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The BBL experience – Rowdy in Frankfurt +++ Fearless predictions: Euroleague playoffs +++ A Dario triple-double? Now that’s good timing +++ Swee’ Pea needs your help +++ Final Four: What the bookies say when the bookies talk +++ The greatest Eurodance tribute to Goran Dragic ever +++ Swaggy P’s tribute to Os moving back to the USA +++ Help Swee’ Pea make the big screen +++ The Dish: Can I play with Madness? +++ Just point out the bounce +++
Mar
0

Even inaction is political for FIBA in Ukraine

The last thing on most people’s minds when it comes to the crisis in Crimea is basketball. FIBA Europe don’t have that luxury. Emmet Ryan says that whatever call FIBA makes on EuroBasket 2015, they will suffer for it.

The road to EuroBasket 2015 had been rocky enough already before last weekend. The Crimea crisis has escalated matters and there are many furrowed brows in FIBA Europe’s headquarters in Munich right about now. Ukraine is set to host the continent’s premier basketball competition next year, that presents a political nightmare for the basketball body.

Let’s look at the options facing FIBA. Only two really matter, keep the tournament in Ukraine or move it. The former requires no new action from FIBA Europe, the latter most certainly does. Neither is pleasant.

The lone upside to keeping the tournament in Ukraine is that FIBA Europe technically isn’t making a political statement if it proceeds with the plan. There’s just a slight problem, if Russia says it’s a political statement then it might as well be. Russia could pull out of the tournament, removing every Russian eyeball and the TV money that goes with it. More importantly, it’s a blatant opportunity for Vladimir Putin to grandstand. And all of this while FIBA Europe does literally nothing to change its current course of action. The financial hit is one the body could take in the short-term but pissing off a big market isn’t advisable beyond it.

Removing the tournament from Ukraine has obviously negative implications from a face-saving point. It’s basically a continent-wide governing body saying Kthanxbai and leaving a member hanging. Whatever your views on the political administration in Ukraine, their governing body of basketball is hardly one to shoulder the blame here. What no-one else will say is that if Ukraine loses the tournament, the only nation likely to boycott is Ukraine. Many more will cluck but they’ll still show up to ball.

The only way FIBA Europe gets out of this jam easily is if Ukraine becomes unviable as a host for the tournament. There are two ways this could happen. Political instability is the less pleasant option. Should matters escalate, and it’s safe to say that’s not a good thing, then FIBA can cite safety concerns but it would really wish it didn’t have to. The second is infrastructure. Does Ukraine still have the physical infrastructure and financial resources to deliver EuroBasket? It’s not exactly a nice idea either but infrastructural concerns, especially substantial ones, would be by far the easiest option for FIBA Europe to use to abandon Ukraine.

Whatever way it pans out, FIBA Europe is going to take an absolutely beating in the press. There are often fair and reasonable reasons to mock the governing body. This really isn’t one of them but it will be one of the more visible and it will end badly for them.

EuroBasket 2015 isn’t the first potential clash of politics and basketball in this crisis. With Ukraine’s Budvielnik Kiev and Khimik Yuzhne still in EuroCup, along with Russian outfits Khimki Moscow Region, Unics Kazan, and Nizhny Novgorod, the competition could yet deliver a match-up where politics takes precedence over basketball.

There’s also the small matter of the VTB United League. The next game scheduled between teams from both nations is between Triumphy Lyubertsy and Azovmash Mariupol. Given Mariupol’s home game with Russia’s Khimki was postponed on 23 February, it’s safe to say that games between Russian and Ukrainian sides in the league are likely to go unplayed for the foreseeable future.

Feb
1

Enough with the arbitrary rankings argument

Yesterday we found out that Finland would be playing in the 2014 World Cup of Basketball. Some people were upset because of Angry Birds but plenty thought Finland’s FIBA ranking meant they were undeserving. Emmet Ryan has a problem with these arguments, especially the latter.

We’ve got a pretty intelligent readership. You guys understand concepts like ELO rankings, used for chess, and how they are based on pretty heavy amounts of data. International basketball doesn’t use an ELO system and even if they did, they wouldn’t have the data to back it up. In simple terms, there really aren’t a lot of games played internationally. We live in a what have you done for me lately world not by choice but by necessity. The rankings don’t recognise said need. These rankings place China, losing quarter finalists in AsiaBasket, at 12th in the world. Turkey who, since finishing second at the 2010 World Cup (which they hosted) are 7th despite being utter turkeys in international play in the years since. Great Britain, a team for whom this writer has a heavy bias in their favour, sit 22nd by virtue of automatically qualifying for the 2012 Olympics having never got past the first stage of EuroBasket.

Yet yesterday we saw some good basketball writers lean on Finland’s ranking of 39th in the world as a reason to leave them out, ignoring their superior performances to Turkey in the last two EuroBaskets. Now don’t get me wrong, having a wild card system is a joke in and of itself but we’ll get to that in a second. If you exclude the Finns, you simply have to drop Turkey because they have been objectively worse for the last three years.

Were merit the deciding factor, I’d have sent Italy and Canada to Spain but even there we need to apply a giant caveat. The selections of those two teams is based only on what they did in 2013 on the court. Were there no wild cards, the complexion of the qualifying system would have unquestionably be different. Italy and Canada delivered their performances in full knowledge of the off-court route of qualification.

Now about that off-court route. Let’s assume nobody here likes the idea of basically buying your way into a world championship. Ideally we don’t see that option. That however was the situation and it immediately weighted the playing field on off-court criteria in favour of certain nations. TV rights and audiences make larger nations more appealing to FIBA. What the Finns did was no different in terms of its objective and basketball value to Greece, Turkey, Russia, or anyone else. The only difference was they hustled hard and found a way to make up for their deficiencies in conventional resources. If they couldn’t deliver TV, they could deliver something. The Angry Birds are that something. You may find it a novelty but as the most popular mobile download in the world. it’s a big place to put some ads.

The rankings suck, off-court factors mattering suck, Finland sure as hell don’t suck. They play fun ball and they made what should have been a dull wild card process interesting. Good for the Susijengi.

We’ll have an interview with one of Finland’s bid team up next week, I have to hold it for a piece I’m working on for my day job.

Sep
15

FIBA Facing World Cup Wild Card Dilemma

Greece’s double-overtime loss to Croatia compounded a problem that has been growing for FIBA since the continental tournament season began. Who gets the four wildcards?

Who says you can’t get too much of a good thing? FIBA has four World Cup wildcard slots to award and plenty of willing suitors. Whatever happens, somebody is going to be upset. The headache for FIBA began at the FIBA Asia Championship where China, went out in the quarter finals to Chinese Taipei. That made on of the big draws in world basketball and immediate front runner for a wildcard spot.

Fast forward a few weeks to the FIBA AfroBasket and two of last year’s Olympic participants, Nigeria and Tunisia, failed to secure a bid for the World Cup. As it stood there was actually a reasonable chance that one of these sides would get a wildcard. There just needed to be no major upsets in the Tournament of the Americas or EuroBasket.

Yeah about that. Brazil went 0-4 in Venezuela, leaving the 2016 Olympic hosts in need of a wildcard to make the World Cup. Canada, with a NBA stacked roster, almost did FIBA a solid. The Maple Leaf nation looked on course to secure an automatic spot but lost its last two games to come fifth, one place short of an automatic ticket to Spain next year. So far so crazy but it took EuroBasket to turn this into a full-on migraine.

The first round saw Germany, Russia, and Turkey, all fall. Turkey hosted the last World Cup and Turkish companies, Beko and Turkish Airlines most notably, provide major sponsorship to the sport in Europe. Russia is Russia and Germany’s Bundesliga has brass across the world excited by its development. Things were pretty bad as they stood before Monday. Then Greece lost in double overtime to Croatia, ending their involvement in EuroBasket. With that defeat, the Greeks joined the list of teams FIBA would like in the World Cup that failed to qualify automatically. Let’s go through these teams in the order they fell to see their shot at earning a reprieve.
Continue Reading…

Jun
10

Eurobasket 2013: Which NBA players are in, which are out?

Because it’s never too early to start looking ahead to Eurobasket 2013 – wait a minute, there’s only 11 weeks left until tipoff? Definitely not too early, then, to take a look at the formative rosters for the big Continental tournament.

While only a few national teams (Croatia and Lithuania among them) have released preliminary rosters at this point and a few major leagues still playing (Spain, Greece, Germany, Italy, etc.), we can at least deduce which NBA players will or won’t be playing. After all, the rosters of 93.3% of NBA teams have finished their 2012-13 season – and the Miami Heat have no Europeans!

Below is a rundown of each team and the status of their potential NBA players. A few high-profile draft choices and rights-owned guys expected to jump over soon are also peppered in, along with links to appropriate sources. If you find/hear of anything relevant to the list, please comment below.
And we’ll do this group by group…

Group A
Belgium –
no current NBA players

France – Kevin Seraphin (Washington Wizards) is out for ’13 but hints he’ll be back in the future.

Ten days ago, based on a L’Equipe report, website Catch-and-Shoot described Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)’ Eurobasket status as *très incertain*, and after another punishing NBA season seems unlikely.

No official word on Nicolas Batum (Portland), though the Trail Blazers reportedly be “watching Batum’s injury” this offseason. Perhaps some discouragement is forthcoming…?

France-based media outlet Figaro reported back in May that Ian Mahinmi (Indiana Pacers) and Ronny Turiaf (Los Angeles Clippers) would play; this may have been speculation based on prior results, but Turiaf’s presence on Les Blues for this tournament has been on coach Collet’s mind for a while.

Continue Reading…

Apr
3

France’s Livio Jean-Charles leads World Team to 112-98 shootout win, first back-to-back victory since 1999 [Highlights]

Those squeezing in viewings of the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit game between NBA playoff matches yesterday not only saw quite the shootout featuring world-class talent but also a bit of history: In upping their all-time record to 5-11 against Team USA with the 112-98 win, the World Select Team earned their second back-to-back win ever in the competition and first repeat since 1999.

The big news individually speaking was ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne’s Livio Jean-Charles, who overshadowed his more headline-grabbing teammate Andrew Wiggins of Canada, with a huge 27 points and 13 rebounds. (For the record on this day, Jean-Charles is currently projected as a #36 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft over at Draft Express; surely this guy’s stock will be rising before the Day…) Team World overcame fierce performances from prospective Duke Blue Devil Jabari Parker (22 points) and Kentucky Wildcat-to-be Julius Randle (19 points, eight rebounds).

But without further ado – To the highlight clips!

Oregon Live put together a “top 15 plays of the game” clip for your debate perusal – No, one second thought, BiE’ll go with “debate”. How did Rondaé Hollis-Jefferson’s insane pickpocket steal of and follow-up jam on Mouhammadou Jaiteh only land at no. 10, for example? For another, how did Randle’s reverse baseline dunk get beaten by Dante Exum’s circusy and-one? In any case, see for yourselves…

Here’s a more styled game-highlight compilation put together by BallisLife which puts the emphasis on the individual, showing how the showcase features of the ‘Summit…

And major props to the always excellent Euroleague Adventures, for their excellent job video-recording *everything* in the leadup to the game. A couple samples from their post-game work run below – there’s Jean-Charles described (correctly) and the should’ve-been-game MVP, followed by Team Russia/Triumph Lyubertsy’s Sergey Karasev on “Being a Sharp Shooter”. BiE seriously urges you to check out ELA’s massive cache of clips from the Nike Hoop Summit as well – right here.

Congratulations again to the World Select Team on the victory; we’ll leave with a Tweet, perhaps a suggestion for success to future Nike Hoop Summit squads: Maybe it’s all about the bonding…

Continue Reading…

Mar
2

Report: Ksystof Lavrinovic to leave Zalgiris Kaunas for unnamed Russian team

With the sad departure of Tremmell Darden and the mathematical probability of Euroleague advancement very low, things can’t get much worse for Zalgiris Kaunas.
Or maybe they can. Just before midnight yesterday, Lithuania-based basketball website Krepsinis.net reported that Ksystof Lavrinovic has received offers to jump ship from more than one Russian team and “will soon leave” Zalgiris.

The teams were unnamed, but Krepsinis notes that, while players can no longer added to Euroleague rosters, any additions made would still be allowed to play in VTB United and Russian League games through the season’s remainders.

As BallinEurope’s man in Lithuania Y. would surely say, “Just frustrating.” And the nadir may not have been reached yet…

Continue Reading…

Feb
1

Team Russia to be AK-less for Eurobasket as Andrei Kirilenko announces retirement

Kirilenko in 2008

But what a way to go out, eh…?

Russia-based Sport Express and FIBA are this morning reporting what many have suspected all along what was inevitable: That Andrei Kirilenko is to retire from international play. Kirilenko explained that he’d already recently discussed the possibility with Russian Basketball Federation president Alexander Krasnenkov and that he “didn’t want to keep everyone in suspense for long.”

Citing common concerns among international players about fatigue and personal life, Kirilenko told Sport Express that “I’m not ready to spend most of the summer with the team and not with the family.” He hopes that the fortunes of Team Russia remain high and that he wishes to “transfer the authority and responsibility to” the younger generation of national teamers.

Continue Reading…

Feb
0

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.

Continue Reading…

Jan
0

Highlight of the weekend: Spartak Vladivostok get surprise assist in match vs. Unics Kazan

A shout out to Sportando, which draws our attention this morning to what could very well be “The Assist of the Year.” From the yesterday’s Unics Kazan-Spartak Vladivostok PBL match, here’s Troy Gillenwater beating a zone defense by cleverly finding the open man – Gundars Vetra – who in turn feeds Aleksei Golyakhov for the jumper.

Oddly enough, neither the basket nor the assist were counted on the stat sheet; BiE wonders why…

Continue Reading…

Jan
0

BC Khimki crisis update: Strike is on, but players practicing independently until Friday

The plot thickens. With the players apparently not willing to grant the BC Khimki front office another week to sort out its financial mess, the roster is reportedly now officially on strike. Russia-based blogger Vladimir Spivak of YouthHopes.ru provided a few updates on Twitter at about noon CET today. Spivak tweeted word from Zoran Planinic, writing that “It’s a strike, according to Zoran Planinic. He refused to answer if he had any offers from other clubs on the table.

On the other hand, camaraderie still exists among the Khimki players, for though “Khimki’s players haven’t received any financial guarantees and will train on their own throughout the week before facing Maccabi on Friday.” And Spivak summarizes, “Overall the players are ready to wait for some more time because they have amazing chemistry in the team and want to win something this season.

As always, stay tuned…

Continue Reading…