Podcast: Lotsa Eurobasket, including interviews with Mike Fratello, Alexis Ajinca, Robertas Javtokas, more

Taking the Charge podcast seriesEpisode #53 (or perhaps that should be “Volume II, Episode 1”) of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes.

With co-host David Hein “enjoying” the Eurobasket 2013 tournament going down the stretch live in Ljubljana (that “enjoying” is in quotes because we know for a fact that the man’s working like a dog over there), the focus is all on the Continental tournament.

The final round tips off today in lovely Slovenia and we’ve got four short interviews for your listening pleasure with one representative from each of the first four games: Check out the ‘cast for words from young Team Serbia sensation Vasilije Micic; Les Bleus former Charlotte Bobcat Alexis Ajinça; the Czar Himself and current Team Ukraine mastermind Mike Fratello; and Robertas Javtokas of Lietuva.

Naturally, we couldn’t resist the change to offer some Official Fearless Predictions™, including what must be the world’s first championship-game prognostication for Eurobasket 2015.

In our sports movie review of the week segment, we’re looking at an HBO production from 1995 (also known as that time when HBO wasn’t yet HBO) centered on a Rucker Park classic, Rebound: The Legend of Earl “The Goat” Manigault.

Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter into iTunes or any podcast aggregator.

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Eurobasket 2013 qualification round bullets – plus Official Fearless Predictions™

With 13 games to play tonight in the EuroBasket 2013 qualifying round, BallinEurope takes a quick look around the blogosphere regarding a few subplots, storylines and players to watch. We’ll do this in the time-honored tradition of the ESPN TrueHoop Network, i.e. bullet-style.

● Some in the Spurs Nation were enthused with Davis Bertans’ play for Team Latvia against Romania and Adam Hanga for Hungary generally.

● Team Israel’s Yogev Ohayon is playing like he did in high school

● …while Guy Pnini “defended his performance” in the first three games by nailing a clutch three in his side’s upset of Serbia, though the woeful shooting continued with a 1-of-5 line.

● After Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons fans will also want to keep an eye out for Slava Kravtsov, described as “dominant” for Team Ukraine against Hungary – after all, team executives are.

● Speaking of Jerebko, *still* no word on whether he’ll be suiting up for tonight’s home game against Bulgaria, but Team Sweden head coach Bradley Dean asserts that “we have no excuses and we don’t want any.”

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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.

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Eurobasket 2011: A brief roundup

On the eve of Eurobasket 2011 (finally), BallinEurope’s man in the U.K., Sam Chadwick, makes his own version of BiE’s patented Fearless Predictions™ with his own brief take on the tournament contender’s chances. And if you don’t think these prognostications are indeed fearless, just scroll down to the bottom to see who he’s got taking the silver medal – not to mention who he *doesn’t* have emerging from Group B.

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Must-see EB: Ten Eurobasket round one games to watch

Just the weekend remains before European basketball (and by extension, NBA) fans get to enjoy some tremendous high-level hoops competition in the 2011 Eurobasket competition. Despite the seeming overload of underdogs – full-on 14 of the 24 teams in the tournament are ranked 34th or lower in the official FIBA rankings – the first week still contains a notable number of compelling matchups to spark the interest and make a profound effect on the next round.

BallinEurope will be attending pool play in Panevėžys, but will certainly put in an effort to track the following 10 games; for best results, BiE recommends marking the calendar for the followingsure-to-be compelling matches.

31 August: Serbia vs. Italy. BiE’s got France and Germany taking the top two spots in Group B; this game could therefore shape the race for number three (and advancement to round two) early. Team Italy will have to avoid its traditional slow start in international competition if they seek to compete against a talented-if-uncertain Serbia side; the next day sees Germany coming to the court with a team well suited to beat Italia at its own game.

31 August: Montenegro vs. Macedonia. Group D is not only loaded with regional rivals including Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and these two teams, but the third spot in the group appears totally up for grabs. This opener will surely affect all pool play in the group thereafter. Continue Reading…


Eurobasket 2011 Power Rankings: First take

As just nine days remain until Eurobasket 2011 tips off in Lithuania, BallinEurope today takes a look back at the performances of the two dozen teams slated to compete in the big tournament and deploys some good old power rankings – and lotsa highlight clips from friendlies and tourneys played throughout The Continent.

Once again, a reminder to readers: These ratings are based only on how the teams are trending and are no indication of prognostication for Eurobasket. (The BallinEurope Fearless Predictions™ will be released soon enough…)

1. Spain – Yes, they lost to Lithuania in the grand opening of Kauno Arena, but BiE is sticking with Team Spain in the top spot. As defending Eurobasket champions, this team is chasing history and public perception has them on the rise, i.e. “El rival de España en el Eurobasket es España.” Plus, the side got back on track in tournament warmups, dispatching Slovenia on Sunday despite shooting 2-of-10 on threes and under 66% (21-of-32) from the free-throw line.

2. Greece – What controversy? Team Greece is up to their old tricks in European play – with or without Ioannis Bourousis and Sofoklis Schortsanitis – going 3-0 at the BEKO Supercup tournament over Turkey, Belgium and Germany; earning a like mark against Russia, Israel and Poland in the European Basketball Tour 2011 in Cyprus; and finishing 2-1 in the Trofeo Tassoni against Bosnia & Herzegovina, Italy and Poland. This is an interesting Greek team, with more of an emphasis on speed than in recent years, but they look just as good early on.

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Déjà vu in Ukraine? Proposed role models for Fratello’s new team

When Mike Fratello arrives to head up his national team coaching gig in Ukraine, he won’t see too many familiar faces beyond Sasha Volkov. Volkov played for the Czar’s Atlanta Hawks for a couple seasons way back when; unfortunately, Volkov hasn’t actually played ball at any level since year 2000. Coupled with the fact that Fratello hasn’t coached at any level since washing out of Memphis in 2006 and, wow, the television guy is facing lots of unknowns.

Here’s to thinking Fratello will rely on past experience to guide his new team. His historical preference for grind-it-out defense is sure to mesh well with a big, physical Team Ukraine; the side is also blessed with lots of shot blocking at its disposal. Will the Czar be imagining past glories as he trains in Europe? To when in the past will he look while watching his players in the present? BallinEurope looks at some potential role models for Eurobasket 2011.

• Serhiy Gladyr

Current team: Basquet Manresa

Scouting report: “Gladyr is a 6’5” shooting guard with nice athletic ability … What makes Gladyr intriguing is his shooting: He’s one of the better pure shooters in the draft. His shooting numbers are not overwhelming (36% on three-pointers), but he clearly has a sweet-shooting stroke … [at 19 years old, he] already shows the ability to drill shots coming off screens. … He’s not strictly a shooter thanks to his athleticism and good ball-handling. Pretty nice handle where he loves to use his left hand, and has an effective crossover dribble. Did have some issues when trapped on pick-and-rolls … had some issues in general when a second defender approached him … Solid rebounder for a 2-guard … Sergiy is a pretty good athlete by Ukrainian League standards, but how he rates as a NBA athlete is hard to gauge. If he was a Top 10 scorer in Spain or Italy then I’d feel more assured of his potential.” (The Painted Area, June 2009)

What he’s doing in 2010-11: So now Sergiy is 21 and, while averaging 9.1 points per ACB game – second-highest on his team to Uros Slokar – doesn’t put him onto Spain’s top 10 scorers list, BiE thinks The Painted Area must be pleased with Gladyr’s progress. It seems Gladyr’s three-point shooting still underwhelms, as he averages 1.6-for-4.7 shooting beyond the arc per ACB game, good for right around – you guessed it – 35%. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for this Ukrainian; could an NBA draft selection be in his future…?

Role model: Dan Majerle, who Fratello himself may barely remember, as Deadly Dan played just a single season with the Cavaliers and started only 15 times. Like Majerle, Gladyr is noted for his ball-handling skills and is particularly difficult to stop (or to stop from shooting) anywhere on the floor if single-covered. As Majerle is today one of the relatively unsung heroes of those Charles Barkley-led Phoenix Suns teams of the 1990s, so would a sharpshooting Gladyr should Team Ukraine surprise.

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Fratello named Team Ukraine coach for Eurobasket 2011

Former Atlanta Hawks coach/Marv Albert’s right-hand man Mike “The Czar” Fratello has been named coach of Team Ukraine in advance of Eurobasket 2011. According to press releases and Associated Press reportage, Ukrainian Basketball Federation president Olexandr Volkov stated that “We have a verbal agreement and will sign an official contract any day now. This will be a short-term deal to prepare the team for EuroBasket 2011.”

In 16 seasons with the Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies, Albert compiled a 666-542 record in the regular season plus a 20-42 mark in 11 playoff appearances.

Though his two-plus years with the Grizzlies ran from 2004 to 2007, Fratello has been more well-known for his television work since at least 2000, typically teaching up with Marvelous Marv on American TV.

Volkov played for Fratello’s Hawks in two seasons, averaging 6.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 16.5 minutes played per game

Team Ukraine will be playing in its first-ever Eurobasket tournament this summer in Lithuania, qualifying for the round of 24 by dint of FIBA Europe’s decision to expand the former tournament of 16 by invite.

Press release follows.

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Türk Telekom tournament tips off in Turkey

Tipping off yesterday in Turkey with a full slate of games was the U16 Türk Telekom tournament. The 12-team competition is stacked with European sides, including the hosts, Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Germany, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, and Ukraine; China, Iran and Puerto Rico fill out the field. Defending champions Serbia are not participating.

The always-excellent European Prospects naturally provides a top-notch preview of the tournament here, and highlights may be seen here. Enjoy!

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Notes on Panathinaikos-Olympiacos, most important game of 2010-11

Spanoulis drives the Big Red Machine...

If tonight’s Panathinaikos-Olympiacos match isn’t the most important game thus far in the 2010-11 basketball season in Europe, BiE can’t think of what would be. Of no little significance in this clash of the titans, too, is its status as the first meeting between the teams since the 2009-10 EΣAKE championship final game, a.k.a. “The Night of Shame.”

Since closing out last season with the forfeit, the franchises have taken different paths in 2010-11, but are enjoying most enviable success in pursuit of both Greek and Euroleague titles: The Greens and Reds have turned in identical records in Greek League play at 11-0 (though Panathinaikos is listed atop the table with its superior +32.5 *per game* point differential against Olympiacos’ +20.4) as well as mirror 7-3 marks in the EL. They’ll be playing tonight not to break the tie in the EΣAKE, but also their no. 2 standing in BiE’s Top 100.

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