The season is over in the VTB United League, with CSKA once again proving triumphant. Here’s the run down of the Top 10 moments from the playoffs.
This week’s podcast pays homage to the axiom that, when in doubt about what to talk about in European basketball, simply go to Lithuania. And who better to discuss Team Lithuania’s chances in Eurobasket 2013, Linas Kleiza’s release from the Toronto Raptors, Zalgiris Kaunas’ exit from the VTB United League and such topics than Lithuania Basket’s Simas Baranauskas? Few, we think. (Spoiler: Simas is “cautiously optimistic” about Lietuva in the Slovenia tourney.)
Hein and yours truly also bring the speculation and chatter about recent moves and events in European ball and abroad, touching on Kostas Papanikalaou staying with prospective threepeaters Olympiacos; Richard Hendrix staying in his niche on Eurocup champs Lokomotiv Kuban; the success of Milwaukee Bucks draft pick Giannis Antetokounmpo in the FIBA U20 European Championship tournament; Andrei Kirilenko taking a pay cut to join the Brooklyn Nets (which is clearly about kickbacks and not pursuing an NBA title ); Bogdan Bogdanovic eschewing those same Nets for another turn with Fenerbahçe Ülker; and Bobby Brown attempting to crack the New York Knicks roster.
All this and our sports movie review of the week, the so-bad-it’s-marvelous Jean-Claude Van Damme flick Double Team co-starring none other than Dennis Rodman and Mickey “The Wrestler” Rourke. Ever wonder why The Worm has had to resort to bizarre forays into North Korea for HBO in order to stay in the entertainment biz? Rodman brazenly putting his acting “chops” in this flick will explain all. And remember: Offense gets all the glory, but defense wins championships…
Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter http://heinnews.com/feed/taking-the-charge/ into iTunes or any podcast aggregator.
Podcast: Talking Miami Heat with Hot Hot Hoops, Bayern Munich business with club GM; reviewing underrated basketball movie classic He Got Game
Episode #37 of the BallinEurope/heinnews co-produced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online or via iTunes. After the usual patter on Euroleague rumors (especially this one) and VTB United League playoffs, the good stuff starts happening.
First up to guest on the show is Bayern Munich general manager Marko Pesic, who chats up heinnews on the seemingly overwhelming and undeniably impressive growth of the club since the beginning of this decade and its second-division Bundesliga standing. BiE continues to be fascinated with team’s master plan built on little more than the club’s football brand and um, well, that’s it, really. The fact of the matter – call it a BallinEurope Official Fearless Prediction™ if you will – is that this team, barring unforeseen financial or personnel disaster, will be playing Euroleague ball within two seasons. Thus is Pesic good to hear from.
And the GM gives us insight into the truth to rumors that Bayern will make a run at signing Ratiopharm Ulm’s John Bryant. Yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre.
Following Pesic is Jay Ramos, writer for the Miami Heat-centric SB Nation site Hot Hot Hoops. Ramos speaks to us about, well, the Miami Heat; more specifically, topics include mostly Lebron, more Lebron, Dwyane Wade, a tiny bit of Ray Allen and Shane Battier, Lebron, you get the idea. But can BiE put the fear of Tony Parker in Ramos? Tune in to find out – Ramos’ own predictions for the NBA Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Championship outcome are also here, as are BallinEurope’s.
Incidentally, when was the last time an NBA playoff series stood at 2-2 yet was so widely accepted to be a foregone conclusion…?
The Taking the Charge sports movie review of the week focuses on He Got Game, an unfairly under-seen film by New York Knicks ultrafan Spike Lee starring Denzel Washington and now-Heat former-Milwaukee Bucks/Boston Celtics sharpshooter Ray Allen. The short take: See this film. If you already have, watch it again. For many more reasons why, listen in…
Finally, also of note is our bumper music: Fantastic and rights-free material from Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and DJ Danger Mouse – great stuff you may never have heard before.
Check out the entire podcast here or to subscribe from this episode ad infinitum, enter this into iTunes or any podcast aggregator: http://heinnews.com/feed/taking-the-charge/.
Flawed, top-heavy and not exactly consistent in attendance it may be, but the VTB United League still garners BallinEurope’s attention – particularly come playoff time when ages-old rivalries add new chapters to stories first begun in the days of the Soviet Union.
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!
With the sad departure of Tremmell Darden and the mathematical probability of Euroleague advancement very low, things can’t get much worse for Zalgiris Kaunas.
Or maybe they can. Just before midnight yesterday, Lithuania-based basketball website Krepsinis.net reported that Ksystof Lavrinovic has received offers to jump ship from more than one Russian team and “will soon leave” Zalgiris.
The teams were unnamed, but Krepsinis notes that, while players can no longer added to Euroleague rosters, any additions made would still be allowed to play in VTB United and Russian League games through the season’s remainders.
As BallinEurope’s man in Lithuania Y. would surely say, “Just frustrating.” And the nadir may not have been reached yet…
All right, so BallinEurope has been considering the case of this season’s Zalgiris Kaunas — a team that went 17-2 in European competition in calendar year 2012 but has since shown a distinctly alarming propensity for losing close ones — all weekend to the ultimate result of 1,200 words or so coming to no concrete conclusions. So it’s your turn: What do you think the problem has been the Greens’ primary problem?
No, wait, strike that. Let’s start over.
The conversations BallinEurope has with peers in the European basketball blogosphere lately tend to drift toward one team: Žalgiris Kaunas, a team that, in spite of a roster chockfull of experienced talent, simply cannot close out games and fall apart in the clutch.
It’s one of the two, anyway. Or maybe not: Perhaps we can lay the blame at Joan Plaza’s feet (though expectations going into the season were long) or on the subpar refereeing (which might be stretching things a bit considering the sum total of questionable calls in game seven of the Euroleague Top 16 round worked out in the Greens’ favor).
Maybe the front-office issues and lack of payment to players have been overwhelmingly distracting (as Marko Popovic told heinnews and BiE in a recent Taking the Charge podcast interview, “We made a deal at the beginning of the season that this team would stay together until the end of the season, no matter what happens. Hopefully people are going to recognize the way that we play for this club, the way that we show on the court and hopefully the financial status is going to change. We are just focused on the court. Of course we hear the rumors going on around the club but we are trying to be focused, which is not easy, I gotta be honest…”
Maybe it’s none of the above, some of the above, or all of the above. But with Žalgiris now looking at a 4-6 record after another heartbreaker to Real Madrid last week, Lithuania’s remaining representative may have already bad-lucked itself out of a Euroleague playoff spot after starting out at a strong 8-2 clip. An examination of crucial moments may give some insight into the Bizarro equivalent of last season’s Olympiacos squad. Or perhaps not.
Spanish-language Piratas Del Basket today quotes Messina in calling out his point guard a bit after the Red Army’s shocking home loss to Zalgiris Kaunas in Monday’s VTB United League game: “Clearly, there is progress in Teodosic’s game, but there’s still plenty of work to do in order for him to reach the necessarily level to be a leader.”
He went on to rhetorically ask media members, “Do you think that I’m doing nothing or that I’m Dr. Frankenstein and I can change his head as I please? Everything depends on the player. I can help but he will only change when he wants to.”
Ever since last season’s Euroleague championship final – more known for Vassilis Spanoulis and Georgios Printezis’ heroics, but also notable for Teodosic’s fourth-quarter meltdown – BallinEurope has kept half an eye on the PG in late-game situations. And while CSKA was stumbling to two consecutive Euroleague losses, BiE is sad to note that mercurial Milos has reemerged…
The plot thickens. With the players apparently not willing to grant the BC Khimki front office another week to sort out its financial mess, the roster is reportedly now officially on strike. Russia-based blogger Vladimir Spivak of YouthHopes.ru provided a few updates on Twitter at about noon CET today. Spivak tweeted word from Zoran Planinic, writing that “It’s a strike, according to Zoran Planinic. He refused to answer if he had any offers from other clubs on the table.”
On the other hand, camaraderie still exists among the Khimki players, for though “Khimki’s players haven’t received any financial guarantees and will train on their own throughout the week before facing Maccabi on Friday.” And Spivak summarizes, “Overall the players are ready to wait for some more time because they have amazing chemistry in the team and want to win something this season.”
As always, stay tuned…
On BC Khimki crisis: Desperate plans made; club president meets with players; an ocean without water
BallinEurope was going to run its Euroleague Power Rankings — and perhaps a paean to Dimitris Diamantidis’ deceptively excellent play in Panathinaikos’ win over Unicaja Malaga last week — this morning, but a greater issue calls. BiE feels a rant coming on, so let’s present part one of the power rankings for the week, instead. We’ll do this in reverse order this time, starting the list with…
16 (↓↓↓). BC Khimki Moscow region (2-1 Euroleague Top 16, 7-5 overall; 8-3 VTB United League). Why, despite a solid win against PGE Turow in the VTB yesterday and decent play (at least for 30 minutes) last week against scary-hot Bobby Brown and Montepaschi Siena? Why else but finances, that bane of existence for apparently nearly every basketball club in Europe in the ’10s…?
Within a few hours, the entire roster of BC Khimki is set to strike, thanks to the club’s failure to pay player salaries for three months; naturally, this paucity points to greater financial realities and the VTB League’s official site brings us to the reality of Khimki’s extinction: “One of the most interesting teams in Russia, and all of Europe, might cease to exist in the near future in the form we know it now.”
The VTB piece diplomatically goes on to note that “According to the press, Khimki’s financial problems arose after they changed presidents.” (More on this below.)
The decision was announced earlier in the week and this morning Eurobasket.com quotes an unnamed player as stating yesterday that “It seems we have reached a deadlock. We still haven’t received notice from the board that we will get the money.”