EuroBasket 2015: Romania the odd team out on the final night +++ Gran Canaria gets the Phantom treatment for USA vs Slovenia +++ TrueHoop breaks down how David Blatt will work with LeBron James +++ FIBA World Cup Preview: Group D +++ BiE’s editor takes the ice bucket challenge, nominates Basketball Ireland boss +++ Žydrūnas Ilgauskas considering a comeback? Wow LeBron has power +++ The Dream Team’s children +++ Highlights: Belgium beat Belarus, Germany stay alive +++ EuroBasket 2015: Bosnia, Belgium, Israel, and Latvia lock up spots +++ First Person: Follow the FIBA World Cup through BiE’s eyes +++

Euroleague Final Four: The video preview

And this week … the Euroleague Final Four! To get things started, BallinEurope presents a roundup of highlight clips from the seasons-that-were of CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona, Panathinaikos and Olympiacos.

(Wow, BiE wonders every time upon looking at that list just how the big league could have ended up with a more scintillating Final Four: You’ve got undisputed powerhouses in CSKA Moscow – the model example of how NBA refugees affected European basketball in 2011-12 – and FC Barcelona. You’ve got the defending champions with Hall of Fame coach and a nucleus of veterans on yet another title run. And you’ve got a compelling underdog story complete with the possibility of seeing the legendary Greek rivals meeting for a medal … couldn’t have written it better myself.)

First up, the favorites, namely, the big bad Red Army, 2011-12 edition. While Mikhail Prokhorov’s lot has been credited for the team’s relative resurgence at the beginning of the 2000s, CSKA Moscow has admirably continued its winning tradition after the billionaire’s jump to the New Jersey-cum-Brooklyn Nets – mostly through using the big-bucks tactics espoused by Prokhorov et al – and are poised to take a unique triple crown. Indeed, should CSKA prevail in the EL Final Four games and against BC Khimki for the Russian crown, the team will have amassed VTB, EL and PBL crowns in under two weeks of play.

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Why Andrei Kirilenko and CSKA Moscow must win the Euroleague

Regular readers of BallinEurope may recall a similarly entitled writeup on Montepaschi Siena on these pages from a long time ago – actually two weeks, but already it *feels* like quite a spell. Contributing writer Enrico Cellini was as surprised as any of us when Olympiacos began Siena’s ejection from the tournament, Facebook-messaging BiE with the note that “Siena is trying its best to prove me wrong…”

But this post doesn’t concern BiE’s now-busted bracket, a frustrating finish to what had been a good-looking campaign for Montepaschi Siena, or even the Final Four surprise Olympiacos. Nope, we’re talking CSKA Moscow and that individual symbol of all of international basketball in 2011-12, Andrei Kirilenko.

In fact, why waste time? BallinEurope gets right down into an even 10 reasons why CSKA and the AK must win the 2012 Euroleague title.

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Earl Boykins and D.J. Mbenga to Olympiacos – If so, when?

So it’s not quite Kirilenko-to-CSKA, but it’s got BallinEurope on pins and needles. To wit, the ostensible signings of Earl Boykins, a free agent currently listed as the shorter player in the NBA ranks, and fan favorite D.J. Mbenga by Olympiacos.

For nearly a week, the story of the Reds signing the 5’5” Boykins has been getting play from American sources to Greece-based Sentragoal, but nothing doing as yet.

Akin Akingbala had reportedly been on the Olympiacos radar, but SLUC Nancy is apparently not interested in letting loose the point guard as yet. Boykins actually spent the 2008-09 season in Europe, playing for Virtus Bologna.

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The Eurocentric 2011-12 NBA Western Conference preview (plus Official Fearless Predictions™)

Okay, after that Xmas distraction, BallinEurope is ready to write up some more stuff about good tidings and cheer*, namely, the start of the NBA season. With hours to go, BiE’s got just enough time to get in the part two of the Euro-centric big-league preview in this brief look at the teams in the Western Conference – plus Official Fearless Predictions™, guaranteed to be as accurate as they are popular.

*Los Angeles Lakers fans, over whom a huge cloud of doom hangs to start this season, excluded (sigh).

As in the Eastern Conference preview, BiE seeks to keep an eye on those players who contributed a stint in Continental ball this summer during the lockout period and even, to some, extent participants in Eurobasket 2011. BiE believes that the running start from real game-time situations plus the suddenly intensive NBA season will give the Euroballers an advantage in the short-term against more laggardly opponents not in “basketball shape.” And with the shortened regular season, a jump start will provide lasting effects.

To BiE, it looks something like this.

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Euroleague Top 16: Sorting out the advancement scenarios (plus Official Fearless Predictions™)

It’s one Euroleague game remaining in 2011 for each of the regular-season entrants, and with only four teams mathematically eliminated – Asseco Prokom, SLUC Nancy, Spirou Charleroi, Union Olimpija – a great many of the 16 matches on tonight and tomorrow night’s slate remain significant. BallinEurope takes a look at the opportunities for advancement into the next round below; for reasons of complexity (you’ll see what BiE means when we get to Group A), these will be listed by group in backwards alphabetical order.

Group D. This one’s easy; the top four seeds for the Top 16 draw, in order, are FC Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena, Unics Kazan and Galatasaray Medical Park.

Group C. Real Madrid, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Anadolu Efes have clinched the nos. 1, 2, and 3 spots, respectively, in Group C. In a case of win-by-four-or-go-home, Emporio Armani Milano must beat Partizan Belgrade in Hala Pionir by two field goals or more in order to nip the Black-and-Whites for the fourth seed in the group.

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The official BallinEurope ballot for FIBA Europe Men’s Players of the Year: Nowitzki, Navarro and…?

BallinEurope just loves season- and year-ending polls, and every December FIBA Europe offers hoops devotees the opportunity to participate in the naming the Continent’s Players of The Year. And while the winner of the award for 2011 – a.k.a. the Year of Dirk – is surely a no-brainer, the FIBA ballot calls for electors to award a 1st, 2nd and 3rd place vote from among 10 nominees; BiE is finding that no. 3 spot a real mind-bender. If someone can provide a nice salient argument for the final spot, that person will have BiE’s undying admiration.

The process of elimination went the following way, in reverse order of finish, and garnishing with highlight clips.

10. Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos. Yes, Double-D was the Euroleague MVP and the Euroleague Final Four MVP for 2010-11. Yes, he thus established himself as one of the five or six greatest of the EL modern era. But Diamantidis did not play any international ball, whereas all other nine nominees participated in Eurobasket 2011 and most where instrumental to their team’s successes. Dimitris simply has the shortest CV of a very talented ten.

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Thanks for the memories: Top performances by locked-out NBA players in Europe

BallinEurope bids adieu to the all-too-brief wackiness that was the ENBA: A period of time shorter than Allen Iverson’s career with Beşiktaş, though for a sweet, brief while it seemed like forever … ah, the feeling of a too-fast love affair dragged down by unfeeling reality, leaving only fond memories and bitter tears to … o, sorry. BiE got a bit wound up there.

In riding the wave of sentimentality to the shore, BiE today presents the virtual scrapbook of 10 favorite individual performances from locked-out NBA players. (Not included are those NBA guys who were off-season free agents; therefore no appearances by, say, Nenad Krstic, or, sadly, Adam Morrison are forthcoming.)

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NBA Nuclear Winter settling in; Twitter bursts with news of player exodus

You know who benefits from the NBA player lockout? Twitter, that’s who. The website has become an endless source of interest as each event/non-event transpires in the NBA lockout soap opera. Minute to minute, commentators, players, pundits and rumormongers pithily weigh in and/or report on the immediate future of professional basketball in America…

…and Europe! The Continent-centric BallinEurope has unabashedly become addicted to the little birdie’s ‘site, and yesterday proved quite fruitful for those anxiously awaiting more imports into top pan-European and domestic leagues. After the dismal news of Monday and impending dissolution of the players’ union plus imminent anti-trust lawsuits, more and more stars are finally willing to cut the cord to the NBA, bite the bullet and, you know, try that whole European basketball thing.

Below run the results what BiE’s Twitter scorecard from yesterday; stars include the Gasol Brothers, Kevin Durant, Jan Vesely, Joakim Noah, Tiago Splitter, Kyrie Irving and many more.

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Turiaf debuts for Asvel Basket in 92-77 loss to SLUC Nancy

For those of you wondering about Ronny Turiaf’s debut with Asvel Basket, well, it was a bit of a mixed bag of results on Sunday. After resolving insurance issues, the locked-out New York Knick started for Asvel as Tony Parker’s side hosted defending LNB champions/ Euroleague team SLUC Nancy.

Turiaf looked good enough in his first game since injuring his hand in a friendly match leading up to the 2011 EuroBasket tournament, going for nine points (including one effusive dunk early on; see below Asvel-based YouTube clip), eight rebounds (four offensive), three assists and five fouls drawn in 25 minutes of court time.

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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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