Beached Dragon: Goran Dragic’s sometimes insane summer workout

Apparently this is what BallinEurope does when no international tournaments are on, the preseason’s not quite begun in earnest, and even the rumor mills are trudging: Watch workout tapes while wondering about the upcoming NBA season.

What did Goran Dragic do this summer as Team Slovenia played no ball while the former Houston Rockets PG jumped to the Phoenix Suns? Worked it with seemingly quite intense training sessions on the beach.

Continue Reading…


God, please give us victories!

In advancing to the 2012 Olympic Games, Team Lithuania has written itself into the record books. BallinEurope’s Lithuanian agent Y. wants you to understand just how important this achievement is to the people of that basketball-adoring country…

“God, please give us victories. Some people don’t understand: This is all we have left. Basketball is the only thing that is keeping Lithuania together. The cheering, the singing, the same colors, all of this is what reminds me of who we are. We are a union, a family and some stupid Lithuanians make me forget that all the time. But when I look at our amazing team, who put their last efforts into winning, I cannot be happier. So God, please give us victories, all we want is to stay a country.” –L. Hasai in “And you? Are you aware of what this means for Lithuania?” the video celebrating the 2010 edition of the Lithuanian national team

Go and ask anyone who understands. It was a question of life or death for Lithuanian basketball last week in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela.

As soon-to-become four-time Olympian Šarūnas Jasikevičius drove past Puerto Rico’s Daniel Santiago with 31 seconds to go in the quarterfinal matchup, the country’s entire basketball chronicle flashed in the minds of every green-and-white fan. Lithuania, down one, was perhaps one failed possession away from losing an opportunity to reach London 2012.

Continue Reading…


On the continued rise of The Dragon

A breakout year from Team Slovenia’s Goran Dragic with the Houston Rockets deserves a look – and some embedded YouTube clips. Today, Sam Chadwick takes that look on BallinEurope.

Developing in the cool climate of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Goran Dragic’s rise to basketball success was a game of waiting. After a Slovenian league championship in the 2007-08 season the San Antonio Spurs took notice and drafted the point guard 45th overall by the same team who has regularly and successfully stashed draft picks in Europe for years waiting for the right time to sow the crop: Ryan Richards, Tiago Splitter, David Bertans, Tony Parker, Luis Scola and even Manu Ginobili.

Continue Reading…


Spartak St. Petersburg: The Hunger of Experienced Rookies

In the leadup to the 2011-12 Eurocup Final Four tournament beginning on Saturday, Eurosport Turkey basketball commentator Uygar Karaca contributes a series of previews on the remaining quartet entitled “Four Teams, Four Stories” to BallinEurope.

Today taking a look at one of the two remaining Russian sides, Karaca writes “Zenit St. Petersburg reached its zenith when they managed to grab the UEFA Cup. Now, president Igor Lypsky, former deputy manager of Gazprom, has the same ambition. Isn’t it time for their citizens to win a European competition in basketball?

Talking about Spartak St. Petersburg is talking about history. Founded in 1935, the club stands as the oldest among the Eurocup Final Four competitors. However, as this marks the first time that Spartak has reached this level of competition, I think we can call St Petersburg experienced Eurocup rookies.

Continue Reading…


Official Fearless Predictions™: France vs. Greece, Russia vs. Serbia

All right, so who had FYR Macedonia winning that game?

Come on! While the BallinEurope prognosticators took something of a hit in the comments section here beginning a few nanoseconds after Vlado Ilievski’s game-winner, few truly had this one pegged. Team Russia coach David Blatt kinda sorta probably wasn’t surprised, but even the mystical crustacean Lazdeika had Lithuania to win last night.

And hey, note that right here at BallinEurope it was guessed that “this game comes down to turnovers; FYR Macedonia needs to hang close throughout and exploit the three or four opportunities they get.”

(Incidentally, Macedonia won the turnover battle, 14-8.)

So BallinEurope plods forth with another two sets of official Fearless Predictions™ for tonight’s France-Greece and Serbia-Russia games. BiE’s man in the U.K. Sam Chadwick joins in on the fun in forecasting the matches again and, as yesterday, neither writer read the other’s opinion before posting.

Also provided strictly for the reader’s edification are some lines from the sportsbook, in this case Sporting Bet. As BiE previously stated, whether gambler or no, it pays for the fan to know the bookie’s stand; after all, these guys have the most to lose financially if they get it wrong. (But they cleaned up a bit last night, eh?)

And a few more YouTube clips…

Continue Reading…


Official Fearless Predictions™: Spain vs. Slovenia, Lithuania vs. FYR Macedonia

Now things are getting interesting. Eight teams remain in EuroBasket 2011, and tonight two will be eliminated from contention for the European championship. These teams will join with the losing teams of Thursday play in a playoff round to determine the all-important no. 5 and no. 6 finishers; this two sides will join nos. 3 and 4 in a qualification round for the 2012 Olympic Games.

And BallinEurope will perhaps make things a bit more contentious with not just one, but two sets of official Fearless Predictions™ as BiE’s U.K. compadre Sam Chadwick gets in on the fun in forecasting tonight’s games. Neither writer read the other’s opinion before posting.

Also provided strictly for the reader’s edification are some lines from the sportsbook, in this case Sporting Bet. As BiE argues, whether gambler or no, it pays for the fan to know the bookie’s stand; after all, these guys have the most to lose financially if they get it wrong. (Sheesh, talk about your fearless predictions…)

Plus, YouTube clips!

Continue Reading…


Eurobasket 2011 round two: Impressions, links, notes and highlights

With just two days (and one game per team) remaining in 2011 EuroBasket round two, BallinEurope takes a brief look at some issues and trends going down in the tournament – plus links and YouTubes, of course. Read on for quips, quotes and clips.

• Importance of remaining games. Of six games left to play, four are critical to shaping the knockout round while two feature battles of undefeated teams fighting for group supremacy and the no. 1 seed. Both Spain-France tonight and FYR Macedonia-Russia tomorrow determine the group’s top two finishers, while the Slovenia-Finland (definitely) and Turkey-Serbia (most likely) games will lock in the no. 4 teams from the groups.

• Valanciunas vs. Kanter. In terms of prospect-watching, these are the guys observers have their eyes on. In general, Toronto Raptors fans should be fairly stoked – even a tad miffed that the Lithuanian lad won’t be joining their club for the 2011-12 season (should it happen) – about Valanciunas’ progress.

Continue Reading…


Eurobasket 2011: Scenarios for round three

With one game left to play for the teams of Group E and two for Group F in the 2011 FIBA EuroBasket tournament, BallinEurope takes a brief look at some of the mathematical possibilities for advancement into the knockout stage.

Group E
• France and Spain have clinched the top two spots in the group; their game tomorrow night will determine which is which seed.

• Lithuania gets the no. 3 seed with a win over Germany on Sunday. In this case, the Group E no. 4 seed would be determined with the outcome of the Turkey-Serbia game (by the way, nice grudge match there, eh?): Winner takes the last ticket to advance. Should Lithuania lose to Germany, there will be one of those messy multi-team ties for third and fourth spot, which would shake out something like the following.

Continue Reading…


EuroBasket power rankings, post round one edition

The 2011 FIBA EuroBasket tournament gets things started again today, after the 12 advancing teams get in a couple days’ worth of hard-earned rest. With the dust now settled, BallinEurope takes a look at how the dozen sides look going into the second round of play (numbers in parentheses represent each team’s win-loss record brought forth into Groups E and F); and yes, BiE is bracing for the inevitable barrage of criticism forthcoming from fans of Greece, Slovenia and Turkey…

1. France (2-0) – Les Bleus had their sights on nothing less than taking this thing when the tournament began and pretty much brought an all-star game to do so (luckily for them, La Republique could foot the bill for insurance on five locked out NBA players). With Tony Parker going for 23.2 points per game through five – second-high in the first round after Luol Deng, who was forced to do it all for the thin British squad – and Joakim Noah grabbing 7.8 rebounds per, these guys have proven to be the class of EuroBasket thus far, bringing a big one-game advantage into Group E.

2. Russia (2-0) – In nipping Slovenia in the final game, 65-64, Russia capped the first round of play with the fewest points allowed in the tournament so far at 64.2 points per game – albeit against perhaps the tournament’s weakest group. No matter: David Blatt’s outstanding defensive game plans combined with speedier play and some great individual performances on offense (Vitaly Fridzhon leads all players at 12-of-18 three-point shooting to fight for the unofficial tournament deadshot award with France’s Mickael Gelabale and Serbia’s Marko Keselj; Andrei Kirilenko’s putting in 16.4 ppg) make Russia one of the scariest teams remaining – particularly if they can show the clutch play as against Slovenia.

Continue Reading…


Eurobasket opener bullets: Pnini vs. Dirk, Spain’s competition, Kanter’s rust, more

Ogo ready to go

Hours remain until Eurobasket 2011 tips off here in Lithuania. As a warmup this morning, BallinEurope brings a roundup of some chatter from around the world regarding the big tournament; in ESPN TrueHoop tradition, we’ll bring it bullet-style.

• Poor Israel, one of the more unheralded teams in the tournament … not only are they placed in what BiE considers to be the true “Group of Death,” but they’ll be tipping off tonight against Dirk Nowitzki (called “the greatest player in the world” by more than one tout) and his Team Germany. And poor Guy Pnini, tasked with stopping the Dastardly Maverick. “If he senses fear,” muses the Israeli in Haaretz, “he’ll take advantage of it, like a shark smells blood.”

Continue Reading…