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Oct
61

Euroleague Power Rankings: 2012-13 Opening Day Edition

All right, it’s that time again! With hours to go before the 2012-13 Euroleague season tips off, BallinEurope breaks out its first power ratings for the big league.

Whereas normally a disclaimer to the effect of “the following ratings are based on current trending only and are not necessarily based on the overall quality of the teams” runs here, this year BiE’s switching things up a bit. To wit: For this edition of Euroleague power rankings, the teams *will* be run based on BallinEurope’s totally subjective viewpoint. (Mainly because BiE couldn’t figure out what to do with Barcelona…)

Get your arguments ready and read on for this season’s first power rankings, with Official BallinEurope Fearless Predictions™ for the upcoming season peppered throughout. Enjoy the games!

The favorites
1. Olympiacos Piraeus. The usual reserved spot for the defending champion comes with some justification this year, as Vassilis Spanoulis & Co. show no signs of letting up on their 2011-12 season-ending 22-4 run. In the off-/preseason, Olympiacos’ foursome of Spanoulis, local hero Georgios Printezis, Kostas Papanikolaou and Evengelos Mantazaris suited up for a disappointed Team Greece – all but Mantazaris acquitted themselves nicely, with 50-of-89 (56.2%) overall shooting and Spanoulis dishing out just under six assists per game in three Olympic qualifiers.

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Sep
8

Romanov hit with key Žalgiris question: “Will Plaza be sacked as quickly as Zouros?”

Tick, tick, tick…

Over at Russia-based Sport Express is a lengthy interview with Žalgiris Kaunas basketball/Heart of Midlothian football club owner Vladimir Romanov. Popularly Sometimes known as “Mad Vlad,” the Ūkio Bankas man weighed in on quite a few topics related to his basketball team, including the Sonny Weems departure, the state of Russian basketball and just what the heck happened with Ilias Zouros last season.

An English-language extrapolation of the interview follows. As of this writing, Liga Endesa-imported coach Joan Plaza still holds his position with Žalgiris, but Romanov’s evasive answer to the question of Plaza’s short-term future aren’t exactly enthusiasm-generating…

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Aug
18

Is Jonas Valanciunas the problem for Team Lithuania?

And here’s a second question: Shall composition of the requiem for Lietuva’s 2012 Olympic bid begin now? Sadly, it doesn’t look good for our heroes with Team USA on the slate tomorrow and a first-round date with presumably Spain or (BiE’s pick) Russia in the knockout stage – and this in the 20th anniversary year of the country’s greatest-ever Olympic performance.

But first things first. Jonas Valančiūnas. Let’s just get right to the stat lines.
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Jul
0

2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament Preview: Lithuania

The 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men tips off in Venezuela today at 11am local time (11.30am EST, 5.30pm CET) with the Russia-South Korea match. Of the 12 national teams competing, four are European. The last of BallinEurope’s previews of these qualifiers features an assessment of Lithuania.

Roster: Tomas Delininkaitis, Paulius Jankūnas, Mantas Kalnietis (Žalgiris Kaunas); Deividas Dulkys (Florida State University); Simas Jasaitis (Lokomotiv Kuban); Šarūnas Jasikevičius (Panathinaikos); Adas Juškevičius (BC Rūdupis); Rimantas Kaukėnas, Jonas Mačiulis (Montepaschi Siena); Antanas Kavaliauskas (VEF Rīga); Linas Kleiza (Toronto Raptors); Martynas Pocius (Real Madrid); Darius Songaila (CB Valladolid); Jonas Valančiūnas (Lietuvos Rytas); head coach Kęstutis Kemzūra (Team Lithuania)

How they got here: As hosts of Eurobasket 2011, expectations in hoops-mad Lithuania were high for the home side. Right from the pre-tournament friendlies, however, the roster appeared weird at best and utterly out of sync at worst.

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Jun
5

Lithuania “struggles” in 77-68 loss to Russia: Kaun nets 21; Valanciunas gets 12, eight boards

Valanciunas was pretty good, though...

For lack of YouTube clips and FIBA posts, BallinEurope directs you to Lithuania Basketball for a brief writeup on the Russia-Lietuva friendly in Houston last night. The general gist: Despite taking a 37-35 lead into halftime, Team Lithuania struggled enough in the third quarter to take a 77-68 loss.

In fact, “struggle” appears to be the clear verb for the Lithuanians early on. Lithuania Basketball characterized the home team as “struggling quite badly this summer…” Thus far, they’re 1-3 with losses to fellow Olympic qualifying round teams Greece and FYR Macedonia plus a win against Team Britain in addition to this result.

Players of note included Sasha Kaun (21 points), Andrei Kirilenko (15 points, eight rebounds), Timofey Mozgov (10 points) and Sergey Monya (10 points) for Russia; Jonas Valanciunas (12 points, eight rebounds), Linas Kleiza (12 points), Jonas Maciulis (11 points) and Rimantas Kaukenas (11 points) for Lithuania.

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Apr
11

Kemzura releases extended Team Lithuania roster: No to Lavrinovic brothers, yes to Kleiza

Kleiza gets the call

National head coach Kestutis Kemzura has released his list of 18 candidates who could be suiting up for Team Lithuania in the 2012 Olympic qualifiers and beyond. On paper at least, the selection looks pretty good – particularly compared to the Eurobasket 2011 version of the team which included a single true no. 3 after a few early injuries took their toll. The squad includes four players from Lietuvos Rytas and five currently with Zalgiris Kaunas; among the lot, too, are five others from 2011-12 Euroleague teams and one (yes, Linas is back) from the NBA.

Notable exclusions include Darius Songalia plus Kšyštof and Darjus Lavrinovič; Songalia’s spot on the preliminary roster was filled with Mindaugas Katelynas of Lietuvos Rytas, while CSKA Moscow head coach Jonas Kazlauskas reportedly wanted Darjus to stay home and rest up this summer anyway.

On board is the young sensation Canada wants to see in Jonas Valanciunas; returning after absences in the 2011 FIBA tourney are Linas Kleiza and Jonas Maciulis; and, though he’s been remarkably tight-lipped about yet another return to the national team, good ol’ Sarunas Jasikevicius is penciled in as well.

Below runs the prospective 18; how do you like Lietuva’s chances?

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Mar
33

On the demise of Lithuanian Basketball

Jasikevicius: The long-term leader

BallinEurope is not exactly sure what led our man in Lithuania, the enigmatic Y., to contemplate the fortunes of his country’s national team … but who are we to question a Lietuva hometowner when it comes to basketball? Y. goes back eight years to figure out where things went so terribly wrong and unfortunately finds little hope for Team Lithuania’s future – even with the likes of Jonas Valančiūnas and Donatas Motiejūnas aboard…

Underachievement of a previous generation
The 2004 Olympic Games were a huge disappointment for Lithuania. As EuroBasket 2003 champions, the team was one of main favourites for silver (the fall of the “Dream Team” was still unimaginable). Lithuania, however, that year finished fourth: one step short of the prize it had collected in every Olympiad since the country’s independence.

This was the beginning of the demise of what was a top national team in the world. Players’ refusal to participate, retirements, injuries and an underachieving new generation – all these aspects contributed to Lithuania’s fall from basketball superpower levels to status as a regional great, capable of reaching a medal stage in the right circumstances.

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Nov
33

Jordan Farmar nets Euroleague Player of the Week honors

Locked-out New Jersey Net Jordan Farmar continued his personal drive to history in impressive fashion against Real Madrid on Thursday night. Farmar contributed a huge 35 overall performance index rating based on 27 points on 10-of-12 overall shooting to go with five assists in Maccabi Tel Aviv’s 88-82 win. The official Euroleague writeup on the EL’s top five performers of week three follows, along with a Farmar-filled highlight reel.

(Euroleague) – Jordan Farmar delivered his finest performance to date since joining Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv over the summer, leading the Israeli champs to an 88-82 victory over Real Madrid and earn Week 3 bwin MVP honors.

Farmar, a Euroleague rookie, had big shoes to fill this season when he took the spot in the starting lineup of All-Euroleague point guard Jeremy Pargo, who led the Israeli champs to the EL title game last season. But in a highly-anticipated showdown against the team Maccabi bested in the semifinals at last season’s Final Four in Barcelona, Farmar came through using his speed, shot-making ability and ball-handling skills to post big numbers: He finished with 27 points on 9-of-11 two-point shooting, made his only three-point attempt, and added five assists, four rebounds and eight fouls drawn for a performance index rating of 35, which was best in the Euroleague this week.

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Sep
10

Official Fearless Predictions™: Spain vs. Slovenia, Lithuania vs. FYR Macedonia

Now things are getting interesting. Eight teams remain in EuroBasket 2011, and tonight two will be eliminated from contention for the European championship. These teams will join with the losing teams of Thursday play in a playoff round to determine the all-important no. 5 and no. 6 finishers; this two sides will join nos. 3 and 4 in a qualification round for the 2012 Olympic Games.

And BallinEurope will perhaps make things a bit more contentious with not just one, but two sets of official Fearless Predictions™ as BiE’s U.K. compadre Sam Chadwick gets in on the fun in forecasting tonight’s games. Neither writer read the other’s opinion before posting.

Also provided strictly for the reader’s edification are some lines from the sportsbook, in this case Sporting Bet. As BiE argues, whether gambler or no, it pays for the fan to know the bookie’s stand; after all, these guys have the most to lose financially if they get it wrong. (Sheesh, talk about your fearless predictions…)

Plus, YouTube clips!

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Aug
26

Eurobasket 2011 Power Rankings: First take

As just nine days remain until Eurobasket 2011 tips off in Lithuania, BallinEurope today takes a look back at the performances of the two dozen teams slated to compete in the big tournament and deploys some good old power rankings – and lotsa highlight clips from friendlies and tourneys played throughout The Continent.

Once again, a reminder to readers: These ratings are based only on how the teams are trending and are no indication of prognostication for Eurobasket. (The BallinEurope Fearless Predictions™ will be released soon enough…)

1. Spain – Yes, they lost to Lithuania in the grand opening of Kauno Arena, but BiE is sticking with Team Spain in the top spot. As defending Eurobasket champions, this team is chasing history and public perception has them on the rise, i.e. “El rival de España en el Eurobasket es España.” Plus, the side got back on track in tournament warmups, dispatching Slovenia on Sunday despite shooting 2-of-10 on threes and under 66% (21-of-32) from the free-throw line.

2. Greece – What controversy? Team Greece is up to their old tricks in European play – with or without Ioannis Bourousis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis – going 3-0 at the BEKO Supercup tournament over Turkey, Belgium and Germany; earning a like mark against Russia, Israel and Poland in the European Basketball Tour 2011 in Cyprus; and finishing 2-1 in the Trofeo Tassoni against Bosnia & Herzegovina, Italy and Poland. This is an interesting Greek team, with more of an emphasis on speed than in recent years, but they look just as good early on.

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