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Apr
4

Explaining BallinEurope’s Euroleague MVP ballot (plus the top 25 for 2011-12, highlight clips)

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.

To say Kirilenko did it all in 2011-12 (short of helping CSKA bag that EL title, plus also maybe the VTB United and PBL trophies) would be an understatement blown away early in the season. By week five, haters should have been silenced by his sick 17-point, 15-rebound, five-assist performance at Zalgiris Kaunas in the league opener or awed by the odd 2-for-3 shooting night that earned a massive 39 PIR against Unicaja Malaga while Kirilenko gave up the body in very un-NBA fashion for seven fouls drawn and 13 FT attempts.

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.

Guards
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

Forwards
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

Centers
Nenad Krstic, CSKA Moscow
Erazem Lorbek, FC Barcelona
Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Giorgi Shermadini, Bennet Cantu
Luka Zoric, Unicaja Malaga

Apr
180

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.

Continue Reading…

Mar
42

Team Russia’s first opponent in 2012 Olympic qualifiers: Jetlag (really?)

With months to go before the London Olympic Games, some Russian media sources may already be panicking, based on concerns quoted from Alexey Shved vis-à-vis the FIBA qualifying tournament scheduled for July in Venezuela. The CSKA Moscow guard told Russia-based media service RIA Novosti that “Of course we’ll try. But flying for 15 hours changes your whole schedule. It’s very difficult.

Already, noted Shved, “We’ve had practically no rest since [Eurobasket 2011]. We’ll play out the season, then again training camps and a tournament on the other side of the world.”

The FIBA decision to place the qualifiers in Venezuela was, in Shved’s opinion, “completely mystifying. A long-haul flight, big time difference. Everyone thought that the qualification tournament would be in Lithuania.”

Continue Reading…

Feb
4

Euroleague Power Rankings: Do-or-die Week Edition

The key word in week three of the 2011-12 Euroleague Top 16 round: Blowout. The closest game was decided by eight points (Bennet Cantù 82, Maccabi Tel Aviv 74) and the average match showed a 16-point differential as certain teams (CSKA Moscow, FC Barcelona, Montepaschi Siena) asserted their superiority, a couple of sleeping giants (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos) stirred, and two (Unicaja Malaga, Emporio Armani Milano) firmly established themselves as this stage’s busts.

Going into tonight’s games four, nothing has changed within the elite, though mid-pack much jostling for position may be seen. With the group leaders all in excellent position to at least solidify a strong hold on a semifinals berth, this could prove to be a make-or-break week for no fewer than those nine sides in the scrum.

The key word for week four, then, in BallinEurope’s estimation: Injuries. The ‘bug is truly hunkering down amid some Euroleague teams, and one could build a pretty decent roster from those who are out, questionable or hampered this week. Potential difference-makers who will be sitting include, among others, Viktor Khryapa (CSKA); Ante Tomic (Real Madrid); Omer Onan, Marko Tomas (Milano); Kerem Gonlum, Ermal Kuqo (Anadolu Efes); Steven Smith (PAO); and Shawn James (Maccabi Tel Aviv).

Below run another edition of the BiE power rankings as we enter this decisive week. Once again, please note that these rankings are an indicator of how teams are trending, with some consideration given to play in other leagues and heavy emphasis on Euroleague results.

Without further ado, then, onto the rankings! Go ahead, you can guess the first four, surely…

Continue Reading…

Jan
7

Euroleague Top 16, Week Two, Night One: Six games, 100 facts

Courtesy the Euroleague folks, BallinEurope brings a compendium of facts and figures spanning history and record books regarding tomorrow night’s slate of a half-dozen games – plus lines on the games and highlight clips. Enjoy!

CSKA Moscow vs. Anadolu Efes Istanbul
• CSKA leads the all-time series between the teams, 8-7.
• Nenad Krstic has scored in double figures in each of his last 16 Euroleague appearances dating back to the 2003-04 season.
• Andrei Kirilenko and Nenad Krstic lead the Euroleague in index rating with at averages of 27.8 and 21.5 per game, respectively.
• Kirilenko also leads the Euroleague in blocked shots (3.2 bpg).
• Milos Teodosic is ranked second in the Euroleague in assists this season with a career-high 5.6 assists per game.
• Darjus Lavrinovic needs three more blocks reach 100 for his Euroleague career. With his next block, Lavrinovic will tie former CSKA big man Terence Morris for 12th place all-time.
Continue Reading…

Jan
8

Euroleague Power Rankings: Top 16 Tip-off Edition

It seems like forever, but Euroleague 2011-12 resurrects itself for Top 16 opening night tonight. What better way to celebrate, reckons BallinEurope, than with some good ol’ power rankings?

Once again, the caveat emptor-ish bit: These ratings are formulated from once source (namely yours truly) and are based on the way teams are trending at present. While play in other leagues was considered, emphasis was put on performance in the latter bits of the EL season.

To the rankings!

Top dogs
1. CSKA Moscow (10-0 in Euroleague regular season; 8-1 in VTB United League, 7-1 in PBL) – Remember the date December 10, 2011: That’s the last time the scary Red Army lost, in falling to BC Khimki in Russia while getting just seven minutes out of Andrei Kirilenko. The Red Army’s only loss before that was exactly one month prior when they fell in a squeaker at Spartak St. Petersburg in their VTB opener. Considering the starting team alone – an all-star squad of Kirilenko, Milos Teodosic, Nenad Krstic, Ramunas Siskauskas, Viktor Khryapa – BiE has to wonder what non-NBA team could beat ‘em. Even after the star power, the CSKA Moscow bench contributed 43.2 points per game in Euroleague play while the team leads in overall performance rating, assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. This has got to be considered the team to beat in 2012.

Continue Reading…

Nov
2

Surprise (not)!: Andrei Kirilenko named EL MVP for October; yes, there will be highlights

As a sportswriter in 2011, it’s getting ever less bizarre to type the words “Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow” all the time; certainly this team’s fans want the NBA lockout never to end as AK-47 is leading an impressively outfitted Red Army through early Euroleague and PBL dominance.

Kirilenko was rewarded for his individual brilliance through two EL games by taking the first Player of the Month award of 2011-12. The locked-out Utah Jazzman has been good for per-game averages of 14.5 points on 62.5% shooting, 9.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.5 blocks. Notes the league’s official site: “The 30-year-old Kirilenko leads the 2011-12 Euroleague in performance index rating average (30), rebounding and blocks, and is also tied for fifth place in assists.”

Continue Reading…

Oct
1

Kirilenko, Khryapa, Shaved, Krstic, Gordon: New members of Red Foxes dance team?

If anyone ever doubted the athleticism and talent of high-level cheerleading squads, the video below will change your mind. Check out CSKA Moscow studs Andrei Kirilenko, Viktor Khryapa, Alexei Shved, Nenad Krstic and Jamont Gordon attempting to learn a few of the Red Foxes’ simpler moves with little success.

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Sep
2

Brief (and super-brief) histories of France vs. Russia, Spain vs. FYR Macedonia; plus Fearless Predictions™

While one half of the remaining 2011 EuroBasket semifinal matches is essentially devoid of history, the Russia-France duel brings something of a rivalry in the modern era. The teams have met in three international tournaments since 1990. A brief rundown of prior meetings follows (sadly, video clips are mostly lacking, unless BallinEurope readers could suggest something…?)

• 1999 “European Basketball Championship for Men.” France wins over Russia, 66-62 in a second-round game; France would ultimately go on to place fourth in the tournament. Les Bleus brought a roster which included Antoine Rigaudeau, Tariq Abdul Wahad, Ronnie Eugene Smith (that’s Galveston, Texas-born Ronnie Eugene Smith, and yes this inclusion is dedicated to all you naturalized player haters) and Fred Weis, who is best known for – ah, let’s not go there again.

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Aug
1

Mozgov, Kirilenko star in Russian win over Valanciunas and Lithuania, 91-76

In a friendly match delayed a bit thanks to the visiting team getting caught in Moscow traffic, Team Russia defended home court against Lithuania, 91-76, in a warmup for Eurobasket 2011 – and this without former Euroleague defensive player of the year Viktor Khryapa.

Those most interested in seeing past, current or future NBA stars were surely pleased with the individual results of Russia’s leading scorers Timofey Mozgov (18 points) and Andrei Kirilenko (17 points, seven rebounds) and Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas (chasing up his 26-point show against Czech Republic on Saturday night with a 14-point, seven-board effort) and Darius Songaila (12 points). Paulius Jankunas led Lithuania with 15 points.

David Blatt had has side playing at a surprisingly quick tempo in addition to the typical high-pressure, swarming defense, and the results were scary as Russia led throughout while Mozgov and Kirilenko were only stopped in incessant penetration by trips to the line: The pair combined for 16-of-22 free throw shooting.

Lithuania takes on Spain in Madrid on Saturday.

Video of the entire Russia-Lithuania game runs below.

Continue Reading…