May
2

Incredibile! Back-to-back buzzer-beaters bring Banco Sardegna Sassari into semifinals

What’s that? You haven’t been watching the quarterfinal round of the Italian League’s playoffs? No problem: BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Enrico Cellini has – and he posts today about just what you’ve been missing, namely two cliffhanging, nail-biting finishes that finished off Virtus Bologna. (Ironically and mournfully, BiE notes Bologna’s elimination as dated the same as Kobe Bryant’s 2011-12 Los Angeles Lakers.) Cellini promises that the videos are the centerpiece and so those looking for classic buzzer-beaters need search no further than below the break.

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May
4

Revealed: The EuroChallenge championship curse

(image courtesy Hurriyet Daily News)

Yes, but *should* they be celebrating?

Winning the EuroChallenge title is a good thing, right? After all, it’s typically the first Continental trophy to display on the mantelpiece and the champions label wins the club to right to play in the more prestigious (and more big-bucks) Eurocup competition the following season.

Well, Uygar Karaca may convince believers otherwise. In the first of a two-part series for BallinEurope.com, Karaca flips through the pages of recent EuroChallenge history to reveal the success – or lack thereof – championship clubs have experienced directly following a title bid. Hint: It’s pretty bleak stuff after 2004. Sorry, Beşiktaş

Winning a competition, especially on the Continental level, is a great achievement. However, titles come with a price. When success exposes players to the market, for example, clubs with better offers take the stars away. Alternatively, in order to get a trophy, clubs sometimes spend more than they can afford, which triggers the process of eventual financial collapse.

In this article, I tried to see whether winning the FIBA EuroChallenge tournament signals brighter days for the club or rather indicates a peak with the way forward pointing downward. Continue Reading…

Apr
1

Referee scandals in Russia lead to protest, in Italy to suspensions

Zdovc suspicious

A BallinEurope question has been reopened today, to the detriment of Russian professional basketball’s reputation. About two weeks ago, a PBL game which will likely determine the league’s upcoming playoff tournament saw an extremely high number of, let’s say, questionable calls.

According to Spain-based SoloBasket, these were certainly enough oddity for the losing side, Spartak St. Petersburg, to file an official protest in the wake of the 82-73 loss to Triumph Lyubertsy.

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.

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Apr
4

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!

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Apr
0

Marco Bellinelli: “Chris Paul is the best PG”, “I want to stay in the NBA”

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…”

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Mar
5

Win any European dunk contest: James White shows how in six easy steps

White demonstrating emergency step 6

To the surprise of few, well-traveled James William White III (a.k.a. James White, a.k.a. Flight) took the Italian Serie A slam dunk contest amidst the all-star festivities taking place there this weekend. White, now of Scavolini Pesaro, brought with him to the contest a résumé that goes back second-place finishes on two levels: the 2001 McDonald’s High School Slam Dunk contest and representing the University of Cincinnati Bearcats in the NCAA event in 2006.

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:

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Mar
2

The Italian Maccabi: Why Montepaschi Siena must win the Euroleague

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.

Feb
3

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.

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Feb
1

Happy birthday, Team USA killer Oscar Schmidt!

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.)

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Feb
4

Euroleague Power Rankings: Do-or-die Week Edition

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…

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