At that time, BiE wondered whether this was an “epic display of flopping, personal vendetta or match-fixing conspiracy.” Clearly head coach Jure Zdovc has at least personally eliminated the “flopping” option.
A “classic Italian mess”: National basketball federation suspends 15 referees for wearing the wrong uniform
A bit of a weird one from Italy for you this morning … BallinEurope contributing writer Enrico Cellini reports on a symbolic protest within his country’s national basketball league which subsequently saw nearly half the Serie A referees – including the well-esteemed Fabio Facchini, one of two Italians who will be calling games at the 2012 Olympic Games – suspended.
On March 17th and 18th, 19 Serie A referees opted for the orange jerseys they used to wear last season instead of the 2011-2012 grey uniforms. Unlike those NBA teams that go for vintage-style uniforms to reminisce about their roots (and sell some more jerseys at their stores), the old-school fashion displayed by the refs was intended as a clear signal to the Italian Basketball Federation and the basketball world as a whole.
The federation got the signal, did not like it at all, chastised the rebel refs and eventually suspended 15 of them!
The Italian-language version of MSN news is today running an exclusive interview with Marco Belinelli, the New Orleans Hornet whom the outlet calls “the most American-style” of all three of Italy’s NBAers. Belinelli weighs in on all things NBA; some choice quotes include the following.
“Obviously, [Chris Paul] is the best [point guard] in the league, a true star,” (“Ovviamente CP3 è il miglior play della lega”) says the Italian of his former Hornets teammate. “Playing with him has made me grow a lot, made me discover aspects of my game and my capacities…”
All accolades and trophies aside, however, BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini, notes that White has simply got this dunk contest-winning thing down to a science. Would you like to win your next dunk competition in Europe? Cellini, White and good ol’ YouTube show you how in six easy steps.
After dominating his fourth dunk contest within European all-star game weekends – previous wins include those in Turkey in 2008, Russia in 2010 and Italy last year) by displaying his trademark repertoire, James White should really work on a handy guide containing the must-do tricks for guaranteed success in any dunk contest on The Continent. It would go pretty much like this:
With the Euroleague quarterfinals tournament beginning later this month, many are penciling in either CSKA Moscow or FC Barcelona as 2011-12 title holders. (Indeed, the odds at a representative sportsbook have the former at 4/5 and the latter at 5/2.) Meanwhile, relative dark horse Montepaschi Siena (running, with shortest odds, at 11/1) may be under the most pressure to finally win this ever-elusive championship.
BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini, tells us of the overwhelming importance of this year’s tournament for the dominant Serie A club – and why you shouldn’t go to sleep on these guys despite the presence of monster teams in the final four round…
It must have happened to everyone, regardless of the sport you’ve played in your life. You were once a player or part of a team that was way better than anyone else in your school, league or even playground. After winning it all at home, you get a pass to the next level and have the chance to compete on faraway stages.
The first thing you realize as soon as you leave your habitat is that there are far too many guys who are taller, bigger and, ultimately, better than any opponent you’ve been used to.
Yeah, kicking ass at your old playground is still cool, but you now have some bigger butts to aim at. You can’t really call yourself satisfied as long as you get out-bullied by someone every time you move away from home.
This is exactly how Montepaschi Siena feels right now: For the Siena organization, status as a juggernaut at home makes any Euroleague failures even harder to digest.
In the last five years, head coach Simone Pianigiani’s team has won pretty much everything winnable in Italy (five national championships, four national cups, five national super cups) while never giving any other team a real chance to disturb the dominance.
When it comes to the Euroleague though, Siena has historically missed that little something to step up and make it to the highest spot on the podium, settling for third place in 2011 and 2008, and consecutive fourth-place finishes when Pianigiani was assistant coaching in 2003 and 2004..
Year after year, Siena has added new guns to a solid core of reliable veterans, accumulating experience as well as distress at the lack of results. The lingering fear is that Montepaschi is becoming a Maccabiesque team, namely an undisputed monopolist of a declining national league – notwithstanding, the Italian league remains more challenging than the Ligat Ha’Al –that strives to compete with the other European elite teams.
But how could you possibly improve more than Siena has season after season? What else can you bring to the table with the budget of a small and young reality? Siena president/general director Ferdinando Minucci has won on lots of gambles (e.g. Terrell McIntyre, Romain Sato, Bo McCalebb) and never resisted efforts every year to improve a team dominating the national league on a regular basis.
Now, Siena has the depth and consistency to beat Olympiacos in a best-of-five showdown and is equipped with a number of high-inflammable talented scorers (McCalebb, Igor Rakocevic, Pietro Aradori, Ksistof Lavrinovic) who can make the difference in no-tomorrow games in the Istanbul Final Four.
The feeling is that Siena is already set to win the Euroleague and just needs that extra sparkle, that unnamed little something, to finally ignite the last momentum. There is little time left to wait: Should the title not arrive in Istanbul, it may become necessary to revolutionize the current team and start a new project.
Courtesy of a group of players led by Sarunas Jasikievicius at the peak of his career, Maccabi Tel Aviv finally broke the European spell and brought home a couple of Euroleague titles back in 2004 and 2005. After the back-to-back wins, Saras crossed the ocean and sought fortune in the NBA.
McCalebb, currently the most dominant point guard in Europe by far, declared he won’t go to the NBA next season. Is he waiting to pull of a back-to-back Maccabi-like trick?
Enrico Cellini is lifelong basketball fanatic and a long-time sportswriter with a focus on Italy and Spain. He was born among European hoops, was raised watching the NBA, and thinks choosing between American and European basketball is like choosing between one’s mother and father. You can follow him on Twitter or check out his Italian-language blog Hoop Addicted.
National Cups: Real Madrid ends 19 years of futility; Beşiktaş, Chalon take first-ever titles; Montepaschi Siena continues dominance
Congratulations go out from BallinEurope today to a quartet of national Cup holders in Real Madrid, Beşiktaş Milangaz, Chalon-sur-Saone and Montepaschi Siena. The former three victories are set to be particularly noted in club annals: Real ended a 19-year drought while Beşiktaş and Chalon both bagged their first-ever championships in their respective national cup tournaments after each were runners-up in 2011. Below run game wraps and highlight clips.
In Spain, Madrid won their first Spanish Cup since Arvydas Sabonis was on the team with a convincing 92-74 victory over FC Barcelona on the Blaugrana home court. Twenty-three was the magic number for Los Blancos, as Madrid took its 23rd such title behind 23 points from tournament MVP Sergio Llull. An extrapolation from the Liga Endesa’s official site goes something like the following.
BallinEurope wishes a happy birthday to longtime Team Brazil, Spanish League and Italian Serie A legend Oscar Schmidt, who today is 54 years old.
Over a career spanning three decades and five Olympic Games, Schmidt scored a total of 49,703 career points, recognized by FIBA as the most-ever in a career.
(The identity of the second-highest point scorer remains a bit elusive for BiE, but for comparison’s sake, all-time NBA scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was good for 38,387 in his playing days; Nikos Gallis totaled 24,759 in all competitions.)
The key word in week three of the 2011-12 Euroleague Top 16 round: Blowout. The closest game was decided by eight points (Bennet Cantù 82, Maccabi Tel Aviv 74) and the average match showed a 16-point differential as certain teams (CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena) asserted their superiority, a couple of sleeping giants (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos) stirred, and two (Unicaja Malaga, Emporio Armani Milano) firmly established themselves as this stage’s busts.
Going into tonight’s games four, nothing has changed within the elite, though mid-pack much jostling for position may be seen. With the group leaders all in excellent position to at least solidify a strong hold on a semifinals berth, this could prove to be a make-or-break week for no fewer than those nine sides in the scrum.
The key word for week four, then, in BallinEurope’s estimation: Injuries. The ‘bug is truly hunkering down amid some Euroleague teams, and one could build a pretty decent roster from those who are out, questionable or hampered this week. Potential difference-makers who will be sitting include, among others, Viktor Khryapa (CSKA); Ante Tomic (Real Madrid); Omer Onan, Marko Tomas (Milano); Kerem Gonlum, Ermal Kuqo (Anadolu Efes); Steven Smith (PAO); and Shawn James (Maccabi Tel Aviv).
Below run another edition of the BiE power rankings as we enter this decisive week. Once again, please note that these rankings are an indicator of how teams are trending, with some consideration given to play in other leagues and heavy emphasis on Euroleague results.
Without further ado, then, onto the rankings! Go ahead, you can guess the first four, surely…
After a week two loaded with upsets and shocking blowouts, BallinEurope’s Euroleague Power Rankings go through quite a shuffling going into Top 16 round, week three … except of course at the top, where all indications have the championship matchup between CSKA Moscow and FC Barcelona feeling more inevitable than ever. How is your team faring on the (sorta) big board this week?
Traditional advisory warning: These ratings are pretty much highly subjective, as they are formulated from one source, i.e. BiE, and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on Euroleague performance especially, and particularly on the two games each has registered in Top 16 play.
And on to the rankings!
1. (↔) CSKA Moscow (12-0 in Euroleague play overall; 9-1 in VTB United League, 8-1 in PBL)
2. (↔) FC Barcelona (9-1 EL; 13-3 ACB)
3. (↑) Montepaschi Siena (10-2 EL; 13-5 Serie A) – No surprises here, unless you count the emphatic statement wins recorded by each of these elite teams in week two at Maccabi Tel Aviv, vs. Anadolu Efes, and at Real Madrid, respectively. NBA fans are chattering about a shortened season? Ha! With each of these teams at 2-0 and having knocked off the no. 2 contender within their groups, they’ve all made the 2011-12 EL Top 16 round a hell of a lot more urgent for nearly every side in the big league.
February will see Turin playing host to the Coppa Italia, a grueling four-day tournament featuring Italy’s top eight teams. With the matchups now determined, BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini, provides a brief preview of the competition.
The first half of Serie A season is over and the table is set for a little appetizer to the final playoffs. In Turin, from February 16th to 19th, the top eight teams of the 2011-12 season’s first half will play each other in elimination games to conquer the Coppa Italia, the second-most important national trophy and litmus paper of each team’s ambitions.
The teams and matchups are as follows.
Montepaschi Siena (1) vs Banco di Sardegna Sassari (8)
EA7 Milano (4) vs Canadian Solar Bologna (5)
Scavolini Siviglia Pesaro (2) vs Umana Venezia (7)
Bennet Cantù (3) vs Sidigas Avellino (6)
Will this be an opportunity for Montepaschi Siena to reassert its dominance after a few unexpected losses or a chance for rampant new challengers to prepare for an assault on the throne?