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.
All signs indicate that it’s the end of an era, but it just doesn’t seem real. Yesterday, a patriarchal figure over one of Europe’s most prestigious and historically significant organizations officially stepped down from his high post as observers speculated about what millions of followers could expect next.
No, BallinEurope’s not talking about this guy, but rather that bombastic owner of Žalgiris Kaunas, Vladimir Romanov. Media (outside of Lithuania, that is) will surely be sad to see Romanov, a man who has given us so many
ludricrous bizarre outright insane memorable moments in his nearly four-year tenure as The Boss.
BiE for one, will certainly be ever nostalgic for the unwarranted proclamations of genius; for the firings mid-championship series or anytime, really; for the medical recommendations; for the paranoid calling out of the blogosphere; for ordering player minutes like to-go items at the drive-thru; and surely much much more.
Just to reinforce that “le roi est mort,” the club issued a formal report late yesterday reaffirming Romanov’s resignation from board and chairman positions of Zalgiris.
Ran the message: Continue Reading…
Podcast: What’s up in Kaunas and Bamberg? Interviews with Marko Popovic, Bamberg scouting director Brendan Rooney
Episode #23 — a belated 50th birthday gift to His Airness, then — in the heinnews/BallinEurope-coproduced “Taking the Charge” podcast series is now available online.
David Hein and yours truly feature two interviews this time out, fortuitously timed in the wake of last week’s Brose Baskets Bamberg-Zalgiris Kaunas cliffhanger. First up is Marko Popovic, Zalgiris’ hero in the game for, as coolly as ice, sinking three consecutive free throws with literally 0.0 left on the clock in overtime for the Greens’ win. Popovic speaks candidly on the off-court transactions affecting Zalgiris’ play particularly in the Euroleague Top 16 round and about Team Croatia’s chances in the FIBA Eurobasket 2013 tourney.
Also joining us for some jibber-jabber is Bamberg scouting director Brendan Rooney, who not only tells us exactly what his job is and how a St. Louis native ended up in Germany, but also sheds some light on his team’s woes in the big league this season.
Finally, our sports movie review feature this week is a good ol’ double feature — though both flicks are only marginally related to sport. We look at the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock classic “Strangers on a Train” and the Strangers-inspired “Throw Momma From the Train” starring high-profile Los Angeles Clippers fan Billy Crystal back in 1987.
This entire episode of “Taking the Charge” may be downloaded here. Thanks for listening and talk to you next week!
After watching Žalgiris Kaunas stumble through heartbreakers and possible backbreakers in the Euroleague Top 16 round, BallinEurope’s agent in Lithuania, Y., couldn’t help but confirm his suspicions about the Greens’ performances in crunch time. Y. probably wasn’t, but you may be surprised at the secret culture of losing within the Lithuanian power…
It’s almost unreal, as though the Gods of Basketball had banished one green-and-white soul from Lithuania with no prospect of return, a club that should be grouped with FC Barcelona, Olympiacos Piraeus, CSKA Moscow and other teams who have a long history, produce amazing talents for national teams, lead their respective national basketball, and simply win.
Yet for some reason, BC Žalgiris seems destined to lose.
In an extensive 15-minute interview, Žalgiris Kaunas head coach Joan Plaza manages to pack in quite enough to make Greens fans highly optimistic about the future.
While not commenting on his boss, Žalgiris’ notoriously wacky owner Vladimir Romanov, the Spanish mastermind does fearlessly take on heavy questions of race and culture. Plaza is admirably learning Lithuanian and emphasizes how important it is to learn that second (or third) language to communicate with players – but finds certain attitudes toward 21st-century multiculturalism a “little shock” in his country of residence.
On the plus side, Plaza sees hope and promises that he is devoted to “working on creating a new generation of [Lithuanian] players” and that he “can’t imagine” leaving Žalgiris with his long-term plan in mind.
(Sudden thought: Might we someday see Plaza helming Team Lithuania?)
Plaza also manages to get in a plug for his novel-writing (!), with his 2009 book Les Mantes de L’Angelina translated into Lithuanian and a second tome set for spring 2013 release in Spain. While the latest novel is not about basketball, its female protagonist (!!!) is a character “fighting for dreams,” a theme Plaza knows something about.
The full interview runs below.
Right. So. Especially after this –
– and with the calendar page about to be flipped into 2013, BallinEurope’s question is: Which is the best basketball team in Europe right now?
Straight by the qualification system, the top four teams in Euroleague round one were Real Madrid, Maccabi Tel Aviv, FC Barcelona and Žalgiris Kaunas – not a bad start there, but Eurobasket.com’s mathematically-derived rankings on Monday morning includes CSKA Moscow at no. 1 and Olympiacos at no. 3. Maccabi, likely saddled by the competitive imbalance they enjoy back home in the Ligat Ha’Al, places a lowly eighth…
Monday Hangover: Žalgiris Kaunas impressive again; Saric’s 2012-13 debut; Goldsberry’s Bizarro Buzzer-Beater of the Week
So no further ado: Three quasi-brief impressions from the bigger games, done up bullet-style.
• Žalgiris: Ever interesting, ever relentless. BallinEurope’s recommended EL game of the week was Žalgiris Kaunas at Emporio Armani Milano. Žalgiris, with its slight vulnerability shown lately, needed to make a statement in this game in BiE’s opinion. Don’t worry Greens men and women: After this game, your guys will be sure to move up in the BallinEurope Euroleague power rankings…
Monday hangover: Power struggles in Italy, Spain; Zalgiris’ continued rise; Obama vs. the Lakers Rule
It’s never too late for the ‘Hangover (or so BiE’s telling himself). Excuses aside, following are a few Eurocentric impressions, notes, highlight clips – and the no. 1 reason why Barack Obama is thrilled the Los Angeles Lakers went down in the playoffs last season…
• Power vacuum in Italy? Coming into 2012-13, most pundits in the European basketball sphere reckoned Montepaschi Siena was due for an off year after an off offseason which saw them downgrade at several positions. And while it appears that Siena won’t be giving up its stranglehold on the Italian national title easily (they’re currently at 4-1; more on this shortly), the team’s dismal Euroleague play indicates this isn’t a Montepaschi team in the mold we’ve become accustomed to.
It’s Wednesday once again and thus time for another episode in the “Taking the Charge” podcast series presented by heinnews and BallinEurope.com. Yes, it’s another gabfest loaded with topical news and views plus interviews, music and Os Davis’ movie recommendation of the week. The episode program goes something like this.
• Hein and BiE weigh in on a pair of destiny-shaping events in Europe, namely the exit of David Blatt from Team Russia and the sad decision in FIBA’s arbitration of the KK Zagreb/Bilbao Basket contract dispute over Dario “The Next Big Thing Out of Croatia” Saric;
• A brief look at the recent fortunes of four Euroleague contenders – Zalgiris Kaunas, CSKA Moscow, Olympiacos and Real Madrid – and their changing landscapes early on in the 2012-13 season;
• A talk with Chinese basketball-centric NiuBBall editor/Beijing-based American expat Jon Pastuszek about Tracy McGrady, the NBA influence in the big country, Panathinaikos’ machinations to attract Chinese talent last summer and certain oddities within the CBA rulebook;
• An interview with former Augusta State University/Phoenix Suns big man Garret Siler, who recently returned to China and the league which granted him his first top-division job out of college; and
To hear the entirety of “Taking the Charge,” episode seven, please click here. And talk to you next week!