After several hours of driving, I have finally arrived back home from Berlin, and I’ve had enough time to think and remember the impressions of the 2009 edition of the Euroleague Final Four. So the typical Monday cigarettes will be jumped over and be replaced by my own personal memories of the weekend.
- Let’s go back to Friday first and talk about the game between Panathinaikos and Olympiacos. For me, this was the first time to experience live the arch-rivalry of Greek basketball. With all the security concerns before the game, the situation in the arena was far from being dangerous before, during, and after the game. Both fan groups were singing and insulting each other’s, miming signs of desperation, hate or joy, but no physical violence was reported. As a common basketball fan, who knows the hate between both teams only from YouTube or Internet forums, you could see how “bad” the relationship between the two teams is for real. Well, I must admit that for me it looked a lot more like two groups of people who love to fight each other in the stadium but that the physical violence may be limited to a minority that was not in Berlin. I may be wrong but that’s how I analyzed what I saw in the stands. For me, the “signs” and “pantomime words” that specific fans exchanged with others that were sitting on the diametrically opposite side of the court were just hilarious. I won’t go into the meanings of the different chants but several moves just made me smile. If the Greek derby is always like this in the stands, I want to see more of these games.
- On the other hand, I was a bit disappointed by the presence of the Final Four in the city of Berlin in general. Maybe I was at the wrong places but, except nearby the arenas or the official hotels, you never had the feeling that the biggest European basketball event was in town. Barely any fan groups, no banners or other kind of publicity across the city all made for a lack of real basketball atmosphere during the time that I was not in the arena. However, the Final Four is always a great place to meet and see people that you know from all around Europe but you actually only talk to via Internet.
- Coming back to the basketball games, the Final was for me a bit “behind” the games of the semis: Less atmosphere in the stands and less intensity on the court. This may have been the result of the fantastic first half by Panathinikos, in which CSKA was no real opposition. Of course, the run by CSKA to come back in the second half was great but was more the result of some poor decisions by the Greens than by great CSKA play. I remember several referee calls that helped CSKA to find their way back as well. Or as Zeljko Obradovic said during the press conference after the game: I need to watch the game again before I comment on “these things.” Personally, I did not watch the game again, so I won’t say anything further on this.
- Speaking of Obradovic, I also want to tell you the story about the last defense. Panathinaikos had several options: foul a CSKA player in order to have the last play or let CSKA play and hope that they miss with the pressure of losing the game at the buzzer. During the press conference, Obradovic explained why they did not foul. According to him, many things can happen in a basketball game that cannot be planned. He made a decision that after the game could be considered the right one. If Siskauskas had made his last shot, his decision would have been wrong. I was thinking a lot about what Obradovic said, and I must admit that I learned the following: The chances that Siskauskas takes a three-point shot were, let’s say, 50%; he took approximately 40% of all his shots during the Euroleague season from behind the arc, so I rounded this up to 50 because of the extraordinary situation of the play (the last shot and a two-point deficit). Over the whole season, Siskauskas made 35% of his three-point attempts which means that including the possibility that he takes a three, the chances that Siskauskas decides the game with a three-pointer were around 17.5%. OK, Siskauskas is a clutch player, so let’s say the chances were 25%. This sounds to me even mathematically a good reason not to foul him.
- One of the moments that I will remember for some time happened during the first half and was not really seen on TV so I don’t know if a lot of people in the arena actually saw it. After Vassilis Spanoulis hit the big three-pointer with about two minutes left in second quarter, he was walking back with a big smile on his face, happy to have made that big shot. Sarunas Jasikevicius, as a true coach on the floor, immediately sprinted back like you never see him do in a normal game situation, went to Spanoulis, slapped him in the face and shouted at him in order to play defense probably. At the same moment, J.R. Holden sprinted up the court with the ball, scoring the open layup while both Panathinaikos players were still discussing the last play. Saras saw that the bucket was scored and turned back to Spanoulis to insult him even more. Nice!
- A last thought finally: I really want to tell the Euroleague to please organize the Final Four 2010 for Berlin again. The official statements made by the EL and AEG last year in Madrid were that the Final Four would be in London either in 2010 or 2011. Additionally, AEG will also host future events in other company-owned or -operated facilities across Europe. Well, besides O2 World in Berlin and the O2 Arena in London, only the Color Line Arena in Hamburg is operated by AEG in Europe, as far as I know. London would not be a good choice in my opinion, as the city has barely any basketball tradition and would represent a major cost increase for the travel budgets of most fans compared to Berlin. As Hamburg is certainly not a candidate, please, Jordi, bring the Final Four back to Berlin in 2010!