Firstly comes the question of — believe it or not — economics. Beyond a handful of big deals given to players in the off-season, Pianigiani was given a contract of two years plus a third-year option. Showing the Italian the door right now would cost the Turkish team $4 million. While the contract does account for payment by installment, Fenerbahçe would still have to immediately pony up $1 million — and what European club has that kind of money lying around in 2013?
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!
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.
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?
With just a few hours to go before the Euroleague Final Four tipoff, BallinEurope has just enough time to mull over the matchups and publish more of those good ol’ Fearless Predictions™. (Keep in mind, though, that BiE was a pretty pitiful 1-3 in the playoff round.)
Panathinaikos vs. Montepaschi Siena. It’s extremely difficult to go against never-say-die Montepaschi Siena in this one; however, not only is the 2010-11 edition of Panathinaikos a team seemingly built to win the Euroleague with its combination of speed, size and incredible defensive schemes, but history appears to be on the Greens’ side as well. After all, a trio from the 2007 and 2009 EL champs – Dimitris Diamantidis, Mike Batiste and Kostas Tsartsaris – will be going again for PAO this time ‘round.
Here it comes: a full slate of four games to tip off the Euroleague Playoff Round tonight. And how could BallinEurope miss another chance to post more Fearless Predictions™? Below, a brief take on each game plus videos and those ever-popular prognostications. Enjoy the games!
• Caja Laboral Baskonia vs. Maccabi Tel Aviv – BiE’s been waiting for confirmation one way or another on this: Is Maccabi the second-best team in Europe right now or not? They seem to be bringing The Continent’s second-most name players into the Baskonia matchup…
He’s back! Emerging out of hiding (or perhaps digging himself out of work with youth squads plus Italian-language sports media) is BallinEurope’s man in Italy, Francesco Cappelletti. As the season progresses, Cappelletti will be opining as to what really went down in a week’s worth of Euroleague matches. Today, four key themes that will be threading their way through the 2010-11 season – and the frank take on ‘em.
Welcome back Euroleague … erm … Turkish Airlines Euroleague! Someone just said you look like the poorest edition in recent years and that your groups are less competitive than Eurocup’s, but we love you just the way you are anyway.
What do you offer for 2010-2011? Yeah, the unbeatable Regal Barcelona and the usual group of pretenders, divided between those for whom spending money is no problem even amid civil disorder (for information, phone Athens) and teams able to hide behind the justification of cycles coming to an end just to put some money away waiting for financially better times: That’s the case of Montepaschi Siena and CSKA Moscow.
With one more week of Euroleague play to go before the field of viable contenders officially shrinks again, Ball in Europe contributor Francesco Cappelletti wraps the round that was in the big league. In this week’s roundup, Signor C. laments Montepaschi Siena’s fate, Sergio Scariolo’s precarious position and the reason Olympiacos might yet give Barca a workout before all is said and done (Hint: It starts with “Linas” and ends with “Kleiza”).
Group F focus
Oddly, the group which could have been in doubt until the buzzer of Week 6 suddenly has two qualified teams after five weeks: These are Real Madrid and Maccabi Tel Aviv, teams which will meet next Thursday at Palacio Vistalegre to define a first place currently in possession of the Israeli side for their 81-76 victory of February 4.
Montepaschi Siena was shocked by a 43-point fourth quarter scored by Alan Anderson and teammates. OK, take out the final (meaningless) 10 points, and 33 remain on the back of the Italian champions. How was this possible? MPS had recovered during the third period thanks to big hearted Terrell McIntyre and bad offensive decisions from previously unstoppable Doron Perkins, but, I mean, if you play with six men (seven minutes of nothing for Nikos Zisis in crisis, Ksistof Lavrinovic plagued by back spasms), and you enter the final fraction with a 3-point advantage at Yad Eliyahu, well, you know your destiny.
While not interested in passing definitive judgment, we think it would be useful and fair to take a look at the European basketball panorama. There will be no ratings or rankings here, just a snapshot of what the most important ballin’ countries offer us.
Ten years into the third millennium, it’s common to hear repeated concepts about European community and a sense of brotherhood, but the idea of “European basketball” elicits language only indicating something is wrong. Disunity: That’s the main word for the variety of ways to develop basketball in Europe. European basketball was well on its way until five to six years ago, when internal division began to decrease European ball’s opportunity to become a serious alternative to a NBA bereft of stories and talent to sell – yes, that was before Lebron James’ era.
With a scene-shifting week three of Euroleague Top 16 play in the books, BallinEurope’s Francesco Cappelletti defines his surprise, from Montepaschi’s masterful play to Sasha Kaun’s success to the curse of a Panathinaikos title defense, and more. Read on!
Pianigiani’s lesson to Messina
“I think it was a masterpiece from my players. One of the most difficult games since I started coaching. We were tired, consumed, without an important player against a team that could exploit our problems. We’ll enjoy this night to the fullest”: With these words and a smiling face, coach Simone Pianigiani commented on the game between Montepaschi and Real Madrid.
Honestly, he was right; Siena got the expected reaction after a disastrous exhibition in Istanbul, but the win was huge, much more than the fans and staff were waiting for. Even more so because the victory came despite the absence of Ksistof Lavrinovic, a player as key as only Terrell McIntyre is. Real wanted Montepaschi to play a slow game, to defend strongly and to deny the top facets of the Italians’ game: fastbreaks and transition play.
Which team has already clinched a Euroleague Final Four spot? Who’s most to blame for Panathinaikos’ loss? What did Ergin Ataman do wrong? And why did Aito Garcia Reneses pull Cesar Augusto Lima with seven minutes to play? These questions are answered – OK, not that last one: That one’s a real riddle for the ages – in this week’s Euroleague roundup by Francesco Cappelletti. Read on for full illumination.
Don’t be surprised
No Aleks Maric at OAKA, no prolems for Partizan Belgrade. Panathinaikos was stunned by the Serbians at the end of a game that coach Dusko Vujosevic interpreted correctly.
Counting on deep rotations and a physicality to balance Pana’s, Partizan played slowly and strength-oriented to protect the paint while alternating between man-to-man and zone defenses: a prime reason why Nikola Pekovic was not, as predicted, game MVP in a match he should have dominated near the basket against a faux center like Lawrence Roberts and a scheming Slavko Vranes. Instead, Roberts scored 12 points and added 10 rebounds, while Vranes blocked four shots to stay on court for 31 minutes while not preoccupied by the Greek frontline.