Neptunas are doing everything they can to be the lovable underdog of the VTB United League but CSKA Moscow remain the class of the league. Lietuvos Rytas meanwhile secured an important win over Lokomotiv Kuban, just four days before the sides meet again in Euroleague.
Omar Cook had 7 assists and Juan Palacios scored 12 as Lietuvos Rytas won a defensive struggle with Lokomotiv Kuban. The Krasnodar club managed to convert just 28 per cent of their shots from the field including a vile 4 of 16 from three-point range. The victory doesn’t just move the Lithuanian side to 2-0, it gives them a big mental advantage before Thursday’s clash with the same opponents in Euroleague.
CSKA Moscow, who had a lucky escape at Nanterre on Thursday, made much lighter work of Astana. A hot start meant the Russians looked to be in control but Astana dragged themselves back into the game and trailed by just a point entering the final frame. The Kazakhs however were out of gas and a 27-10 fourth quarter gave CSKA a comfortable 72-54 win. It was a balanced display but CSKA with Sonny Weems, Nenad Krstic, and Viktor Khryapa carrying the load for much of the game.
Tsmoki-Minsk won a thriller at the expense of Neptunas in the second round of action in the VTB League. The Belarus side condemned the Lithuanians to their second straight heartbreaking loss with a 91-90 win. Neptunas, who lost in overtime a week ago, trailed early but came back well to make a fight of the road contest. Martynas Mazeika, who had 17 points and 4 assists, had the chance to win the game for the visitors late but he couldn’t make the final bucket and the home side held to edge Neptunas 91-90 and take their second straight win, a remarkable early start considering they had just three wins in the league in the whole of last season.
Andrew Goodeluck was the charm for UNICS Kazan as they rolled to an 86-77 win over Enisey Krasnoyarsk. Goodeluck had 23 points and 6 assist in the win, bringing Kazan to 2-0 for the season.
Besides, who needs an excuse to run another YouTube highlight clip…?
From the VTB folks, then, running below are the top five plays from the recently-completed quarterfinal round, starring Unics Kazan’s Mire Chatman, Zalgiris Kaunas’ Robertas Javtokas, Lokomotiv Kuban’s Mantas Kalnietis, BC Khimki’s Sergey Monya and CSKA Moscow’s Anton Ponkrashov. Three-pointers, blocks, alley-oops – they’re all here. Enjoy!
Now running over at Germany-based heinnews is episode three in the “Taking the Charge” podcast series. In this gabfest, David Hein and yours truly feature an interview with Dana Beszczynski, a key behind-the-scenes player in two sports: The expatriate is involved in the youth program of Austrian Bundesliga team Allianz Swans Gmuden and heads up umpire training and baseball organization throughout the Continent – all in all, quite an interesting figure.
Team Greece’s Ian Vougioukas was good for 18 points on 9-of-12 shooting as again and again the new-look Kazan made him the end-user of some brilliant ball movement. Returning guard Terrell Lyday was a serious facilitator, getting 21 points himself including 5-of-8 on threes while dishing four assists; fellow returnee Petr Samolylenko found the shooter five times in 22½ minutes – while not taking a shot. Off-season acquisitions Chuck Eidson and Mire Chatman combined for 23 points and eight assists, demonstrating remarkable incorporation into Aco Petrovic’s offense.
Already BiE has BC Khimki and CSKA Moscow penciled in for the 2013 Euroleague quarterfinals; by demonstrating themselves the class of the play-in tournament, Unics Kazan could make BiE believe they’ll make noise in a potentially vulnerable Group A – and are we destined to see two Russian teams in London in May?
With the lengthily-named 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men tipping off in Venezuela on Monday, BallinEurope takes some time this week to catch up on the four European squads in the running for a trip to London and reckon on a brief assessment of each’s chances in the competition. First up is Russia, the Continent’s representative in qualifying group C.
Extended roster: Semen Antonov (BC Nizhny Novgorod); Sergey Bykov, Maxim Grigoryev (Lokomotiv Kuban); Sasha Kaun, Viktor Khryapa, Andrei Kirilenko, Anton Ponkrashov, Alexey Shved, Eugeny Voronov, Andrey Vorontsevich (CSKA Moscow); Sergey Karasev (Triumph Lyubertsy); Timofey Mozgov (Denver Nuggets); Sergey Monya, Vitaly Fridzon, Dmitry Khvostov (BC Khimki Moscow region); and Artem Yakovenko (Unics Kazan); head coach David Blatt (Maccabi Tel Aviv)
Quick! Before those memories of basketball championships European and NBA fade completely, take a brief look back at the season that was – one crazy one on The Continent that began with Tony Parker, Ty Lawson and Mehmet Okur playing over here and concluded with titles taken by King James and Emperor Spanoulis. Get out those pencils and take the BallinEurope quiz…
Now here’s an argument starter for you … with much debate perpetually going on among European basketball fans vis-à-vis the influence of American and/or NBA players on the Euroleague, BiE decided to take a look back at the 2011-12 season in hopes of drawing some comparison on an individual, player-by-player level.
Below, then, runs four all-star squads based on play in this season’s edition of the big league; for convenience and competition’s (rather than geopolitics’) sake, players from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro and FYR Macedonia will be virtually suiting up for the “former Yugoslavia” team.
Congratulations go out from BallinEurope to the 2011-12 VTB United League champions – to the surprise of few, CSKA Moscow.
The Red Army’s 74-62 victory over Unics Kazan in a rematch of last year’s final represents not only its second VTB championship in three seasons of the league’s existence, but the first title in a potentially history-making triple crown. CSKA are big favorites to take the Euroleague title (one sportsbook with typical lines had Moscow at 3/4 odds and second-best FC Barcelona at 13/5) and are *serious* favorites (would you believe odds of 1/28?) in the PBL finals against BC Khimki after going 17-1 in the 2011-12 regular season.
In previous VTB championship-winning seasons, CSKA has managed to herd up an impressive lot of trophies: In 2008-09, the Russian league champs were nipped by Panathinaikos in the Euroleague finals and finished a disappointing third in the Russian Cup tournament after taking the VTB United League Promo Cup. In 2009-10, CSKA enjoyed three titles – a triple crown of sorts – in winning the Russian league and cups along with the VTB title; the Red Army finished third in the EL that year.
Also adding to his CV over the course of the VTB final four tournament was Andrei Kirilenko, who was named tourney MVP.
Winning the EuroChallenge title is a good thing, right? After all, it’s typically the first Continental trophy to display on the mantelpiece and the champions label wins the club to right to play in the more prestigious (and more big-bucks) Eurocup competition the following season.
Well, Uygar Karaca may convince believers otherwise. In the first of a two-part series for BallinEurope.com, Karaca flips through the pages of recent EuroChallenge history to reveal the success – or lack thereof – championship clubs have experienced directly following a title bid. Hint: It’s pretty bleak stuff after 2004. Sorry, Beşiktaş…
Winning a competition, especially on the Continental level, is a great achievement. However, titles come with a price. When success exposes players to the market, for example, clubs with better offers take the stars away. Alternatively, in order to get a trophy, clubs sometimes spend more than they can afford, which triggers the process of eventual financial collapse.
In this article, I tried to see whether winning the FIBA EuroChallenge tournament signals brighter days for the club or rather indicates a peak with the way forward pointing downward. Continue Reading…
In the interests of complete transparency – hey, somebody in Hungary should aspire to such – BallinEurope today presents the outcome of a heavy Euroleague basketball-watching habit plus several hours of intense thought: Namely, the five names that went onto BiE’s media representative’s ballot for 2011-12 Euroleague MVP.
Since there’s no way the chosen quintet will make anybody completely happy – even though surely the top seven or eight (depending how you feel about certain American imports in Lithuania) individual performances in the 2011-12 ‘League would surely be agreed upon by the great majority of Euroleague fans – BiE will explain the thought process behind the vote and show the initial list of 25 from which the five players receiving points were winnowed. (Bonus: YouTube clips, natch.)
In backwards order, then…
• Toughest omissions – Henry Domercant, Erazem Lorbek and Sonny Weems. Each was so emblematic of their teams in 2011-12, with Domercant and Weems veritably carrying their clubs at times to unexpected Euroleague success. Unics Kazan got attention early in the regular season with a few monster performances by Domercant – including the amazing 30-point, seven-rebound show against Montepaschi Siena in the opener – but Bad Henry actually became more consistent and more well-integrated into the Kazan offense as the team’s season progressed.
Weems kept the overachieving Zalgiris Kaunas afloat – and more – after Ty Lawson returned to the NBA post-lockout, plus gets bonus points for performing among the more YouTubable in European ball. Keeping Weems off the ballot were a couple of off-games in the Top 16 round which may have ultimately kept the Greens out of the semifinal round – and the man did turn over the ball the second-most frequently in the EL, too…
Most notable about FC Barcelona – even more so than in previous years of title glory – is the team’s incredible defenses. Lorbek has controlled the paint on D to make the Blaugrana’s zone traps even more effective and together with Pete Mickael has been triggering fast breaks off the boards while playing in all 19 Euroleague games. Plus, what if someone had told you at season’s beginning that the leading scorer for 2011-12 on Juan Carlos Navarro’s team would be the big Slovenian?
Tough to leave off this expectation-scattering trio, one and all…
• 5. Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
After not exactly fitting into the Boston Celtics after an ill-advised trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder late in 2010-11 and reading the writing on the wall vis-à-vis the player lockout, Krstic may have been the first NBA refugee headliner to sign in Europe. And whoa, has the investment paid off for CSKA Moscow. In Krstic, the Red Army has the ‘League’s no. 1 in accumulated performance index rating, no. 2 in average PIR and no. 5 in points scored – with a shooting percentage of just under 64% overall. A big man among the big men at Moscow, Krstic had to get on the ballot.
• 4. Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
• 3. Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
• 2. Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
BiE swears that with each coming year, the playmaking guard becomes even more disproportionately important to European and/or international success. Case in point, these three guys in 2011-12; first, the statistical highlights for each:
McCalebb – 16.9 points per game on 61.3% overall shooting, 2.6 apg, 1.3 spg, 17.29 average PIR
Diamantidis – 11.3 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg, 17.00 PIR
Spanoulis – 16.5 ppg on 49.7% overall shooting, 3.9 apg, 0.8 spg, 16.37 PIR
Bear in mind all are in the top five in average index rating behind a couple of dudes on CSKA Moscow and that none of three have missed a single game for their teams – now who do you choose? The reputed “fastest man in Europe” and Euroleague top scorer who can lead break after break though doesn’t have the best eye for the open teammate (Gee that’s kinda 2003-04 Kobesque)…
…or the more-than-sum-of-parts guy who just happened to chase last year’s EL MVP bid by leading the league in assists and three-pointers made plus added priceless veteran leadership of a three-time champion…
…or do you go with BiE’s selection from among the three, i.e. the “rock in the middle of that roster … on whom all the Reds could rely” with a career year on the only surprise in the Euroleague Final Four?
• 1. While deciding among the 2 through 4 and 5 through off-ballot positions was difficult, the top choice was the opposite. Yes, BallinEurope went for that most polarizing (only the basketball gods know why) player of 2011-12, Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow.
Forget what you may think about his consistent-if-not-mindblowing tenure with the Utah Jazz and the virtual all-star squad CSKA management set him up with in the 2011 offseason: The AK-47 has had a monster year. His average PIR of 24.07 per game played is more than 19% better than the nearest competitor (Krstic) – such a mark is currently the 15th best for a single season in the modern era and would be the highest by any player advancing past the regular season since Anthony Parker for Maccabi back in 2004-05. And while he’s “only” ranking seventh in ppg at 17.0, he’s tops in rebounds and blocks plus no. 2 in steals, making him the sole player even close to the top 10 in those four statistical categories.
Yes, Kirilenko missed five Euroleague games and yes, CSKA went 5-0 in that run, but BiE dares say that no single player in the 2011-12 EL became the center of focus every minute he’s on the floor the way that this season’s prospective MVP did – four player-of-the-week awards should prove it.
This season, Kirilenko rules. Let the comments begin.
The top 25 players, as BiE sees it for 2011-12, were the following.
Vassilis Spanoulis, Olympiacos
Dimitris Diamantidis, Panathinaikos
Bo McCalebb, Montepaschi Siena
Henry Domercant, Unics Kazan
Juan Carlos Navarro, FC Barcelona
Milos Teodosic, CSKA Moscow
Jaycee Carroll, Real Madrid
Devin Smith, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Omar Cook, Emporio Armani Milano
Marcelinho Huertas, FC Barcelona
Andrei Kirilenko, CSKA Moscow
Sonny Weems, Zalgiris Kaunas
Nikola Mirotic, Real Madrid
Mike Batiste, Panathinaikos
Marko Banic, Gescrap Bilbao Basket
Viktor Khryapa, CSKA Moscow
Bojan Bogdanovic, Fenerbahce Ulker
Pete Mickael, FC Barcelona
Richard Hendrix, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Felipe Reyes, Real Madrid
Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
Erazem Lorbek, FC Barcelona
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Giorgi Shermadini, Bennet Cantu
Luka Zoric, Unicaja Malaga