversial Greek tourney, and from Italy and Spain second-place shockers Bennet Cantù and Bizkaia Bilbao Basket advancing;

• lots of European superstars battling it out in the NBA playoffs, particularly on the Western Conference side, with Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and of course Dirk Nowitzki proving so key to their teams’ successes (or lack thereof);

the Eurobasket 2011 tournament hosted in the world’s basketball-maddest country which ultimately inspired Team Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic to opine that “this has been the strongest European Championship in history…” (and, judging only from the star content alone, BiE would probably agree, despite a general loathing for such hyperbole directly after an event);

• some awesome schadenfreude-laced moments as NBA refugees came to play on the Continent during the player lockout, plus all the incredibly amusing speculation on names beginning with Kobe Bryant; and finally

• the close to the 2011-12 Euroleague regular season with a week 10 that featured some crazy dogfights for entry and positioning in the Top 16 round, including a great do-or-die game between Emporio Armani Milano and Partizan Belgrade.

Olympic Games or no, how can basketball year 2011 be topped? On the first day of the new year, BallinEurope takes a last brief look back at the most popular stories we ran in 2011. Relive one killer 365 days of European roundball once more below.

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Peja Stojakovic: The BallinEurope tribute

Just days ago, Peja Stojakovic appeared to be a viable free agent for an NBA team with roster holes, a still-deadly long-range assassin at the age of 34, a 19-year veteran with gas enough in the tank for late-game daggers and smart D, a prototypical European baller with an American championship pedigree. “Couldn’t he drain a few 3s for a contender?” rhetorically asked hoops sage Bill Simmons last Friday.

Alas, it was not to be. The Serbian sharpshooter will not be part of the Dallas Mavericks’ quest to repeat as NBA champions, announcing his retirement from professional basketball late Monday night. Citing injuries to his neck and back, Stojakovic decided his physical struggles were “a wakeup call” for him to leave the game at this point.

On the plus side, Peja has the privilege of going out on top, in 2011 not only topping his seeming long-time personal rivals the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA playoffs, but also finally earning the ring which had eluded him for a dozen seasons ‘Stateside.

Today BallinEurope pays tribute to the gold-medal winning, NBA title having, future FIBA Hall of Fame nod achieving legend in the traditional fashion … let’s go to the ‘Tube!

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Return of the Bulldog: Adam Morrison goes for 30 against Union Olimpija

When was the last time Adam Morrison went for 30 points on any level of basketball?

The former Gonzaga Bulldog has been making waves in the European game since joining KK Crvena Zvezda (a.k.a. Red Star Belgrade). Morrison’s most recent effort wasn’t against just any bunch of slouchers, either: The long-locked one totaled his 30 on 12-of-19 overall shooting in a 101-93 Adriatic League loss to Euroleague side Union Olimpija. After three games, the ex-Zag is averaging 18.7 points per game, good for fifth-best in ABA ball thus far.

Below runs the highlight reel from the Olimpija game, just in case this sounds too unbelievable to be true.

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Adam Morrison throws down vs. Bogdan Radosavljevic, Bayern München

All right, this one’s starting to go viral within the basketball-related blogosphere, so for posterity’s sake, BallinEurope runs highlights from this week’s tough guy in European basketball.

That’s right: BiE’s talking about Adam Morrison, the former NBA washout Gonzaga Bulldogs star currently plying his trade with Red Star Belgrade. Thursday night saw the Stars taking on Eurocup side Bayern München in Belgrade in a “friendly” match.

Morrison, actually looking quite a bit buffer than he ever has, apparently took offense at Bayern big guy Bogdan Radosavljevic brushing him aside to grab an easy rebound on a Red Star fast break. Morrison got in the face, and that was all she wrote for the Zag: Morrison was ejected immediately, sent to the locker room with a game-high 17 points, and got a standing ovation … they love him in Serbia already! See for yourself below the break.

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Fallout from Eurobasket 2011: Is Serbian basketball in trouble?

With a quite respectable history over the past 20 years – particularly in the FIBA EuroBasket tournament – Serbia has earned a reputation as one of The Continent’s great basketball powers. A little concern may be justified, then, at Team Serbia’s relatively disappointing eighth-place finish in this year’s European national-team tourney; indeed, at least one news source sees Serbia’s early bouncing as a symptom of greater illnesses affecting the team’s national program.

The English-language version of the Serbia-based Blic online ran a piece on Monday which sought answers under the headline “Basketball stifled by financial troubles and busy calendar.” Writer Tatjana Dragojevic investigated some of the woes she (and others) see as dogging Serbia hoops; today BallinEurope takes a closer look at some points of speculation.

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