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Jun
0

FIBA Europe confirm Ukraine won’t host EuroBasket 2015

FIBA Europe confirmed what most observers have been expecting for months earlier today. EuroBasket 2015 will not be hosted by Ukraine and instead be moved to an alternative nation or nations.

In addition to confirming the move, FIBA Europe left the door open for Ukraine to host in 2017. EuroBasket 2015 will also see a change in format, with the competition become a straight knock-out tournament after the opening group stage.

Here’s the full statement from FIBA:

The Board of FIBA Europe has decided to relocate EuroBasket 2015 from Ukraine to a new destination, during its meeting in Munich, Germany on Friday.
The decision was taken after a careful consideration of the continuous political situation and security issues in Ukraine, which are deemed as less than favourable for the staging of such an important and demanding event.

The Board took note of the efforts made by the Ukrainian Federation and the country’s giant strides in recent years, including a 6th place finish at EuroBasket 2013 and their participation in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

In that regard the Board declared its willingness to help the Ukraine Federation in its efforts to promote basketball and decided to authorise the President of FIBA Europe Turgay Demirel and the Secretary General Kamil Novak to start negotiations immediately with the Ukrainian side on the possibility of the country hosting EuroBasket 2017, provided that some necessary conditions are met.

With regard to EuroBasket 2015, a new bidding process will now be opened to all European Federations, inviting single or multi-country bids.

All interested parties will have to present the required official documentation and guarantees by 31st July, 2014.
A decision on the new EuroBasket 2015 hosts is expected by 30 September, 2014 at the latest.

The Board has also decided that next year’s event will be played with the new system of competition which was originally set to come into force in 2017. It also confirmed the competition dates.

The above means that EuroBasket 2015 will take place between 5 -20 September, 2015 and will still feature 24 teams but after the initial group phase (four groups of six teams each) the teams will enter a knockout phase.

The necessary bid documentation will be sent to the Federations by the end of next week (20 June).

Mar
0

Even inaction is political for FIBA in Ukraine

The last thing on most people’s minds when it comes to the crisis in Crimea is basketball. FIBA Europe don’t have that luxury. Emmet Ryan says that whatever call FIBA makes on EuroBasket 2015, they will suffer for it.

The road to EuroBasket 2015 had been rocky enough already before last weekend. The Crimea crisis has escalated matters and there are many furrowed brows in FIBA Europe’s headquarters in Munich right about now. Ukraine is set to host the continent’s premier basketball competition next year, that presents a political nightmare for the basketball body.

Let’s look at the options facing FIBA. Only two really matter, keep the tournament in Ukraine or move it. The former requires no new action from FIBA Europe, the latter most certainly does. Neither is pleasant.

The lone upside to keeping the tournament in Ukraine is that FIBA Europe technically isn’t making a political statement if it proceeds with the plan. There’s just a slight problem, if Russia says it’s a political statement then it might as well be. Russia could pull out of the tournament, removing every Russian eyeball and the TV money that goes with it. More importantly, it’s a blatant opportunity for Vladimir Putin to grandstand. And all of this while FIBA Europe does literally nothing to change its current course of action. The financial hit is one the body could take in the short-term but pissing off a big market isn’t advisable beyond it.

Removing the tournament from Ukraine has obviously negative implications from a face-saving point. It’s basically a continent-wide governing body saying Kthanxbai and leaving a member hanging. Whatever your views on the political administration in Ukraine, their governing body of basketball is hardly one to shoulder the blame here. What no-one else will say is that if Ukraine loses the tournament, the only nation likely to boycott is Ukraine. Many more will cluck but they’ll still show up to ball.

The only way FIBA Europe gets out of this jam easily is if Ukraine becomes unviable as a host for the tournament. There are two ways this could happen. Political instability is the less pleasant option. Should matters escalate, and it’s safe to say that’s not a good thing, then FIBA can cite safety concerns but it would really wish it didn’t have to. The second is infrastructure. Does Ukraine still have the physical infrastructure and financial resources to deliver EuroBasket? It’s not exactly a nice idea either but infrastructural concerns, especially substantial ones, would be by far the easiest option for FIBA Europe to use to abandon Ukraine.

Whatever way it pans out, FIBA Europe is going to take an absolutely beating in the press. There are often fair and reasonable reasons to mock the governing body. This really isn’t one of them but it will be one of the more visible and it will end badly for them.

EuroBasket 2015 isn’t the first potential clash of politics and basketball in this crisis. With Ukraine’s Budvielnik Kiev and Khimik Yuzhne still in EuroCup, along with Russian outfits Khimki Moscow Region, Unics Kazan, and Nizhny Novgorod, the competition could yet deliver a match-up where politics takes precedence over basketball.

There’s also the small matter of the VTB United League. The next game scheduled between teams from both nations is between Triumphy Lyubertsy and Azovmash Mariupol. Given Mariupol’s home game with Russia’s Khimki was postponed on 23 February, it’s safe to say that games between Russian and Ukrainian sides in the league are likely to go unplayed for the foreseeable future.

Sep
0

Pooh Jeter, Ukrainian hero

Ukraine’s hopes in EuroBasket 2013 hung on how Pooh Jeter played. When it mattered most, the borsht lover delivered.

Let’s compare two players at EuroBasket 2013.

Player A: 7.25 PPG, 2.75 APG, 2.25 RPG

Player B: 18 PPG, 5 APG, 4.2 RPG.

Unless you didn’t read the title of this column you’ll have guessed that both players are Eugene ‘Pooh’ Jeter. Player A is Jeter’s worst four games in the tournament. Player B is his best six. Both samples are tiny but within them lies the story.

Just like Bo McCalebb’s amazing run with Macedonia in 2011, a nation’s hopes and dreams rested on the shoulders of an import guard. Like McCalebb, Jeter sees Ukraine as more than just a route to a European passport. He has embraced the national team and played his heart out for his adopted home. It’s quite an evolution for the former Portland Pilot.

Jeter never tasted success in NCAA ball. No trips to the big dance or even the NIT. He’s bounced around Europe and China, finding work. Sometimes with big teams, sometimes not so much. It’s the connection he made with BC Kyiv during his career that has brought him to this new height. As Flinder Boyd said in his great column on McCalebb, it’s easy for an American to just take the passport and phone it in with his new national team. It’s entirely on the player if they decide to do something with it.

That’s what we saw from Jeter in EuroBasket 2013. He’s far from the perfect guard but when he is on, Pooh has the ability to dominate. After a quiet start to the tournament he exploded against Germany and France. In stage two it was Jeter who came up big again with 20 points in an upset of Serbia. It was that result that, eventually, put Ukraine into the quarter finals.

Jeter’s off days have made his big outing all the more extraordinary. Latvia shut him down, Great Britain’s rag-tag line-up limited him. When Jeter’s game was off, Ukraine were lost. Jeter didn’t have good days and bad days. He had everything and nothing days. On Friday Jeter didn’t just bring the solo show, he brought the best out of those around him.

Facing Italy for a place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Jeter nailed 20 points on 7 of 16 shooting. The guard grabbed 4 boards, all on the defensive end, as Ukraine restricted their more noteworthy opponents to just 24 points in the second half. Around Jeter there were Ukrainian men standing up and believing. Sergii Gladyr, Maxim Korniyenko, and Viacheslav Kravtsov grabbed 6 rebounds each. Ihor Zaytsev added 5 more. Individually no Ukrainian could deliver on Jeter’s level, collectively they refused to lose. Having never made it passed the first stage of EuroBasket before, Ukraine will finish at worst sixth this year. Pooh Jeter will finally go to the big dance only it won’t be in March. Next autumn in Spain, he’s going to carry his new home’s hopes once again.

Sep
1

EuroBasket Power Rankings: Spain rise to the top

Just in time for today’s semi finals to prove us completely wrong, here’s our updated Power Rankings for EuroBasket 2013 after the quarter final round.

1. Spain. It’s a what have you done for me lately business and nobody has done more than Spain. They leap Croatia on the back of an utter rout of Serbia.

2. Croatia. A second quarter spurt against Ukraine gave the Croats a decisive lead that they never gave up. This team has now won 8 straight.

3. Lithuania. Total coin toss between Lithuania and France following the quarter finals, the Lithuanians greater consistency in round two means they stay ahead for now.
Continue Reading…

Sep
0

Preview: Clash of the stars as Spain play France in semi final

It’s a rivalry that’s been bubbling for years. Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, and Boris Diaw lead France against Spain’s Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, and the bearded might of Sergio Rodriguez. Only one will advance to the final of EuroBasket 2013.

Whatever we thought of Spain before the quarter finals was quickly swept aside on Wednesday. They didn’t beat Serbia; they ignored their very presence on the court. Spain played like their roster looked on paper. Deep in the back court, weapons everywhere, and with one of the most imposing presences in the world at center. The Serbs were sent packing in an utterly humiliating 90-60 defeat. France for their part stayed largely to type in the quarter final. The talent was there to see, they picked up the win, but they left the court with questions still abounding. One stood out above all others. Why do they look so beatable?

The stats certainly don’t paint the French as an easy side to conquer. They lead the tournament offensively and have a variety of options, with Parker, Batman, and Alexis Ajinca all proving tough match-ups. Parker leads EuroBasket in scoring but can disappear for minutes at a time. This is unlikely to be an issue today, not against a team France has lost twice to in major tournaments over the past two years. Normally I shun the eyeball test but it’s near impossible to ignore when France play. For all the things they do right, they always look like they need to find another gear.

The most consistent element of this match-up promises to be decisive. Even when their scoring has been off, Spain have been consistent on defence. If any team can corral France, it’s the Spaniards. Scoring will be high but Spain have enough to take the win. Spain to advance.

World Cup spot

Italy and Ukraine clash in Friday’s first game with a place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup at stake. This is a huge game for both sides as neither will want to see Serbia in the match-up for the final spot. Win today and you are on the plane to Spain. Ukraine fought gamely against Croatia and won’t suffer much inside against the Italians. The options for Italy on offence look to be key here. Gigi Datome and Marco Belinelli have been the engines for Italy throughout this tournament and the duo should have enough to pull through. Italy to win.

Sep
0

EuroBasket: Croatia beats Ukraine 84-72 to reach semi finals

Croatia progressed to the semi finals of EuroBasket for the first time since 1995 and secured their spot in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in the process with victory over Ukraine on Thursday.

The game started off with plenty of scoring but with neither side able to open a gap. The first quarter finished 22-22 and it was still tit for tat in the early going of the second before Croatia brought the pain. In the clash of import guards it was Dontaye Draper who proved his worth in the first half as the Real Madrid man spurred a push for the front. It led to some big offence for Croatia and they stuffed Ukraine repeatedly at the other end with their zone press. Pooh Jeter, who has put in some memorable performances in Slovenia, couldn’t get anything going. Croatia stretched it out and pushed into a 51-35 lead at the break.

It simply wouldn’t be a Croatia game at this tournament without a little cause for concern. Sure enough Ukraine came back in the third quarter and cut the deficit slowly. Drawing it down to single digits briefly, Mike Fratello’s charges gave Croatia pause for thought. Ukraine however couldn’t get closer than 9 points. Jeter to his credit fought hard on offence, while Draper had his measure early it was Ukraine’s talisman who came to the fore as the game wore on. He was but one man.

Croatia had options and they used all of them. Krunoslav Simon led all scorers with 23, Bojan Bogdanovic and Damir Markota supported him well. Roko Ukic created, scored, and led his team in rebounds. Draper had 6 assists and 4 steals. Viacheslav Kravtsov was the only man who could support Jeter’s offensive effort but his team’s 17 turnovers and horrible shooting from outside left them out of the race. All of this in spite of a valiant effort on the boards. Croatia were smarter, more accurate, and knew when to hurt Ukraine. This was business like.

Croatia can now look forward to the medal round, with the business of qualifying for Spain next year taken care of. They face the winner of Lithuania and Italy who play later on Thursday. For Ukraine it’s a case of win one and you’re in. They already have their best ever finish at EuroBasket guaranteed but if they can win one more game they will qualify for the World Cup. First up they face the loser of Lithuania and Italy. If they win, they are in. If not, they will have one more shot against a reeling Serbia.

Sep
0

Preview: EuroBasket Quarter Finals – Croatia vs Ukraine and Lithuania vs Italy

Three more teams will book their place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup on Thursday as the quarter finals of EuroBasket 2013 conclude. Here’s are take and picks on both games as well as the classification game between Slovenia and Serbia where the winner books a ticket to Spain. 

Croatia lost their first game in Slovenia and then rattled off seven straight wins to secure a favourable draw in the last eight. The Croats have power inside and will look to dominate on the glass, where they have averaged 43.1 rebounds per game. After beating Ukraine home and away in the qualification round last year, it’s hardly a surprise to see Croatia as favourites for this game. This is a team however which is almost addicted to making life difficult irrespective of the opponent. Only one of Croatia’s run of victories came in a manner that could remotely be described as comfortable. Every other game was a battle often of the Croats own doing. This will give hope to Ukraine which will rely heavily on three-point shooting to keep the game competitive and make the favourites nervous. Mike Fratello’s team lives and dies by how Pooh Jeter plays. What Croatia do to shut down the world’s biggest fan of borscht could prove decisive. The bookies have Croatia down as -8 favourites. That looks about right to me. Croatia to advance.

The second quarter final today sees Italy take on Lithuania. Raptors Republic is calling this tournament JonasBasket and while there’s an element of insular thinking there, for one evening they may have a point. Lithuania can bang hard with anybody and Jonas Valanciunas will have an important role to play in this game. Italy’s struggles inside hurt them in the second stage and they will need Alessandro Gentile to match his big display against Spain for this game to be competitive. There’s certainly talent on the Italian roster, with Marco Belinelli and Gigi Datome both impressing at this tournament. What the duo needs most is help. I expect a heavy emphasis on defence from Lithuania early to try and frustrate Italy before the favourites look to punch a big hole on the scoreboard in the second quarter. Lithuania are favoured by 5.5 points and again this looks about right. Power inside will make the difference. Lithuania to win.

Before today’s quarter finals take place, the first of the classification games will see Slovenia take on Serbia. The home side lost to France in a contest that took a while to get going last night while the Serbs were swept aside by Spain. The emotional energy spent by Slovenia is a big concern going into this game. While Serbia will have been shocked by the way they were manhandled by Spain, it’s easier to get back mentally after a laugher than the type of draining game Slovenia played. I’m going for the slight upset here and picking Serbia.

Sep
5

EuroBasket Power Rankings: And then there were eight

Where once there was 12 now stand 8. The quarter finals are set so it’s time to update our Power Rankings.

There are some radical changes but I still expect plenty of you will be upset. Take aim in the comments.

1. Croatia (4-1). It was really tough to decide between first and second here. Three straight wins in the second round, including that unreal 2OT win over Greece on Monday, were just enough for them to get top slot. 

2. Serbia (4-1). So that ranking of 9 was harsh. Serbia still clearly have a lot of work to do but their win over France was particularly impressive.

3. Slovenia (3-2). The home team is really getting the crowd involved in their games. Their win over Italy exposed some of the latter’s failings. Following that up with a heart-stopper over Greece was enough to take third here. We’re not counting what was clearly a nothing game against Finland against them.
Continue Reading…

Sep
3

EuroBasket 2013 Quarter Final pairings set

The last game in stage two has yet to start but the four quarter final pairings for EuroBasket 2013 are set. Here’ are the pairings.

Serbia vs Spain

Lithuania vs Italy

Croatia vs Ukraine

Slovenia vs France

The first two games on Monday set the slate in stone. Greece lost any hope at making the quarter finals with their double overtime 92-88 loss to Croatia. Italy and Spain were left to decide the order of the top two quarter finals, with the loser getting Group E winner Serbia. Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies led the game in stats with 32 points and 10 rebounds but Alessandro Gentile made up for his lacklustre display against Croatia with 25 points and 7 boards. New San Antonio Spur Marco Belinelli had another good outing for Italy, with 16 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out while Marco Cusin, who also fouled out, put up 4 points and 11 boards. It took overtime to decide it but Italy took the win 86-81. Now all they have to do is repeat that success on the inside to lock up a place in the FIBA World Cup next year. Against a Lithuanian team that can bang hard, that’s no easy ask.

We’ll have previews up for the quarter finals later this week but bear in mind that the placement games in this tournament also matter. With Spain already having their place in the World Cup secure, all but one of the other quarter finalists will be making the trip next year. Tell us who you think misses out in the comments.

Sep
0

EuroBasket: Early drama decides Group E

Latvia’s defeat at the hands of Belgium meant the rest of Sunday’s action was all about seeding for the EuroBasket 2013 quarter finals.

By the time Lithuania and Ukraine took to the court in Llubjana, both sides knew they were safely through to the quarter finals. Unsurprisingly much of this game had a feel of two teams going through the motions. There are bigger prizes ahead, not least potential spots in next year’s FIBA World Cup. Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas had his quietest game of the second phase but his former Toronto Raptors team mate Linas Kleiza came up big with 15 points and 5 boards in 23 minutes of play. Pooh Jeter was once again the main creative force for Ukraine, with 8 assists, but inconsistency from the field cost the underdogs. A 70-63 win means Lithuania finish the stage with a 4-1 record, Ukraine take the last quarter final spot with a 2-3 finish.

That game could have had a really different tone were it not for the heart of the Belgian Lions. Belgium, already eliminated from the reckoning for the quarter finals, finally got rewarded for their hard work with a win over Latvia. It was an awful day from beyond the arc for Latvia, going 5/29. With three-pointers crucial to their game, Latvia found themselves in a big hole late but put on a great surge to cut the deficit to the minimum. The Belgians held their nerve however and came through to win 60-56. The tournament has to go down as a success for a Belgium team which has been on the fringes of European basketball for three decades. The Lions roared on Sunday and ended Latvia’s involvement in the process.

The quiet spell recently endured by Nemanja Nedovic and whether he’d break out of it was the biggest question entering Serbia’s game with France. The Golden State Warrior had been hot through the early part of the tournament but had cooled off in the second phase. Nedmania came back with a vengeance against France. Nedovic had a huge game with 17 points and 3 rebounds, and he was arguably only the third best Serb on the floor. Nenad Krstic had his way inside for most of the evening and finished with 19 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists. Bogdan Bogdanovic was also on top form as he delivered 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. The stats don’t tell the full story of just how good Serbia looked. France, for all their talent, didn’t look capable of competing with Serbia for most of the game. They rallied a few times to reel in the Serbs but even with impressive displays by Nicolas Batum and Alexis Ajinca on offence, their inability to curb the young guns for Serbia was a concern. Ajinca has really impressed for France in this tournament and the more I see of him, the more I want to see. Still, this was certainly an evening for Serbia to celebrate. They win 77-65 and look well placed to challenge in the knockout stages.